30 October 2015

Earlier this year I posted an article and a series of interviews with the talented team working on an upcoming Tomb Raider fan film called Hunted. Inspired by the events of Tomb Raider (2013), the story is written by Kate Sykes, directed by Joshua Pate and Dylan Riley, and stars Annie Roig-Pate (Lara), Sara Croft (Sam) and Carla Croft (Himiko).

Filming began the winter of last year and was picked up again this summer with several changes. Following their recent shoot, I had the pleasure of chatting to the lovely Sara and Annie again about their experiences while on set. A huge thank you to both ladies for the amazing interview!

You can follow Hunted's progress on Facebook and YouTube!

Did the atmosphere on set feel different compared to the winter filming and did any changes take place since then that altered your approach this time around? 

Annie:  It certainly was different! We went from one extreme to the other, and instead of it being dangerously cold, it was horribly hot! When we filmed during the winter, it was so deadly bitter cold, that everything was super rushed. We only did one take per scene, and it bit us in the butt in the end. However, this time seemed much easier and more relaxed for all of us. We filmed very close to home, and made sure to bring lots of water on set to keep everyone hydrated. We learned a lot from our last filming session, one of the things being that the less props and gear to carry, the better! So we made sure to only bring what we absolutely needed. We also had a larger cast and crew this time around, so we had more hands to help carry props and filming equipment. It was also a lot of fun seeing all of the props that Sara made come together; it really brought the sets to life, and I felt like I had stepped right into the game!

First Look! (Raw footage). Screenshot provided by Annie.

[For Sara] Last month we heard that you had just wrapped up your final scenes as Sam. How did you feel when you completed that last scene?

Sara: I felt a sense of relief and accomplishment, but also a sadness because it meant that my mission was complete and I had to say goodbye to my dear friends. It was so much fun, it's hard to leave such an awesome bunch of people.

What challenges did you face for this second part of filming? 

Sara: Well, this time around we had a dedicated cameraman (Dylan), fantastic equipment and crew. No complaints whatsoever! If I had to find something, I guess the only challenge was to play a helpless damsel in distress. I had to go against every instinct in the fibers of my being to act like a weak little girl. Samantha Nishimura and I are as different as day and night. I am not exactly girly, I like to think that i can defend myself in a bad situation and don't like to ask for help. I was compared to Michelle Rodriguez a lot when I was younger, in secondary school. My mom was my role model, she is a strong, beautiful woman that taught me confidence and pride.

Annie: Because this is all volunteer work, all of our cast and crew members couldn't afford to take time off from work, and sometimes it was difficult to get a date set where everyone could meet up at the same time. Being that my husband Josh (Mathias) and I are parents, trying to secure a babysitter to watch our son on the days that everyone could get together felt almost impossible! And, on top of that, we had Sara visiting from out-of-state, so we needed to make sure we filmed all of her scenes before she went back home (again)!

Luckily, Josh and I are extremely blessed with wonderful family members that came through, and they watched our son for the whole week of filming! Another challenge we've recently faced, is the sun setting earlier now that the seasons are changing. When we filmed in mid August, we had plenty of daylight to spare, but now that we're filming in late September into October, the sun sets so quickly now. Not to give too much away, but one of the main locations we're using are the forests and coastal regions of Maine. So the trees, sun, and other misc. natural causes love to make things complicated for us!

First Look! (Raw footage). Screenshot provided by Annie.

What has been your best moment from this shoot?

Annie: After filming for days on end, I always look forward to getting everyone together and watching the raw footage and seeing all of the bloopers and mishaps of hilarity that ensue! It's such a riot, and when we all get to laughing uncontrollably, and the tears are coming down our eyes from laughing so hard. It makes me remember how much Tomb Raider keeps bringing me closer to my friends, and how many wonderful memories we're making in the process! We keep joking about it, that in the end, our blooper reel is going to be longer than the film itself! But it just goes to show you how much fun we've all been having in the process!

Sara: It was a particular scene that you can see a little of in the screenshots we provided. It was the first night of shooting and I had a lot of fun sitting around, doing something that wasn't too physically demanding; I loved every second of it! It was an honor working with Annie Roig, she's so amazing! She truly brought Lara to life. Every time she got into costume, it was like Lara had stepped out of the TV and into this realm! Another awesome moment which happened outside of filming, was when Josh and Annie took me out for a photo shoot wearing my Daenerys Targaryen Dothraki rags. I was treated like a princess, those two are professionals, I felt so spoiled! I can't wait to see the photos! When we were done, we went to a frozen yogurt place. It was so much fun, they gave me the courage to go out like that in public which I've never done before.

Behind the Scenes Photo [Facebook] / Photography by EAT Photography

From the on set photographs, you can immediately tell that so many in-game props were recreated for this film. What’s the process of researching these items and, given the quantity and variety of the pieces, how did you stay within budget?

Sara: I believe I made about 18 different pieces. Annie and Josh also collected a tremendous amount of props like statues, weapons and musical instruments from the far east. Kate even sent us some awesome papers with Kanji all over them. To research, l'd just play the game and pause every time I found something that was feasible, take a screenshot of it and then brainstorm ideas on how to make it. I was able to stay well within our budget as most of the things I picked did not require complicated materials. Not to mention I was careful about what I use. If we need 20 skulls for the set, it's better to make them out of papier-mâché from a clay mold, instead of buying the plastic skulls for $25 each. Our intent was to have a good looking set, make it as accurate as possible without bankrupting ourselves. Plus some items, you couldn't just buy, so we needed to make them anyways. We wanted this film to be unique and I think this sets it apart.

Behind the Scenes Photo [Facebook] / Photography by EAT Photography

Something I’ve often wondered, Annie; does portraying Lara on film feel different compared to portraying Lara in photoshoots and have you learnt something from one experience which you can put towards the other? 

Annie: In ways, yes. During a photoshoot, you stand there and for one frame you have to bring to life and portray an emotion of a character; whether it's a photo of Lara with her famous "Grrr" face shooting at something, or off in the distance exploring the terrain. It's fun, but it's just posing and standing still until you go to take the next picture. In between shots, you can take a break, giggle, grab a bite to eat, sit and have a drink etc, then take time to get back into character and get the next shot.

[Annie] Film, however, never stops. You need to stay in character, it captures all of your angles, and every inch of emotion on your face, and reads every bit of body language that you are giving off. Film, to me, is a lot more demanding in terms of realism. A photo can be edited, areas can be cropped, lighting can be adjusted, and in most cases film can too. However, we're working with equipment and editing programs that come straight out of our pockets. We don't have a Hollywood budget, and we've never asked for money. So when we go to film, everything it needs to be in place because it's mostly going to be the raw footage that you see when the film is finally released. But it's most certainly a fun challenge! And I've most certainly learned a LOT from this film. It has helped me to train myself to stay in character longer, and it's also made me learn to appreciate photoshoots more!

Tomb Raider (2013) Cosplay Photoshoot / 2013 / Photo by EAT Photography

Sara, as the creator of the community’s largest cosplay site, you’ve posted about dozens of fan films and cosplay videos. Did the expectations you had from seeing those videos give you insight into how this project will be like in terms of filming or was it completely different?

Sara: It's definitely different seeing the finished product of other people, not taking into consideration what the actors and crew went through to get that perfect shot. I definitely learned a lot about the process of making a movie, however small it is. It's just a fan film, yes, but it takes a lot out of you. For example, I had no idea how many different angles of a scene we'd need and that we had to do each angle twice or more for safety. It's hard work but it's unbelievably fun!

Now that you’re a little closer to the completed film, how are you feeling now?

Annie: I am unbelievably ecstatic! When we first pitched the idea to do this, we originally intended on going to Sara's house, and film it in her backyard using her point-and-shoot camera, and our outdated Nikon D90! It has come leaps and bounds since then; Dylan has hoped on board as our Director, and has been so kind as to lend us his camera, equipment, and film experience. Our other friends Ian and Ethan have also joined the bandwagon and have sacrificed some of their time to play the roles of some mean Solarii members, as well as take on the responsibilities of crew, helping Dylan out with equipment! I've seen some of the raw footage, I've seen some of the Special FX being created, and I've never been so excited before! I know it's not 100% perfect, some things are missing here and there, but we made it our own. I really can't wait to share it with the rest of the Tomb Raider community... I really hope they enjoy all of the hard work, literal blood, sweat, and tears that we all have put into this project!

First Look! (Raw footage). Screenshot provided by Annie.

Cheeky extra question. In addition to the fan film, you’ve been pretty busy on the cosplaying side. Any teasers you can give for the projects you’re currently working on or planning in the future?

Annie: I have, indeed, been a busy little bee! Between being a full time mommy, and working at my (awesome) daytime job at Mexicali Blues, I've been working on a ton of side projects! Sometimes I wonder if I took on a little too much... haha!

[Annie] I've gotten a few modelling gigs coming up with a New York based designer called Hibernacula. I always love working with Kelly, it's so magical! Another project that I've been working on is an illustration project with Eric McAvoy (Visual FX artist for Torchwood, Digital compositor for 2012, True Blood, Terminator, CSI: Miami & Crime Scene Investigation, and SO much more!!), but again sadly that's all the information I can give away at the moment! And in the future, I've teamed up with the lovely Meagan Marie on a super awesome, top secret, wonderful cosplay project that sadly I can't get into further details about yet! I'm also *VERY* close to finishing up my Maya cosplay from Borderlands 2, and I'm aiming to go on another photoshoot with Shu of EAT Photography this winter, *fingers crossed*! Oh, and a honeymoon coming up... But my husband is surprising me with that, so I have no idea when that's coming up, haha!

You can follow Annie on TwitterFacebook and Tumblr.]

Maya / Borderlands 2 Teaser Photograph [The Cosplay Mom FB Page]

Sara: I can definitely divulge a few details there! Anything for Guns and Grapple! I am working on four Daenerys Targaryen costumes from Game of Thrones, I find myself completely head over heels for this character, dare I say, it is a Croft-level infatuation.

[Sara] I provide you with teaser pictures of my baby dragons who will grace the next shoot with my qarth leather armor outfit also. I have the first set of my pics with a real life prop dragon bust that is a real prop, not photoshopped.

[Sara] I also am going to do a couple more shoots as Ada Wong from Resident Evil 6. Silk Spectre II from Watchmen and more Electra Natchios outdoors this time. Also just finished my Isis costume from Lara Croft and The Temple of Osiris.

[You can follow Sara on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and on her website, Lara Croft Cosplay]

Daenerys Targaryen / Game of Thrones



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