A few weeks ago, a group of Utah Filmmakers called Wheel of 9 Productions released a Wheel of Time fan film called Flight From Shadow. The 20-minute film is based on the chapter from The Eye of the World entitled Four Kings in Shadow. It features a strong cast of actors, strong visual effects, and outstanding costume and production design. While some aspects of the movie deviated slightly from the books, there's no denying that the film was crafted with a loving hand by a group of fans who cared deeply for Robert Jordan's work.
Some of the Dragonmount staff has had a chance to meet these filmmakers, so we decided to ask them some questions.
DM: Tell us a little about you and your core team and your backgrounds.
Wheel of 9: Our team is comprised of a very diverse group from the artisan and filmmaking communities in Utah. Those of us who came together to create Flight From Shadow represent what I think are some of the very best our state and community has to offer. Ranging from Emmy Award-winning filmmakers to nationally recognized artisans, our group’s individual resumes are too numerous to list here in full. Abbreviated versions will be available on the Wheel of 9 website under the cast and crew bio section plus searchable through Flight From Shadow’s imdb.com page.
DM: How did you decide to make a Wheel of Time fan film?
Wo9: We decided that we wanted to do something to showcase Utah talent, especially artisan talent. The two most challenging genres are science fiction and fantasy because you can’t leave anything un-conceptualized. We decided on fantasy, because at the time, The Hobbit was coming and there was a lot of interest in the fantasy genre. When considering material to be translated into film, we looked at the top contributors to the genre and since Narnia, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were already being tackled, we decided to undertake a Wheel of Time - inspired project because there are so many Robert Jordan and Wheel of Time fans in our community. The biggest part is that the material was untouched and it gave us the freedom to delve into it without being derivative.
DM: What made you choose this specific chapter from Eye of the World?
Wo9: We chose this chapter because, despite the fact that many things are already in play, it is the first real time that Rand manifests the One Power. We thought that it was an exciting point in the plot and one which the fans would identify with. It was also a character-contained portion of the story where we didn’t have too large of a cast to deal with. Larger cast means more budget.
DM: Tell us more about the Myrddraal costume?
Wo9: The Myrddraal costume was developed and designed by both David Powell and myself. We really went to great lengths to create something which was consistent with the descriptions in the book but was not a reflection of the copiously available fan art. Due to the recent Harry Potter films, we avoided the more snakelike features which some fans have come to expect. We didn’t want him looking like Voldemort. Also, we wanted to avoid too close of an association with Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the Wringwraiths. It was a tall order. So we decided to go for a look consistent with a Myddrraal still in the early stages of transformation. This character also presented us with one of our first substantial challenges in translating Jordan’s work to screen. To create a non-moving cloak, especially within our budgetary constraints, was not only nearly impossible but ultimately not terribly cinematic. With greater time and budget it probably could be accomplished but not within the context of this project. Our apologies to the orthodox fans.
DM: You added a member Red (Black) Ajah to this story. Tell us about the reasoning behind that decision.
Wo9: The entire opening sequence of the film was created to accommodate the over 400 pages of exposition which has already taken place in The Eye of the World prior to where our story takes place. We felt it necessary to create a context which would bring the audience, whether fan or not, into the world we were about to explore. It also created a very dynamic opening and established the threat to the main characters.
DM: What are some of goals you wish to accomplish from this film?
Wo9: The purpose of the project from the beginning was to showcase Utah artisans and filmmakers. We wanted to produce something with wide appeal that could really demonstrate what we’re capable of. My hope is that the attention this project will bring will open doors for the many talented individuals involved and make it possible for them separately as well as us as a group to be taken seriously as a creative force.
DM: What was the process for writing the script like? Did you have any particular challenges?
Wo9: The shooting script was developed over a number of rewrites. The first screenplay, by a different writer, deviated quite a bit from the material found in the book, and was ultimately thrown out. Blake Casselman, a long-time fan of the series, was brought on board to begin the revision process from scratch. His early drafts were closer adaptations of the “Four Kings in Shadow” chapter, but feedback from non-fans of the book series consisted of confusion about the world the script took place in, and toward Rand’s role as the protagonist. The biggest challenge was adapting a later section of the book without the nearly 400 pages of world building, story and character development leading up to it. We decided that the film should be as accessible to the non-fan as possible, so the scene involving the Myrddraal and Aes Sedai/Black Ajah, along with the execution sequence at Four Kings were conceived as a means to introduce the conflict and as exposition for Rand and Mat’s predicament, along with raising the stakes for Rand. We also took liberties in the script to identify Rand as the Dragon Reborn, along with portraying him as the one who clearly channels Saidin inside the storeroom at the Dancing Cart Man, to better establish him as the film’s protagonist. Again, this was more for the non-fan’s benefit.
DM: How many days did you shoot for, and were there any especially interesting stories from the set?
Wo9: Including B-roll, we shot three days at the Castle Ampitheater in Provo, Utah, one day on the Bonneville Salt Flats plus three additional days with the special effects dice table, the book opening, the Caemlyn Road sign and the map transition (a total of 7 days). While every shoot date had its challenges, by far, the most interesting was the Salt Flats shoot. We had anticipated mostly sunny skies but instead found ourselves being pounded by wind and rain for most of the day. At one point, the wind gusts had reached such a strength that we had to stop filming, protect the camera, and struggle to keep the easy-up we were using from being ripped away in the wind. A testament to our team.
DM: What's next for you and your team?
Wo9: With the film’s release still being so fresh, the possibilities and opportunities which may come from it have had little time to manifest. Elements of our team are already working on our next projects and many of us are feeling the positive influence the project is generating. The future is bright.
Indeed it is! Thank you for your time and for sharing this film with the entire Wheel of Time community.
You can watch the full movie here:
In addition, you can view a whole series of great behind-the-scenes videos here: