For anyone who has watched a film or television series and thought that they could do better, it used to be that would-be filmmakers roped people in for free on the promise of future work if they would help create the directors vision on a shoestring. Of course such future work never usually materialised, and the productions themselves were rarely viewed outside of the circle of crew who made them. Many of them were pitifully awful.
Technology, specifically the internet, has enabled such projects to take a new tack in the form of crowd funding. While RedShark News readers may be more likely to associate such funding methods with long promised vapourware, crowd funding has enabled a good number of worthwhile filmmaking projects to take place while at the same time actually managing to pay their key crew members. With impressive results.
One such project is the period action fantasy series, Ren: The Girl With The Mark. The brainchild of Kate Madison of Mythica Entertainment, who also directs, Ren tells the story of a girl who is marked by an ancient spirit and embarks on a journey to discover the meaning behind the mark she bears.
Ordinarily one of the most difficult things to make on a low budget would be a period action fantasy film or series. The demands placed on such a production to do such a subject well, from set and clothing design, through to lighting and SFX, are huge.
Ren is broken up into five ten minute episodes, and so doesn’t aim to tell a full feature length story. None the less the results are really quite incredible. Lensed in 2014, and taking a full year of post production, the effort that has gone into this series is evident, from the set design, the cinematography, the acting, editing, and very importantly, the sound design. It works as a whole to the point where you never question whether it is low budget or not, and instead just get on with watching it.
While all the elements are equally as important, the cinematography stands out as being a cut above most projects of this ilk. DOP Neil Oseman is no stranger to low and micro budget productions, but over the last couple of years he has started to make a bit of a name for himself, and much of this is down to having the freedom to work on such projects via crowdfunding. Interestingly this has allowed him to leave behind the world of corporate video and instead make a living almost exclusively from working on crowd funded productions, but it has also lead to work on larger films too.
Watching Ren you could be fooled into thinking that it was a prime time network production. But make no mistake, it was a gargantuan effort. And while crowd funding is a great enabler of this type of production, the effort required to make a good job of it should not be underestimated. While key crew members such as the cinematographer were paid for their work, there was still a reliance on volunteers. And when the dust settles there is still the pesky question of marketing to be tackled and being able to shift from the crowd funded model to the more traditional investment one.
That said, Ren has been building up quite a following, and will serve as inspiration of what is possible to anybody out there who might have ambitions to produce their own series.
View the first episode here.
The following episodes can be viewed on along with Neil Osemans informative Lensing Ren series, which goes into his lighting and camera setups for the production here.