Craig Johnson looks at the how one particular set of movies has benefited from crowd funding and how it may affect the future of independent movie making…
The advent of Netflix and Amazon video have fundamentally changed television for audiences. If there is nothing you like on live broadcast then you can simply log on and stream from hundreds if not thousands of shows both new and old. Such is the power of streaming that whole series are now being commissioned for these platforms alone. House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are just some of the examples and there is something for everyone. Whilst an undeniable and massive TV success; this medium has not changed movies in the same way. Netflix has a few ‘made for’ films and some, such as Spectral are very good but it is undeniable that they have not had the same impact as they have had on TV.
Into the equation then comes Mythica. A five film series produced by a small, independent New Zealand production company called Arrowstorm Entertainment. Instead of developing programs for streaming their model is different. Crowd funding gets the film made via the Kickstarter website. Now Kickstarter is a hit and miss affair; most people who have tried it have been stung with a con-job but it is a new frontier with its own share of cowboys and chancer’s.
Arrowstorm are neither of these. I came across the project at the time film three was live but the nature of tailored pledges means that I easily got films one and two at the same time. The model is simple. Backers pledge rewards (the more you pledge then the more you get as a reward) and once a pre-set target is met then you pay and the film gets made.
Mythica is a classic fantasy story through and through. The tale of a young mage’s journey through discovery of her powers of necromancy as she walks the line between salvation and abomination. There is the roguish love interest, the valiant warrior and a quasi princess. Coupled with a wise mentor and a warlock seeking world domination and you in essentially tick all of the fantasy boxes.
Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules and Andromeda fame) plays the wise mentor role and does it well but he is the only known actor in the early films. The rest of the cast are relatively unknown but grow as an ensemble throughout the series. Melanie Stone takes the lead as the young necromancer Marek who struggles to come to terms with her power and the destiny it holds, Nicole Posenor, Jake Stormoen and Adam Johnson round out the cast as princess, rogue and warrior respectively. All of them put in consistently great acting performances and despite being relatively unknown they are as good a cast as any of the fantasy films which Hollywood has churned out recently.
The five films have a single plot running through them which sees Marek and her companions working to thwart the machinations of the fallen mage Sorlock with the story ebbing and flowing right up until the end. Think of each film as a chapter and you get the idea; but unlike many films there is no triumphant climatic finale. This gives an ending of unexpected power which is often lacking in many films such as Warcraft.
Whilst the acting is consistently good throughout; it must be said that the scripts and special effects in the early films are more than a little dubious. By the time of film 3 (Darkspore) they start to reach a decent standard as more money became available and by the time of Iron Crown and Godslayer they are excellent and the producers were even able to add stylised cinematic credits rather than a simple display and fade. Like everything else the score develops over the series and adds greater depth to the film and it is with elements such as this that the film comes into its own. Want to own the score? Specially recorded song for one of the films? Prop? Poster? DVD, Bluray or digital download? Pledge a few dollars more and it’s yours (though admittedly some of the props cost quite a bit more than a few dollars but you get the picture).
Proof the series is a success? A successfully funded novelization, (and more of these would be fantastic so as to complete the series), and talk of a table top role-playing game. Even more so is the fact that the series is now available to buy on iTunes, Amazon and major supermarkets. Not something which can be scoffed at for what is in essence an indie film?
Crowd funding is a new frontier and it remains to be seen if it changes the perception of straight to DVD films or alters the movie industry in the way Netflix and Amazon video have. In the meantime however it is a source of some damn good fantasy films with some equally promising science fiction on the way.
You can contact Craig via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org