Interviews

Here are some cast and crew Q&As

It’s an actor’s life for me says ‘gruff’ Nick

Nick Cornwall (Dagron) has been interviewed for a local paper.  Here’s a snippet but follow the link for the full article. It’s the best job in the world says Nick who describes himself as a ‘modest actor’ born and bred in Blackpool. Tough guys, mercenaries, harsh but fair sergeants, heavies – you name it, Nick’s cornered the market. Right now he can be seen in cult web fantasy series Ren (Tuesdays 8pm) which has won a wide following since starting earlier this month. Read more:...

The First Musketeer

Last week saw the long-awaited release of The First Musketeer, an action-adventure web series created by Ren‘s associate casting director, Harriet Sams. Harriet’s show shares several other team members with Ren, including actress/fight performer Dita Tantang (Lyanna), fight choreographer Ronin Traynor, director of photography Neil Oseman and gaffer Richard Roberts. The First Musketeer is a prequel to the famous novels by Alexandre Dumas, telling how Athos (Edward Mitchell), Porthos (Charles Barrett) and Aramis (Ryan Spong) first met and became the heroes we know and love. Filled with swordfights, horses and intricate period costumes, The First Musketeer posed many similar challenges to Ren. Below Harriet shares some of her experiences of making the show. What made you want to tackle these iconic characters? I’ve always loved period movies, along with action/adventure it’s my favourite genre, and The Three Musketeers have it all. Although I would say that the subject matter almost chose me. I was in France with family and my dad commented on the fact that half of the villages look like ready made sets, and that I could make a great Musketeer short film using the locations, and so it kind of evolved from there. It was never really planned to become as big as it did but I tend to have difficulty holding back when a good idea presents itself. Why did you feel that a web series was the best medium for this story? I couldn’t settle on the idea of adapting a story that had so often been done before, and with budgets I couldn’t hope to match. I had recently begun watching a number of web series, and I was struck...

Ren Podcast 18 – Michelle Golder and Amanda Stekly Part 3

Third and final part of our discussion with Michelle Golder (Producer/Writer) and Amanda Stekly (Scenic Artist). Distressing the village and building the internal sets were a challenge that the team pulled off, but not without some challenges. How did the team manage and what special qualities did Karn’s house posses ? Listen to Part 3 to find out.

Woodland Warrior: Dita Tantang on playing Lyanna

Ren’s life will change forever when she crosses paths in the forest with the fearless knife-fighting fugitive, Lyanna. Portraying this all-action woman is Dita Tantang. Tell us a bit about your background in acting and fight performing. I fell into acting all backwards! I actually started with the fight performing and began training on a whim because a friend of mine at drama school was telling me how she learnt to punch people yet no one got hurt – this “stage combat” module sounded intriguing. I was doing a Computing degree at the time and had never heard of it before, so naturally I Googled it, found a course on it, and impulsively blew part of my student loan on it! Unsurprisingly, everyone else in my class were actors so I felt a little out of place with a huge learning curve ahead of me. Nevertheless, I was absolutely loving it. Learning stage combat was like learning something secret, it’s the illusion of violence, fundamentally it’s magic. A year after training, I nabbed my first swordfighting job. That’s when I realised I could actually make something from fight performing. I continued my training in other weapons and became good enough to join fight teams. One of the fight teams I was on was the Independent Drama fight team, which is actually run by Ronin Traynor (action co-ordinator for Ren). A few years ago I was helping him out with fight scenes on a sci-fi series called Chronicles of Syntax, where the writer told me that they were re-casting featured roles and they had to be good fighters. I successfully...

Talking Torberry with Alan Hay

He may look like a simple potato farmer, but there’s a lot more to Torberry than meets the eye. We caught up with actor Alan Hay to find out what it was like to play this intriguing character. How did you get into acting? After moving to England  (from Scotland), I needed a hobby to help settle into the new place, and joined some local community theatre companies working mainly on musicals. Some 14 years later, I’m now one of the producers of a theatre company and one of the creative directors of a comedy improv group, working on productions in Cambridge, London and Edinburgh. What attracted you to Ren and the role of Torberry? I was a huge fan of Kate’s previous work and had a short cameo as an Orc in one of the early scenes in Born Of Hope. I was hugely excited by the Ren project, and was delighted when I was approached as a potential auditionee. I was sent some script extracts for Torberry and auditioned over Youtube, whilst working on a number of theatre shows at the Edinburgh Festival during casting. From the audition material, Torberry had a wonderful mix of father-figure and intrigue about him, and I was delighted when the offer of the role arrived. What was it like to put on your costume and step onto the village set on your first day? For me, once the costume is put together, the character really finds its home. It affects how you stand, walk and move, and I always find everything comes much more alive once you look the part. Miriam did...

Grace Parry on playing Dalia

For Grace Parry, Ren fulfilled a dream of appearing in a period fantasy piece. We asked her to tell us more about her role as Ren‘s loyal friend, Dalia. How did you get into acting? It seemed I always had the ‘bug’ for acting. I grew up near Norwich which was lucky as Norwich has a really great ARTS scene! I attended Norwich Young People’s Theatre and made sure I was in every play going at school! It was when I was doing A-level drama that I realised it was more than a hobby; that I wanted to make the move to London to train professionally and I’ve loved every moment since! What attracted you to Ren and the role of Dalia? I’ve always loved watching programmes like Merlin and Game Of Thrones and it had always been a dream of mine to play a ‘Maid Marian’ type role, so when I saw the casting for Ren, directed by the hugely talented and passionate Kate Madison – I thought it couldn’t be more perfect! Dalia’s a great role and I found it easy to find parts of myself in her. She’s incredibly loyal to Ren and it’s the strength of their friendship that drives her actions of trying to save Ren. (I really enjoyed that scene!) What was it like to put on your costume and step onto the village set on your first day? I had the privilege of seeing the set in its humble beginnings, during my initial audition, when the village was just starting to be built! Little did I know how impressive and life-like it...

Good People of Lyngarth: The Extras

It’s one thing to build a medieval village, but it would have been nothing without villagers to populate it. Fortunately, the Ren production team were able to gather together a pool of wonderful, dedicated extras to bring the square and streets of Lyngarth to life. There were up to 50 extras on set at times, and we’ve caught up with just a few of them to find out what their experience was of making Ren. Birte Mattes, a veteran of director Kate Madison’s Born of Hope, portrayed a villager as well as helping out in the costume department. Matt Unger was a volunteer helping with the set build, who later played villagers and Kah’nath soldiers. And Chloe Belcher performed the role of “Broom Lady”, shooing Hunter (Duran Fulton Brown) out of her house. What attracted you to take part in the project? Birte: I have always loved fantasy books and films so when my brother told me about Ren and what it was all about, I got really excited and wanted to join in and as it wasn’t the first time I had worked with Kate on a movie, it was great to be able to work with her again! Matt: I heard about it around Easter and was immediately quite drawn to the idea of helping with making the set of the series. Admittedly I was a bit reluctant to take part as an extra at first, since I was quite shy, but after spending time with Chris, Kate and all the other crew it became quite a fun idea; to work with them all on the set...

Interview: Production Assistant Claire Finn

Initially joining Ren as an extra, Claire Finn began helping in various areas behind the scenes, and quickly became one of the core team. We asked her to tell us about her time on the production. How did you get involved with Ren? I heard about Ren through my re-enactment group, when the call for extras was sent out. I’ve been re-enacting for about five years and we get film work every now and again and I’ve always really enjoyed it. I’m also a massive Lord of the Rings fan and I was obviously pretty excited to work with Kate and some of the crew from Born of Hope. Your entire family helped with building the prison set – how did they get roped in? They’re my own personal construction army! The art department was pretty stretched that day as there was a lot of set construction going on. My sister Alex, my Mum and Dad, and friend Greg also played villagers, and the whole team stopped in after work to give me a hand building the prison set which we needed for the next day. Some people will do anything for a slice of pizza! In an earlier post, you explained how you made the Kah’Nath fire arrows. The day of that scene was very busy for you, since you were filling in for both the costume designer and the make-up artist on a day that featured more Kah’Nath soldiers than had ever appeared before. What was that like? It was pretty crazy, but so much fun! There were several challenges that night on set; we had 12...

Free Spirit: Sophie Skelton on playing Ren

As the titular Ren, Sophie Skelton is the beating heart of the series. We asked her about the highlights and challenges of shooting season one. Firstly, how did you get into acting? Acting was always what I wanted to do and, when I was younger, I did a lot of stage work. I always loved the rush of being on stage in front of a live audience but it was the more natural approach of TV and film acting that made me want to concentrate on that side of it. Through my ballet school, I was contacted by my first agent. My first TV experience was actually dancing on the mystery guest section of Question of Sport with Ricky Hatton through the Palace Theatre in Manchester whilst in a production of Oliver. However my first official TV job was playing Snow White in Jamie Oliver’s final Sainsbury’s commercial. After that, I went on to do DCI Banks, Doctors, Foyle’s War and Waterloo Road. My first film role was in a WWII movie, where I played the lead female role of a French resistance fighter. (You can still catch a clip from Sophie’s episode of Doctors.) What attracted you to Ren? I actually saw the Ren breakdown on a site called Casting Call Pro and sent a self-tape through the day before the deadline. Apart from the obvious ones such as Lord of the Rings and now The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, there aren’t that many scripts that come through in the fantasy genre. That combined with the originality of the story of Ren and the quality of Kate’s...

Interview: Michelle Golder, Co Producer

A core member of Ren‘s creative team, Michelle explains how she got involved in this epic project, doing everything from giving script feedback, through catering, to wrestling with German computers. First, tell us a bit about your background in film and theatre. I wrote my first play at 9 and made my first films at 11 (an animated film about ants and a puppet movie about Eskimos) – but after that I took a long break while I wrote a lot of terrible poetry and tried to figure out what I was “really” supposed to be doing. While teaching primary school I rediscovered a love for telling stories and wearing costumes, and that led to writing and performing in my first play as an adult. Totally inspired, I became part of a scriptwriting forum and launched myself on production, toured plays to Edinburgh and London and started entering a few writing competitions. I’d always fancied writing for film, but assumed that was out of reach since I wasn’t in Hollywood anymore – until I met Kate Madison (when I hired her as an actor). She had just finished making Born of Hope, and when I saw it I said to myself, so THAT’S what can be done. At around that time I found myself able to leave teaching and devote myself full time to writing, directing and producing, and over the next five years I produced, wrote, or crewed on around 18 films – including, last summer, co-producing a new feature by Sundance Grand Prize Winner Gary Walkow, which made it into this year’s Slamdance festival (2015). What attracted you to Ren?...

Ren Podcast 12 – Richard Roberts

Richard Roberts is “The Gaffer” and Steady Cam Operator for Ren and in this podcast you’ll find out what that actually means. Also find out what he’s looking forward to seeing on screen and which character he played in Dr Who.

Ren Podcast 09 – Neil Oseman

As Director of Photography, Neil Oseman is constantly battling mother nature on the set of Ren to ensure just the right amount of light reaches just the right place. We take advantage of a break in filming to interview Neil about his wish for taller houses and why he can’t stop calling for “more smoke”.