Posted on March 30 2015 by Darrin W. Harr
Remember that awesome live-action Zelda fan film teaser we showed you a while back? If you liked that, we have a special treat for you! The following is an interview with the creators of that teaser, Player Piano and The Zelda Project, and features everything from inside info to future plans.
[Editor’s Note: Several people will be answering our questions in this interview. One is Sarah Quillian, producer/wardrobe designer and overall Zelda Project Vision. She will be answering as The Zelda Project. Tom Grey, the director for this fan film, will also be answering the questions, as well as Sonya Belousova, who will be composing the music. They will both be answering for Player Piano.]
Zelda Informer: Could you introduce yourselves and your work for those who don’t know?
The Zelda Project: We are a group of fans dedicated to bringing to life Ocarina of Time through photography and film. What started as simply a group cosplay for a convention has expanded into a much larger scale project entailing high quality photoshoots and a live action short film in the early stages of production.
Player Piano: Player Piano is a collaboration between composer & pianist Sonya Belousova and Director Tom Grey where Sonya creates original arrangements of popular songs and soundtrack themes while Tom produces awesome music videos based around the themes. In addition to music videos, we also use our powers of directing and composing to make films…like the Zelda Project’s: The Last Battle.
ZI: How did Player Piano and The Zelda Project come to join forces?
TZP: Due to the unpaid low-budget nature, these sorts of projects have a constantly revolving door in regards to who has time to step in and work on them. At the time of the film’s conception, Director and Youtube star Clinton Jones had fully planned on leading the piece through completion. However, he ended up taking a full-time gig with RocketJump after the success of VideoGame High School, and knew he could not commit the devotion required. The geek film and television scene in Los Angeles is rather closely connected, and Tom was recommended to us through our VFX Supervisor Alessandro Schiassi. I had known about Tom’s work through friends who worked with him, so I was absolutely stoked when we clicked during our first meeting!
PP (Tom): Alessandro Schiassi (who is an amazing VFX artist), had shown me an early cut of the teaser trailer while we were working on another project and I was blown away. I’ve been a fan of the Legend of Zelda since I got the first game of the NES the day it came out….yes I’m dating myself a bit here. It’s an extremely tough world to try and translate in live action and I could see that the Zelda Project Team were putting a lot of love into it. A few months later when I heard that they were looking for a director to take on the actual film, I of course jumped at the opportunity. Sonya and I had just dabbled in some Nintendo Themes on our channel and we were planning on doing a large Legend of Zelda music video anyway. By pairing up with the Zelda Project, we have an awesome partner to help us realize the best Zelda Music Video possible, and at the same time we can all work together to make the film (The Last Battle) the best fan-made project to date.
ZI: How long does it take Player Piano to develop music for this project?
TZP: The music written for the teaser trailer was done by composer Wayne Strange, of ZREO fame. Wayne has taken a step back from composing music, so Sonya is taking the reigns.
PP (Tom): Sonya is first and foremost a composer. Watching her work is like watching sorcery sometimes. She and I will definitely chat about the musical elements as I’m developing and storyboarding The Last Battle, but most of her job will take place after I deliver a cut. For the separate zelda music video, we have already begun discussing which themes throughout all the zelda games will be included.
PP (Sonya): We already started discussing the music for The Last Battle with Tom and Sarah, however as Tom already mentioned, I will come in at the end of the process once I have the cut of the film. Composing for film is a different process than just composing music. In certain cases it’s helpful to come up with themes beforehand after reading the script so the director could temp the film with my music, or, in case of Player Piano videos, that’s a slightly different process that starts with me arranging or composing a musical piece. However, usually I want to see the cut before getting into the composing process, as there’re so many elements of the film that will affect my writing – acting, lighting, production design, etc.
ZI: Can we expect any direct musical references to Ocarina of Time? Or will the compositions for this film simply be influenced by the music of the classic game?
TZP: I know I would want to hear musical references, but we haven’t really sat around a table and creatively jammed about yet.
PP (Tom): Without a doubt there will be musical references from Ocarina of Time. This is a Zelda Film. It will have Zelda Music. Don’t get me wrong, Sonya will be arranging and composing all the music from start to finish…we’re not going to be just throwing in any pre-recorded Zelda music…but her score will reference Zelda.
PP (Sonya): Yes, there will definitely be a reference to the original game music. However, my job as a composer will be to create a new original score that would still pay homage to the Ocarina of Time.
ZI: Do you find it hard to capture the essence of Ocarina of Time on film?
TZP: Zelda in GENERAL is a difficult franchise to bring to life. I feel that all things considered, you have to choose a “look” for your film. When determining how you want something to come across, you have to be willing to go all the way with the style you’ve chosen. You have to account for everything that sends your intended message to your viewer: costumes, sets, lighting, sound, your post production color grading, VFX, etc. Of course for us, we have very specific ideas for how we want to portray the game, and we hope to bring a bit of toughness to it, but still maintain it’s recognizability as Ocarina of Time. When we shot our teaser, we had absolutely no budget, and there were many things we would have loved to do with it that were simply not possible back then, so we are looking forward to what we can do going forward with The Final Battle.
Let me take a second to directly address the Zelda Fan Boys and the Trolls. I love the trolls. I love trolling the trolls. I love constructive criticism. I also love general criticism. However, some people need to calm down a bit. Producing anything live action is difficult to make work. Even massive productions with some of the most talented people in the world have difficulty making films work. It’s incredibly challenging to do that on a low/no budget, but we do it because we’re filmmakers and we love Zelda…so combining our passions is incredibly fulfilling.
It was interesting reading comments from some folks who clearly confused the teaser with the rumored Netflix series….and others who just flat out refuse to enjoy anything that isn’t 100% “their” Zelda. Most of those people will flat out say that no one should ever make a live-action zelda film…well I hate to break it to you but somebody, some day will make a live action zelda. Whether that is in the form of a Netflix TV show or movies, it will happen. Maybe it will be good, maybe it will suck, but prepare your butt to hurt, because it’s going to happen…and it will be OK. It won’t tarnish Zelda. It won’t ruin your childhood (unless your childhood depended on no one ever making a live action Zelda).
Nobody stopped playing Mario because the movie sucked. Give it a chance, try to enjoy it. I certainly hope it’s good, because as a fan I would totally love to see it. And, I should add that in that project (not our film but a potential movie or TV show) Link will talk. We’re doing a short action piece so we have the advantage of having link stay silent while he and Ganondorf fight, but despite what you might think…you really don’t want to watch a TV show or movie where the main character stays silent the whole time. Not to mention that Link totally talks in the games and characters react to Link talking, it’s just Nintendo chooses to skip showing what he says for the most part.
I think it speaks to the incredible job the Zelda Project did on that teaser in order to stir up so much discussion and comparisons to a rumored Netflix project that is probably never going to happen. That being said, the total budget on our film will be what Netflix spends on lunch in a day…actually probably a lot less. So what we do is the effort of a lot of hard work and love that comes with incredible limitations. But, we’re working hard to translate it in a way that fans of the series will enjoy. There will definitely be improvements made for the film.
The shield will be more realistic, we’ll add some more armor elements to Link’s wardrobe, etc. Whether or not Na’vi will be a person or a glowing ball of light with wings is something we’re still discussing. Fairies in the Zelda universe are actually fairies and not balls of light with wings. In fact in the earlier games the fairies wore dresses and had magic wands. Na’vi in OoT looks like that because of the processing abilities of the N64 and it just looked better for what they were doing in that game, but it’s still a female formed fairy within that ball of light. That was the thinking behind the one in the teaser…however we may modify it. Regarding her voice….well Na’vi is annoying in the game so I dunno what you want us to do about that. There are definitely elements still in discussion.
ZI: Will there be any more teasers and/or trailers coming soon?
TZP: Hopefully we will have some cool funny stuff come out first just to wet your whistle. We’ve already talked about some fun stuff we can throw together while working on the bigger picture. Naturally Player Piano will be having some fabulous music videos from all sorts of geek and pop culture genres, so you’ll want to subscribe to the player piano channel to make sure you don’t miss anything!
PP (Tom): We’re working on a classic Nintendo Themes album that includes a Zelda piano piece. This will be separate from the larger Zelda Player Piano video we do. But it will still be awesome. I would definitely love to do a short teaser video of Link being chased by chickens. That would be fun!
ZI: Your photo sets, the Lost Woods and Lon Lon Ranch are stunning. What other photo sets might we see in the future, besides the planned Fire Temple set?
TZP: We have recently announced we plan on doing a set with Sheik and Impa, and there is a Gerudo Valley in the works as well. Those costumes were actually near completion several years ago before a bit of rude real life circumstances caused the shoot to be set back. We are also planning on shooting Link and Zelda together, but are still working on nailing down a good location! The Fire Temple was rolling along quite well, but one of the artists who had been working on it ended up taking a job that has kept him busy, so we have needed to locate new artists to continue/finish the work.
ZI: What has been the biggest hurdle thus far?
TZP: Budget has always been a factor, so the speed at which we have been able to release content has not been the quickest. When everyone is working for free, it is impossible to push your agenda and hurry them up. It is tough asking someone to meet deadlines, work quickly AND with high quality when they are providing something for you for free. It is/was a delicate business producing post production on both the ongoing photoshoots and teaser trailer. We absolutely want to release the highest production value visuals, so some stuff takes an enormous amount of time when a talented artist can only dedicate weekends on something that would normally take them 3 weeks of working straight. There will ALWAYS be things you would have liked to do better/faster but you just were not able to with the means that you had at the time.
ZI: How long do you think the finished product will be once completed?
TZP: There have been many talks about the length of the piece, but we haven’t nailed down a number yet.
ZI: Finally, the teaser you posted seems to be gathering quite the view count on YouTube. Are you happy with this outcome, or did you expect more?
TZP and PP: We are definitely happy! The goal was to obtain 1M views within the week, and we were able to hit that mark by day six.
Needless to say, much thinking and work goes behind producing a project as big as this one. Have you seen the riveting live-action teaser trailer yet? If not, check it out below!
As a final teaser, Player Piano had this to say: “Fans of classic video game music should keep their eye on the channel. We have something really special that we’re working on that’s one of the coolest things Player Piano has ever done by far.”
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