Posted on May 11 2015 by Rod Lloyd
January 2015 brought us the release of a new Zelda live-action series called Creatures of Hyrule, featuring a blend of CG action, quirky humor, and arguably “the most accurate portrayal of Link in all fanfilm-dom.” Series director Jared Potter of (Part One) /media is no stranger to Zelda webseries; producing the impressive short film The Skull Kid for Machinima in 2013, the filmmaker has continued to develop films that bring the Zelda world to life. We recently conducted an interview with Potter, discussing his projects, filmmaking, and live-action Zelda adaptations.
Zelda Informer: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you first get into filmmaking?
Jared Potter: My love of filmmaking goes back almost as far as I can remember. Ever since I realized that I could put the images in my head onto the screen for people to watch, I’ve been hooked. Starting with short, stop-motion Lego videos at age 7, which then progressed into short videos starring all my friends and family, to more serious productions in high school, then onto film school and college, to where I am now, doing this professionally. I can’t picture a time when I wasn’t thinking of the next film project, or special effect I wanted to accomplish.
ZI: In 2013, you released The Skull Kid, a Zelda short film based on Majora’s Mask. What initially inspired you to pursue this project? What were some of your goals and expectations for the film?
JP: That was something I had brewing in my mind for a long time. Running parallel with my love of filmmaking through the years was gaming (particularly The Legend of Zelda), and I was drawn to the idea of telling the tragic, untold stories of lesser-known characters; and which LoZ character is more tragic than Skull Kid? In the meantime, I wrote/directed/produced a short BioShock film titled New Year’s End in 2012, which was picked up by Machinima. That led to the opportunity to make The Skull Kid for them.
I’d say the biggest goal, in my mind, was to make something that hadn’t been seen before, in the realm of video game-based, live-action short films, namely
Legend of Zelda shorts. I tried to not have many expectations since, at its core, The Skull Kid was a LoZ film that didn’t star Zelda or Link, and the response could have been negative. But it exceeded any expectations I had, and it ended up in the top 3 most-liked videos released by Machinima that year.
ZI: You released the first episode of the webseries Creatures of Hyrule in January of this year. How would you best describe this new series? Were you excited to revisit Zelda in your work? How are you handling this project as compared to The Skull Kid?
JP: have to give a shout out to my actor from the series Caleb Weathers who is, in my opinion, the most accurate looking Link in any live-action short film out there. The inspiration for the series really came from having him available to do more, and all of us wanting to see more. Creatures of Hyrule is a chance for us, as a production team, and the YouTube audience to see some more exciting LoZ action, humor, and hopefully some nostalgic moments all packaged up in 2-3 minute episodes. As a huge fan myself, I was very excited to return to this world. We’ve gotten so much enjoyment from making the series, and that’s really what it’s all about.
Machinima brought to
The Skull Kid massive resources – funding, crew support, networking, and a huge audience. Creatures of Hyrule has almost none of that. The episodes were filmed with no budget whatsoever, and completely crewed by volunteers. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a great time making them; it just means I have to wear more hats, as the content creator.
ZI: You write, direct, edit, perform sound work, and do the visual effects for Creatures of Hyrule. How do you manage all of these different roles?
JP: I have to hold myself to a deadline; otherwise I will be tweaking and fine-tuning the episodes forever. Being the writer/director/producer/editor/vfx artist/etc usually brings me to a place of extreme perfectionism, which can lead to a standstill. So, I will typically announce a “release date” way before the short film is even finished; that way I can hold myself accountable. I do enjoy every aspect of the process, but certainly cherish those times when I find artists that I can collaborate with.
ZI: The visual effects are some of Creatures of Hyrule‘s most defining features. Can you describe your visual effects process? What software and other technical equipment do you use?
JP: I’m a self-taught VFX artist, so I don’t always take the most conventional route to getting the image I want. It usually comes down to finding the balance between believability and aesthetic quality, and I’ll use whatever method I need to get there. In the most recent episode, for example, we didn’t have enough time to choreograph a sword fight, so I ended up with lots of footage of Caleb swinging his sword into the air at nothing. From there, I had to construct what will be seen in the final image, as if it was planned all along. Slowly (very slowly) all the pieces come together and the final scene makes sense.
I typically start with a character sculpt in Zbrush, then move everything over to Autodesk Maya for rigging, animation, lighting, rendering, and then finally off to After Effects for compositing. There are some other programs I use occasionally but those are the work horses.
ZI: What would you say is the biggest challenge in adapting The Legend of Zelda to a live-action series? Were there any specific situations you encountered while producing the series?
JP: I think the biggest challenge is how the characters are handled. They’ve been developed, and refined, over the past 30 years into the characters we all know and love so much, and they work very well in the medium they live in. Link’s silence works very well in the games, and I think it works well in short-form live-action films. None of my three current Zelda films have any dialogue, and I think that’s an essential aspect to making them work, in that form. But how would that translate to a longer adaptation? I think it’s a very thin line to walk.
I did struggle with the first few versions of
The Skull Kid script, because I was trying to introduce dialogue, and it mostly felt very unnatural. As soon as I dropped it, the script worked, and that’s when we got the green light from Machinima to make the film. Then of course there was the design. Translating LoZ character design into live-action is always a challenge. I pushed everything into as much realism as I could, which I think was successful in the end.
ZI: What has the fan reaction to Creatures of Hyrule been like? Is there any feedback you’ve taken into account for future installments or projects?
JP: The fan reactions have been phenomenal! I didn’t expect the amount of support and encouraging words that we’ve gotten from everyone, and I am so thankful for that. It’s the icing on the cake really. I’m such a big LoZ fan, so it’s the highest praise coming from fellow fans of the games that we really did a good job. I read, and try to comment, on every piece of feedback associated with our series.
There have been many great suggestions for additional episodes, and some that we may actually attempt someday. There have also been some really great pieces of constructive criticism that I’ll be taking with me into whatever project comes up, whether it’s
Zelda related or not. Aside from being something I’m very proud of, this series is a constant learning experience, and I’ll always be open to learning from the audience.
ZI: Can we expect future episodes of Creatures of Hyrule? If so, what should fans be excited for in those episodes? What other projects do you have planned for the future?
JP: We don’t have anything shot, as of right now, but I do have some ideas for another couple episodes. I would really love to do some kind of “boss battle” episode, where Link squares off with a big temple boss; something much larger in scope than what we’ve done before and possibly in the realm of Twilight Princess. In the end, it all comes down to time and money, since we are funding and completing these shorts entirely on our own.
At the moment I am in preproduction on a new short film (live-action, video game based, but not
Zelda), which is going to be a massive undertaking for my team, but I think will be very enjoyable, since it has never been done before. I haven’t talked publicly about it yet, so this is me keeping myself accountable. It will be released on my channel, and we’re all very excited about it!
ZI: There have been rumors recently about Nintendo adapting their IP’s in television and film. What would your ideal Zelda film look like?
JP: I think it’s a very interesting idea, and I hope Nintendo finds the right team to adapt their material, if it’s actually going to happen. My only hope would be that it retains the same strange humor and sense of fun that the games have. I think that reducing it to “Game of Thrones for the family,” as the Netflix rumors had been circulating, is the easy way out. The Legend of Zelda has its own very unique world that has been established for a long time, and it doesn’t have to strive to be anything else. I would love to see all the same creative directors and artists who are involved with making the games be involved with any film or TV adaptation.
ZI: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with the fans?
JP: I’d like to finish by thanking everyone who has supported my team and my self throughout the making of these short films, and those sharing in the enjoyment with us all around the world. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next, and getting the chance to connect with more people as we continue making films, and growing our audience. You’re all the best! Stick around for the next adventure.
We at Zelda Informer would like to thank Jared Potter for taking the time to talk to us about his impressive work. You can check out
Creatures of Hyrule on Potter’s YouTube Channel, along with some behind-the-scenes content and the filmmaker’s other projects. You can also see Potter’s other work on his website, Facebook, and Vimeo.
The Skull Kid behind-the-scenes photos credited to Sherie Suter.