Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interview - Final Fantasy: Terra's Ben Pohl talks about what you can expect from the movie

In terms of movies, video game fan films are one of the hardest creative projects to do right.

Many fans who'll watch the film have a deep, personal connection with the characters on screen and if an actor doesn't match fan expectations then the film will flounder.

Even with a perfect cast, there are still the issues of finding convincing filming locations, editing, digital effects, and providing a score that will do the original source material justice (without infringing on any copyrights!).  For this reason, most fan films are shot by a small group of friends, put up on YouTube, and are eventually forgotten about.

But Final Fantasy: Terra is not that type of fan film. From the outset, it was clear that Terra was going to be an ambitious, professionally produced piece that was being made out of a great love for Final Fantasy VI

All of this piqued my interest, and I needed to know more about Terra.  Details on the Facebook page weren't enough, so I contacted the creative mind behind the project - Bad Pixel's Ben Pohl - to learn more about what fans can expect from Final Fantasy: Terra.

Kawaiian Punch: Let’s start with the beginning - what led you to create a fan film about a (brilliant) game that’s almost 20 years old when your first project, Divination, was clearly not a fan film? 

Ben Pohl: It’s been my lifelong dream to turn FF6 into a movie. It’s true that it’s different from my first film, but I believe the time is right to make this story come alive. It’s now feasible (although still expensive) to make a high-quality fan film that can rival Hollywood Blockbusters in production value.

With our first feature under our belt (and now in distribution) the timing felt right to pull the trigger and just go for it.

What can FFVI fans expect from the storyline of Final Fantasy: Terra? Will it follow events of the game closely (if so, what parts?), or is it an original story set in the world of FFVI? 

It will follow the story of the game very closely. I’m hoping to also supplement some story material that isn’t in the game. For example: I’m fascinated by Kefka’s early life in the Empire before his Magitek Infusion, when he was colleagues with General Leo and was fighting side-by-side with Celes. I think showing some of his life before the events of the game will be fascinating and will enrich the character.

But mostly, I want the game story to appear on screen. Some things will have to change (fighting monsters while falling in a waterfall? Come on, no way!) and some things will look different, but you can expect to see the game you remember playing.

I know you’re currently working on the trailer first before the movie, but do you have an idea of how long the finished film will be? 

My dream is to turn this into a feature trilogy. With around 14 main characters, there’s a lot of story to get through.  Trying to squeeze all that into just one movie would be skipping too much, I think.

Square Enix has been a bit particular with fan project Kickstarters and its intellectual property. Do you expect Square Enix will support this project? And if they don't, will that be the end of Final Fantasy: Terra

We’re proceeding cautiously. We won’t start the Kickstarter campaign without their blessing. I hope that after they see the trailer they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s interesting, because there is a FF7 fan film out there selling merchandise on their site. Now, you’d think SE would shut that down, but they’ve actually helped promote that fan film and publicly praised them on their news feed. So maybe they’re more fan film friendly now? Time will tell.

Will Terra continue without them? I don’t know.

The trailer we paid for ourselves. But if we don’t get the blessing for a Kickstarter campaign, then the movie would have to be funded otherwise. I can buy some lottery tickets, maybe!

From what you’ve posted on Facebook, the most menacing villain we’ve seen is an Imperial Soldier. Will any of the recurring villains from FFVI (Kefka, Emperor Gestahl) appear in the film? What about Ultros? 

Ultros is an interesting challenge. Either he’ll work well on film, or it would be really really bad. There’s no middle ground with him!

You’ll see Kefka in the trailer, as well as a few monsters, and Magitek Armor.  If the movie goes forward Gestahl would certainly be a pivotal role.

To talk casting for a bit, how did you decide on the overall look for the characters? Celes in particular looks a bit young based on Amano’s concept art.  Did you decide to “cast down” based on the actress who plays Terra? 

Fair enough. The overall look was inspired by the game sprites. I love Amano’s art (at least three of his drawings are on our living room walls), but I felt that the game sprites are what most fans remember, and relate with.

I suppose Brittany appears a tad young in the poster. But when she auditioned to be Celes she transformed into someone very powerful and lovely at the same time. All of the actors really surprised us. When you see them perform the characters really come alive.

Edgar Figaro is a great example. We tossed out the idea of using an “Old Nobel” wig, so he appears a little different in the movie. But the actor, Riley, completely endows the spirit of his character. When he walked onto set in wardrobe all the women on set audibly swooned. Now that’s Edgar Figaro!

Speaking of costumes, the costumes for each character are particularly impressive - who’s handling the costume design for Final Fantasy: Terra

We found an amazing costume designer: Helene Hawthorne. Her style perfectly matched the mood I wanted. Based in fantasy, yet tangible and moody. You can see more of her work on her Facebook page.

I love her work, she’s awesome.

How many actors did you have show up at auditions? Were many of them fans of Final Fantasy VI?

We had a ton of actors respond to the casting call with headshots and resumes but we hand-selected the ones to audition. I was pleasantly surprised how many of them knew the story. It’s funny, a lot of the women who auditioned mentioned that their husbands/boyfriends where hoping they would get the role. Fulfilling a nerd fantasy no doubt!

The trailer for Divination really stood out for its digital effects - are there any particular spells/effects from FFVI that you’re looking forward to rendering in Terra? Will Espers make an appearance? 

I’m excited to show the Magitek Armor in the trailer as well as Edgar’s Auto Crossbow, my favorite weapon. There are no Espers in the trailer, but I want to feature them heavily in the movie.

Finally, it’s impossible to talk about Final Fantasy VI without talking about its music. What do you have in mind for the soundtrack of Final Fantasy: Terra

I agree, the original score is amazing. It instantly brings your mind into that world.

Ideally for the movie, you’d feel the influence of the original score throughout. I love hearing the live orchestral renditions of the score, and fans playing it on piano. As with most things in this project, giving a modern update but rooted in the original material would be an amazing experience.

Many thanks to Ben Pohl for taking the time to answer these questions. If you're interested in learning more about Final Fantasy: Terra you can head over to the film's Facebook page or visit its official website

All images are courtesy and copyright of Final Fantasy: Terra.