MARK EDWARD LEWIS – BLADE OF HONOR
I was fortunate enough to speak to the writer-producer behind one of the most intriguing Kickstarter projects around, Blade of Honor. The sci-fi series would unite the stars of TV’s most popular science-fiction shows, including Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch and Star Trek : Voyager’s Tim Russ.
Where, when and how did Blade of Honor start?
My brother, John-Paul Lewis, and I came up with this idea wondering what would happen if someone were EVA (in a space suit floating in space alone) for hundreds of hours. Would they go insane? If so, what might it look like? We wrote an entire 1-hour TV pilot with alien foes, space battles that led up to the EVA and everything. We both felt, as we do now, that female leads in sci-fi were important; to lift up female empowered values, overcoming, facing internal demons. It’s been our passion in storytelling for years. We pitched it to our first choice in actresses at that time who was Kristanna Loken…but she was busy with all kinds of other things. So it sat for twelve years. It went through revisions whenever I remembered I had this gem sitting in a trunk, and over time we basically ended up incorporating what we love most from all our favorite Sci-Fi shows.
Did you come up with the idea? What can you take credit for?
Well, I’d rather give credit than take it, and this case, it is my brother John-Paul who posed that crucial question, “What if you were stuck in space in a spacesuit for 400 hours – wouldn’t you go insane?” And then it just propelled into a female one-woman-show with an incredible sci-fi world. We had “Spot Check” and “Lindon” and “Yuni” and the “Calinar.” That was about it. But after it sat for 12 years, I developed the rest of the characters, super plot of 4 seasons, and it started taking the shape it has now. I also came up with the idea for the Proof of Concept trailer.
Did you write it?
So far, yes. Now, my brother and I wrote the original pilot for Kristanna, but the series aspect of it is me. I’d rather notbe writing it, but I’m the one who has the most keen understanding of every aspect of the world Blade of Honor lives in. Ideally, we’ll be bringing on a team of writers, and I’ll be able to become a consultant for the integrity of the world itself. We’re already starting the process – which I like. Why? Have you tried writing series screenplays? It’s hard! I’d rather be directing and working with actors and crew!
How much of that first season has been written?
Right now the first hour. It’s going to go through a strong rewrite pending the success of our funding campaign. The entire first season has been mapped out. We know what the episodes are going to be, and we all just ache to see them come to life – the development of characters and plot are just that good.
One of the cool things we’ll be doing with the series (and why it’s going through a rewrite) is jettisoning “exposition” from the actual runtime of episodes. That means, if we’re in a scene with Lindon and Hoss, and someone mentions the “Ryndene Massacre” – instead of talking about it to educate the audience about something that characters already know everything about, an “annotation” will pop up in the episode and the audience can click on it for a complete write-up, additional media, pictures and more about that item. Want to know more about the relationship between Richard Hatch’s character and Rivkah Raven Wood’s? How she moved up the ranks so fast? Sure. But it won’t be in the episodes itself…at least…not for the first episodes. They will all be annotated “offline” for interested viewers to peruse, and those not interested will not have their experience interrupted. We do this so that the story and character development can move as FAST as it can. It’s a webisode after all, and viewers have super short attention spans. It allows us to cater to that while also keep our universe deep.
What would you say the tone of the show is?
It’ll feel like a mixture of “BSG” with the Canadian series “Flash Point.” I think BSG had that incredible military “dark” feel. I add Flash Point to the mix, because although those Canadian SRU officers were facing life-and-death daily, they still had lives, love and aspirations for living their dreams. It’s living their dreams which has our cast of characters buck the system and find the truth about the world that has been given them to believe in. So, it’s far more discovery than survival, connection not isolation, guile not valor, love not allegiance, choosing not accepting.
How long did it take you to write your initial draft?
The initial one-hour pilot submitted to Lokken took my brother and I a week or so. It’s in a standard screenplay format done in Final Draft. The episodic version of the same thing took three days, because I was able to borrow quite a bit from the original pilot. But putting it into a format which keeps the internet audience’s attention was very difficult. In the emerging transmedia world, writing screenplays is not at all how we’ve been taught. There will always be “rondo” form, but it’s done on a micro not macro level. The advent of what’s happening in the shorter formats and transmedia delivery is pushing our creativity as creators to the limit. And we love it. Consequently, it takes longer to write an episode than one might think.
And has it changed much over time? Any addictions or subtractions?
We’ve done a lot of adding especially in the character department. But in adding these characters we’ve also added an order of magnitude to the depth of the world. The 7 mandated Alliance religions were developed and quantified, the nature of warfare between the Calinar and Alliance was developed. Inter-sect political intrigue was designed to propel the super-plots forward. Most of the original Lokken pilot sections which aren’t seen now have been incorporated in future episodes. So really, we’ve done almost exclusive adding over these 12 years.
Have any mentors that helped guide you through this?
Oh boy. We’d be nowhere without our mentors. We take the adage “We see far standing tall on the broad shoulders of those who have gone before us.” These incredibly generous people include Brett Leonard (Director of “Lawnmower Man,” “Virtuosity”) who has guided us in the beginning to our successes. Nathan Reid and Jodie Bentley who are crowdfunding mavens and who together formulate the best way to politically deal with difficult situations. Raoul Peter Mongilardi who is a dear friend and incredible producer, Tom Lofaro (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”) who has been an incredible problem solver for production issues. Just about every Star Trek/Star Wars fan film producer who has given us their list of do’s/don’ts along the way. A great example is Rivkah Raven Wood herself, who has brought her novel writing prowess to our production, in addition to so many other aspects, and helped shape the scope of the Alliance world in a way that made it so much more palatable to the transmedia marketplace.
Why was it that you decided to use crowdfunding to generate finance to make the series?
We tried for some time to go the “studio” route with several series including Blade of Honor, our comic series “Omega 1,” “Soft Landings” etc, and without some kind of partnership producer deal, it’s nearly impossible. Now, with the advent of internet distributors, a whole new set of opportunities has arisen. Several other productions we’ve been involved with have successfully (and sometimes wildly so) raised the capital and created a fan base using crowdfunding platforms. Implementing crowdfunding for Blade of Honor gave us the impetus we needed to move forward with this series – and the other 9 series we have lined up to go into production right after this one. Most of our fan following stems from other crowd funded productions including Star Trek fan films, 5th Passenger, Space Command, and many others. We knew that being able to bring those fans onboard and give them something they have been clamoring for…and we have some awesome series coming!
Finding it challenging at all?
Crowdfunding, as any successful crowdfunder will tell you, is a full-time job – not just during the actual raise period, but several months before. The big challenge for us was that we weren’t fully cast until a couple of weeks before the launch, so we couldn’t’ do the nominal “prep” and PR we usually do. We were ecstatic to have Alison Haislip come on board only a few weeks before our May 11th, launch, and we’ve been working like dogs to get the word out. We made it half way to our first goal within hours, and that’s great! We’re also so grateful to have the opportunity to reach Page 2 Screen readers and invite them to “Join the Revolution” and support Blade of Honor via sharing about it or direct donations to the Kickstarter.
But, yes. It’s challenging in the extreme. Even with a team of people tweeting, posting, pinteresting and more, we find we’re getting a lot less sleep than the little we normally get during production! But it’s also an awesome process, because you get to hear up-close-and-personal what fans are looking for, hearing their excitement, listening to what they want to see, creating new promotional content which has folks get even more excited, and meet people all over the world who share our view of how sci-fi series should be made.
How can people help?
Two things: spread the word by sharing the posts from our facebook page:
and, secondly, donate to the Kickstarter itself:
As we move into production we’ll be looking for writers with series experience, of course, and crew who are willing to work in Los Angeles, and we covet recommendations. We’re excited to create a series which will keep viewers engaged and enthralled with the world of the Alliance and Calinar and in love with our incredible cast of characters for years to come.