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Independent Film Meets Lord of the Rings

When it comes to other people’s projects, I usually just Tweet or Facebook about it, but after spending well over 5 hours on the Underwater Realm site tonight, it deserved way more than just a link posting…

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If you haven’t heard about it, the Underwater Realm project has a Kickstarter project that has been picking up some steam due to its unique offering of rewards to pledge donors that goes beyond the banal “thank you” credit and T-shirts many projects often offer. You can learn more about their rewards as well as pledge your support here, but what I really wanted to highlight is the ambition and effort behind this project.

The project involves creating five 2-minute shorts set entirely underwater. These shorts are based on the world of Atlantis, involving a race of people living beneath our oceans for thousands of years. The shorts will cover the 5 times human kind has come into contact with this aquatic race, starting with the present day scuba diving in the Red Sea, to 1942 in the midst of a frenetic aerial battle, to the belly of a Spanish galleon during the invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588, followed by the historic celtic coastline of the UK set in 1208, and finally 149BC and the height of the Roman Empire. The ultimate goal is to have the 5 shorts serve as virals that can help jumpstart a trilogy of feature scripts.

In the hands of a mainstream studio, the premise would sound interesting, but as an independent production on a shoestring budget, my initial reaction was “sigh, another unwatchable C movie in the making”. Upon visiting the Underwater Realm web site though, the joke was on me – this is one cool project worth supporting and learning from!! I would even go as far as to describe it as a “Lord of the Rings level production”, being made at an “independent level”.

Lighting Tutorial by DP Eve Hazelton

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The shorts are being produced by Realm Pictures, which, in February of this year, won the top prize in the Raindance Film Festival’s Pepsi competition, providing them a £30,000 film production budget, as well as access to a number of resources via the Raindance Film Festival’s network of contacts. Around the same time, Realm Pictures kicked off pre-production on their Underwater Realm short series, and a weekly video blog, which is what got me hooked on their project.

Their site offers an impressive collection of 2-10 minute videos that have been religiously posted 1 week apart since January, documenting the entire production process. The videos are led by their charismatic director, David Reynolds, who has been offering insight to all areas of production, ranging from sound, cinematography, costume, special and visual effects, stunts, etc. Considering the film is set underwater, the challenges they’re trying to overcome as an independent project are huge, so there’s a lot to learn from their work. Here are just a few examples of what their site has to offer. If you want to support their work, here are a few ways:

Video Blog Introduction

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Designing the Motion Capture Suit

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Introducing Underwater Lighting Tests

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First Pass at Digital Cloth Simulation

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 Shooting Underwater Promotional Stills

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Wireworks

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Simulating the Sea Surface

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Crew Scuba Certification

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Dry-for-Wet Test Shoot

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Auditioning Actors Underwater

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Building a Seabed from Foam, Plaster, and Silicone

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Building a Submersible Kino Flo

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First Week of Principal Photography in Egypt

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Breathing and Communicating Underwater

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Color Grading Underwater Footage

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