Thursday, 30 March 2017

Robin of Sherwood:Knights Of The Apocalypse

As you may have noticed from my previous feverish enthusings about The Hooded Man it could be said I am a bit of a fan. Robin Of Sherwood was simply one of the most exciting things I had ever watched and the production values were as impressive as any film back in the eighties. The announcement that an original script was being adapted for a new audio outing for Robin and would unite the surviving cast was certainly of interest but I did harbour some concerns. How would something that was so visual in its appeal be transferred to audio without losing any of the character and feel that made it so very special? This concern vanished when I, along with many other fans, was treated to a preview of the adventure and with Clannad's epic music in place this was most definitely going to be every bit as Robin-y as the television series. 

Dark clouds are gathering over the Merry Men (incidentally they are just as argumentative and delighfully non merry as always) and Robin. A powerful and ancient order of Knights has evil designs on England and with the church rendered powerless by Papal poopery only The Hooded Man can intercede. So begins an exhilarating adventure which pits our hero against the machinations of the Apocalypitcal titular Knights. Jason Connery, yes you may swoon, is every bit the Robin he should be as he looses his arrows yet again and his scenes with Lady Marion, and yes I did swoon, are as tender and intimate as anything that I recall from the tv run. I've always loved Nasir and quite how those wonderful people at Spiteful Puppet made his sword play to be just as swash buckely with only audio is testament both to Ryan's acting prowess and the sound mix. Nickolas Grace has always been my favourite Sherif Of Nottingham and I had forgotten just how funny he was which works so well with his slimy turncoatery.  Anthony Head and Colin Baker lend their considerable vocal abilities and are clearly loving every minute of their characters scenes as well as their dastardly nature. What particularly impressed me what that the feeling and atmosphere of ensemble acting was achieved so effectively even though a large number of the scenes were recorded with the actors separated. That is not something you would even be aware of and is testament to the deep love and affection that the cast have both for their own characters and the Robin of Sherwood universe. Whether this was tinged with a concern that to hand the reins to another actor would mean the project lost authenticity or, as Philip Jackson remarked "Well I wouldn't want anyone else to play Abbot Hugo, they might do it better than me" 

One of the biggest issues I have had with other audio adventures is with the unrealistic sound effects used to add realism. If the sound mix isn't quite right or the effects themselves are not properly delivered then it can seriously detract from the audiences enjoyment. Never more so is this the case than with fight sequences and there seems to be a tendency towards over compensation. I have winced on hearing actors proclaim "OWWW that hurt" or "You have stabbed me" its an easy mistake to make but not one made here. The sword fighting is realistic in its sound but does not overwhelm the dialogue and even the forest noises and background effects have a reality to them. Neither does KOTA seem overly long and with two episodes lasting an hour each the story has both the magical and historical qualities that made Robin of Sherwood so unique and innovative.

There are some affectionate and loving marks of respect as Daniel Abineri inherits Hurn The Hunters mantle from his late father. It is fair to say KOTA manages to successfully avoid falling between two stools in that it includes material that will both delight and enchant both the die hard and new fan alike. It is a welcome addition to the Robin of Sherwood world and I truly find myself transported back to Sherwoods leafy glades and the make believe of my childhood. All of the cast have remarked that they are on board with the audio project as a huge mark of respect to the late Richard "Kip" Carpenter but also because they look back on their time in Sherwood as something that they will never forget. No greater compliment can be paid than to say that this is so genuine a Robin of Sherwood adventure that I am now re watching the television series and I am loving every second. I would implore both the cast and producers at Spiteful Puppet to deliver more from The Hooded Man, it's not just Hurn The Hunter that has awakened and they just don't make this sort of adventuring anymore. 

Monday, 27 March 2017

Interview With Christina Barsi

Two years ago I was chatting to Christina Barsi about her podcast series, Dimension, and was astounded by the quality of her writing and the project itself. This year she brings her astounding podcast and a new, equally striking short documentary, to London for the Sci Fi London festival. Here is that interview with updated details and you can support her with a crowdfunding campaign that boasts some amazing perks.

Christina Barsi is an amazing lady, talented and exceptionally eloquent but also passionate in her drive to develop as an actress and writer. What inspires me the most is that she refuses to compromise either in her vision or what she wants to achieve in her career. I was incredibly honoured to spend time with her and urge you to check out her amazing podcast project. Dimension.

"Thanks for chatting to me Christina, You must be really excited with the first episode of Dimension now available. For new fans, can you tell us a little bit about what to expect?

Yes no problem. An unidentified woman has found a way to break the time continuum and has split into three completely separate parts of herself. Each individual part is a new person with their own identity and characteristics. Somehow their stories begin to intertwine but they have no knowledge of each other or memory of their past. To understand what has happened they must find the answers to their past and the world they now inhabit.

It sounds very Film Noir but with an interesting Sci Fi twist. Almost SCI NOIR!

I love Film Noir and yes it very much has that feel. I really wanted to nod to that era since we are a podcast and since we are creating a science fiction world, which was a popular genre back then. But it’s still a very contemporary world they [the characters] are living in.

You play three characters (Shondra, Henrietta and Lou) can you talk a little bit about each of them?

Shondra is a CIA Agent and is the character I most closely relate to. She is snarky and somewhat of a femme fatale. Taking no prisoners and really enjoys kicking her partners ass. Henrietta is a Professor and is intuitive and softer but has a mind of her own. Lou is a criminal and her character is incredibly animalistic, she's damaged and is unstable.

Where did the concept for Dimension come from?

Dimension took a year to develop and was born out of a frustration I had as an actress. I sat down and thought about the sort of roles I wanted to play and then how could I write a project that would incorporate them. I was on holiday in Sonoma County and found a great bookshelf where I was staying that had a lot of scientific books that I was drawn to, Newton and the whole concept of time and the theory of relativity. Dimension is born from a deep love of the scientific and how I could twist the theories.

You are an actress with an impressive C.V you talk about the frustration of waiting to be chosen, It seems to be a common problem. can you talk a little about your experiences?

Thank you that's kind of you to say, I love the stage and acting in front of an audience. I try to do one stage show a year but having to work nights to free up days for auditioning really puts a damper on that goal. The whole audition process was very frustrating for me. It's really a numbers game and I just didn't enjoy it.  I just felt that I lost my voice and was being stifled. So I went off the grid for 2 years to produce this project. Feeling like I’m not being heard or seen is like death to me. Writing my own project has allowed me to create my own opportunities and something that is really special without losing myself or my voice.

I support a lot of fantastic Indie projects and I love it when people take their own ideas and bring them to fruition. What has the response been so far from the public?

It was released in Spring 2013 and ran till the end of 2014 but had a limited audience. I hope that with the publicity that the re-release has been given it will reach a larger audience.

You are supported by a tremendous cast and crew can you talk a little about the tremendous talent you are working with?

I am very blessed with some tremendous friends who have become involved with Dimension. Ron Stivers, who owns Poobah Records has selected all of the music for the series. Being connected to Poobah Records came with a built in audience, especially since we were live for the first year and featured on a variety show already in place called The Tom Show. As for the rest of the cast? I threw myself  a party to celebrate the launch of the first episode and hoped people would show up. The people that did come really wanted to get involved and small parts grew into main parts as I was able to write for the actors who were just as passionate about the project as I was.

How long will the series run for? and are their plans for a sequel?

There are two seasons with the first season getting a break for the holidays around November. I am going to be releasing a new episode every fortnight and Season 2 will be broadcast next year. As to a sequel? I do have something in mind but we will see.

I am intrigued with the accompanying blog for the series, what was the idea behind this?

I wanted this re-release to be different and a lot more interactive. The blog allows me to go into more detail about the science and philosophy behind the show. It can act as a resource for the show if people want to learn more. The project has become much more personal than initially I had expected.

So, after the success of the Dimension podcast (Audio Drama to us Brits) you have been working hard on a short film focused on the making of it. What inspired you to turn the process into a film?

Well, I got nervous and sad that the podcast Dimension was ending. So I frantically said “I need to document this!” I began with just wanting to film the two-part finale and then thought, well I wonder how much it would cost to slap together a short film and pass it off as a documentary….I was like, “$3000, right?” So I contacted the only film production company I knew, he referred me to a friend of his that specialized in documentaries, we went to a blind brunch and he totally got it. So much so, that his inspiration turned it into a full-fledged film. Good thing I was naive enough to think I could make it for $3000 because I don’t think I would have jumped both-feet-in if I knew what it actually takes to independently produce a film. But one year and $10,000+ later, we had a film that I was really proud of and a producer credit on IMDB.

With 'Is Anyone Listening' soon to be debuting at London's Sci Fi London festival what can fans expect over here?

I hope they see their imaginations played out on the screen. The podcast was written in a way that was very image driven. It’s meant to lead you along in a visual and emotional way even though it’s pure audio. So now that the story is on the screen, I hope it does the fan’s imaginations justice. They can also expect a window in to what the podcast experience was like in real time and what it is like within the minds eye. It’s very META. From there, I want the audience to feel like they know us, the creators and the players, by the end of the film. Like they could walk up to any one of us and instantly feel like kindred spirits.

What are your plans for Dimension? I think a Television series would be amazing

Well, yes. You are right on track! A TV Series has been the long term goal even from the point of conception. I spent a year after the podcast was over, writing and rewriting television pilot versions of Dimension and submitting it to screenwriting contests. I was a semi-finalist in the Page Awards. I also created a pitch package and shopped it around at the American Film Market, made some great connections and came close to a producing partner a couple of times but I was still in a developmental stage, so I kind of backed off from the deals, not feeling like they were great fits. This is the long game for me. So I will be preparing the series once again for television in hopes to have some opportunities to pitch it once more in London.

Are you hoping to come over for the Festival? I know that the cost can be quite high.

I am definitely going to find a way to get there! After all, it’s our World Premiere! I think the fans in London would really enjoy the film and I’m excited to meet some of the fans! The UK is actually in the top three locations of where we have a strong fan base. Next to the U.S and China. Plus, as I mentioned, I would love to pitch the TV Series there. I think it would do really well in the UK and Europe. Although, I’m a little broke from spending everything I had on making the film! We do have an Indiegogo campaign for the fans to support us further, so that we can get there, create all the materials we need to actually screen at the festival and generate enough awareness for fans to come to the screening. Here it is: Really looking forward to our first screening and meeting some of our fans! My London PR agent WhiteScreen Promotion, just secured a Q & A for us as well, at the festival, so super excited about that too. So yeah, I need to get there!

Finally, What was the last book you read?

I think something by Hemingway, but I forget the title.

Thank you so much for your time Christina

I’ve really enjoyed it Daniel. Thank you so much.

You can listen to episode one of Dimension by clicking here and you can follow Christina on Twitter at @cbarsi1