The reason it’s been so quiet on the blog here is that I’ve insanely taken on producing a no-budget fantasy-adventure web series, Ren: The Girl with the Mark. Readers with long memories may recall I was the DP on the first season way back in 2014, and got involved with post throughout 2015 and into 2016 when it was released. Well, now I’m the showrunner!
I’ve launched a Patreon page to fund the series as an ongoing concern, and you’ll need to subscribe to read it regularly, but here are the first two entries to whet your appetite. Please consider joining our Patreon community to get exclusive behind-the-scenes access, fiction from the world of Ren and much more.
The STory So Far
Let me start by bringing you up to date with where we are now.
Season One of Ren: The Girl with the Mark was released in March 2016, created and written by Kate Madison and Christopher Dane, and directed by Kate. (I joined as the director of photography and ended up as part of the core team who shepherded the show through post-production.) The series went on to win 14 international awards from over 40 nominations, and today has about 14 million aggregate episode views on YouTube – an amazing response!
For one reason and another it wasn’t until 2019 that we started gearing up for Season Two. Kate and I wrote the scripts with Ash Finn and Ashram Maharaj, and in early 2020 we ran a Kickstarter to finance new episodes on a bigger scale than the first season. Sadly that Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, and just a few weeks later the Covid-19 pandemic reached the UK, which seemed to draw a permanent line under the project.
Cut to: six months later. It’s the second lockdown and, like a lot of people, I’m super bored. To kill some time I thought it would be fun to write a new draft of Ren Season Two. My goal was to address some problems that had been flagged up with the 2019 draft while keeping as much of the good material as possible. Pretty soon I realised that I needed to know what would happen in Season Three in order to give Season Two the right ending, so I wrote that too.
“Well, that was fun,” I thought when I had finished, and forced myself to put it away and focus on other things.
Almost two years passed. The pandemic receded. And I had an itch. A voice in the back of my head saying, “What if…?”
Finally, around September 2022, I asked Kate and Chris if they would consider letting me take the show on. I had given it some serious thought. After the 2020 Kickstarter didn’t succeed I knew that the new season would have to be made on the same small scale as the first one, with an entirely unpaid cast and crew. I also knew that no big streamer or Hollywood studio was going to come along and wave a magic wand to transform it into a big-budget production, because if that was going to happen it would have happened back in 2016. But Kate and Chris had achieved amazing things on their tiny Season One budget, thanks in no small part to a dedicated amy of volunteers, and I believed I could do the same.
Kate and Chris read my version of the script, they felt it was in keeping with the world they had created, and they trusted me to produce something that would be faithful to the legacy of Season One. Even better, they agreed to each direct an episode!
Kicking OFf 2023
Thanks to everyone who’s joined this community so far! We haven’t even launched it on social media yet – that’s coming later this month – so it’s great to have so many of you eager to be involved.
Things have really started to kick off on Ren Season Two in the last few weeks.
Some of you will remember Born of Hope, Kate Madison’s phenomenally successful Lord of the Rings fan film from 2009. For that film a wooden hand-cart was constructed by Mike Rudin. It then appeared a couple of times in Season One of Ren, and has been living in her front garden ever since. Over Christmas Mike picked it up and took it to his garage workshop where he’ll be refurbishing it and turning it into a Kah’Nath prison cart that features in 202 (Season Two, Episode Two) and 203 (Season Two, Episode Three)… and again in Season Three… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
Meanwhile Hans Goosen, who helped make the reather for Season One as well as various other props, and appeared as both a villager and a Kah’Nath soldier, is making some of the new coins in the Alathian currency. I say “new” – they were all designed for Season One by James Ewing and Christopher Dane but only the boars and kings were actually made. Hans is now completing the set with horses, stags, eagles and wolves. First though he had to work out what each one is worth to create a realistic currency system – more on that in a future lore post!
Ronin Traynor, who returns as stunt co-ordinator for Season Two, has already planned and videoed the choreography for part of the knife fight in 204.
Locations have been the biggest area of our focus, however. Whereas Season One was mostly set in Lyngarth, Ren’s village, Season Two is all about Ren and Hunter’s journey to find the Archivist. Just yesterday Ash Finn went up to the Peak District to look at a potential location for Tarik’s Mill, a place mentioned in Season One but not yet seen. We are also considering locations in South Wales and near Portsmouth as well as in Cambridgeshire, so we’re going to be racking up the miles!
We’re also looking for a studio space to base ourselves in. If anyone knows of a barn or warehouse type of building in Cambridgeshire that might be available at an affordable rate, please let me know!