Recently I had the privilege of speaking with Drew Casson, the director of a new Tolkien fan film entitled The Tales of Fili and Kili. The film follows the adventures of Thorin Oakenshield’s nephews Fili and Kili in their younger years and was shot in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
Along with an amazing interview, Drew and his team have given Middle-earth News and all of our readers an exclusive sneak peek at a new character ‘Thrail Greybeard’, the guardian of FIli and Kili. Thrail is portrayed by Mr. Nigel Morgan who went through four hours of prosthetics, hair, and makeup to bring this unique character to life in the film.
Director Drew Casson, is a self-proclaimed “detail freak”. It only takes one glance at any of the various production stills that have been relased on the film’s Official Facebook Page to see why: the immense attention to detail and care is apparent in every single photo. Casson is an amazingly talented film maker from Great Britian, he and a team of highly skilled and incredibly passionate Tolkien-fans have put many hours into the production of The Tales of Fili and Kili. Whether you’re dying to learn more about this film or you still need a bit more convincing to pique your interest – read on to hear what Casson has to say. His passion for film-making and Tolkien is infectious: I grow increasingly excited with each passing day and I have a feeling you will too.
RT: Tell us a little about yourself. What got you into film? How long have you been interested in the art?
DC: I have been making films now for several years. It began back in 2007 when I developed a keen passion for VFX (Visual Effects) after seeing the NBC show ‘Heroes’. From there the love and passion flooded into film-making. I have grown up with film; it has always been a big part of my life. Film allows me to express myself, explore my imagination and most of all, tell a great story. The beauty of film is that it is a constant learning process. There is always something new to learn, whether it be my process in directing an actor, to the lens on the camera.
RT: What inspired you to begin work on The Tales of Fili and Kili?
DC: If there are any films in my life that have truly inspired me and continue to inspire me, it would have to be ‘The Lord of the Rings Trilogy’. I cannot express the impact these films have had on my life from a very early age. The entire trilogy is a masterpiece.
I began toying around with the idea of doing a ‘Hobbit‘ spinoff- of course the words “Hobbit spinoff” are not particularly light. There is a weight and a substance that comes along with Mr. Jackson’s visionary storytelling that is a force to be reckoned with.
It occurred to me after seeing the first images of the dwarves in ‘The Hobbit’ how similar my cousin Tom Scarlett looked to Dean O’Gorman who plays Fili. I have been a huge Aidan Turner fan since the Being Human days and I have to say we share a very similar brow.
Then it struck me: I knew with a lot of hard work and dedication we may just be able to bring Middle-earth to life ourselves. From there, it spiraled out of control. There were many meetings to discuss story and character arcs, we did vast amounts of research into the history of the dwarves and Fili and Kili. We discovered there is very little information about Fili and Kili’s history, and this allowed us some incredible creative freedom when it came to telling the story.
RT: What has been the most exciting part about filming this adventure? The most difficult?
DC: There have been many incredible moments on the production of ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili‘. Being in Wales, surrounded by mountains, miles away from any civilisation, dressed as a dwarf was an indescribable experience. You truly had to be there. Each time we filmed a shot in Wales we would watch playback on the camera and all of us would be thinking the same thing…’We are doing it…we are capturing Middle-earth’.
Another huge thing for me is the incredible talent within the production team. ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili’ has allowed many artists and performers to explore and expand. I am with some extremely talented individuals, all of whom have the same goal in mind: create the best possible thing we can.
The most difficult aspect to film ‘Tales‘ would have to be the vast amounts of co-ordination involved on set. Having 4 dwarves being able to walk, run and fight comfortably and safely is a challenge in itself.
RT: You’ve mentioned that all of the costumes are completely hand-made. How much time went into the costumes? From the few stills that you have released, they seem very detailed.
DC: When we confirmed ‘The Tales of FIli and Kili’, I went straight into the creation process on the costumes as I knew it was going to take vast amounts of time and effort. When it comes to Middle-earth, I am a detail freak, so I knew the level I needed to take the costumes to. I used the costumes Fili and Kili wear in ‘The Hobbit’ as a great reference point. Their colour pallet, teal for Kili and mauve-grey for Fili were great starting places. I wanted to make sure we kept the essence of the characters costumes as they are a key part to the aesthetic.
However, because our story is set 30 years before ‘The Hobbit’ it allowed us to visually expand the costumes and show the audience how they arrived with the costumes in ‘The Hobbit’. This really excited me: to tell a visual story with each character’s costume. Subtle differences pose intriguing questions. For example, Young Fili in our story only carries 1 sword, this makes us wonder: how did he get the second one?
After I had completed the 2 hero costumes I was approached by a very good friend of mine Priscilla Howe who saw the dedication I was putting into the costumes and offered her guidance and abilities. Priscilla was a true god send as she then progressed to explore each of the cultures of Middle-earth and designed and created each and every one of the costumes seen in ‘The Tales Of Fili and Kili’. All the while keeping the essence of Peter Jackson’s vision but making sure we had our own stamp on things.
RT: Can you explain a little about the creation process? How does one idea evolve and grow into a film?
With ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili‘ the idea was very simple: Let’s take the characters that we love on a new journey and explore them in a new light for us and the fans to enjoy.
One constant question we have asked ourselves during the entire process is “What would we want to see as fans?” As hard-core fans of Tolkien and Peter Jackson, asking this question allows us to create moments fans will appreciate and enjoy. Both my cousin Tom Scarlett and I have had experience in the past writing stories, web series, and movies so we know the format very well. When it came to ‘Tales‘ we simply asked ourselves what journey would we like to see these characters go on? What obstacles do we want them to challenging? What are the arcs of the characters?
RT: Can we expect more Tolkien- related projects from you in the future?
DC: The beauty of the word ‘Tales‘ is that is suggests more than one. If the reception of ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili’ is positive, we would all be more than happy to venture Middle-earth again to tell a new story.
RT: Along with directing, you portray Young Kili – how do you identify with the character? Are your personalities similar or different?
DC: Playing Young Kili has been a dream come true. I absolutely love Aidan Turner’s performance in ‘The Hobbit’, but we made sure that in ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili‘ the portrayals of the characters are our own. We allowed for shades of Aidan and Dean’s interpretation to come through; however we wanted to make sure we weren’t making the audience watch an hour of us impersonating Fili and Kili.
Where we meet Kili in our story I can completely identify. He is extremely young, naive and afraid of the world beyond The Blue Mountains, but when the situation calls for him to rise up and summon an inner strength he has no choice but to face his fears. Kili’s sense of adventure and fun is one thing I feel can completely and utterly relate with. A key aspect to Aidan Turner’s Kili was his cheeky, audacious side and I wanted to make sure that was kept.
RT: It seems like a lot of hard work and care has gone into this film. Who else has been involved in the cast and/or crew?
DC: Many, many, many hours have gone into ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili’. From story meetings, costume designing, and building sessions to fight choreography and weapon lessons.
One of the most incredible things for me personally during production on ‘The Tales of Fili and Kili’ has been an overwhelming passion, love and determination from every single person involved on the project. Everyone is striving to create the best possible thing they can, challenging themselves creatively and technically. It is truly a phenomenal thing to see.
I am proud of everyone who has worked on this project. Priscilla Howe and her ability to analyse and create without an inch of intimidation is awe-inspiring. Our chief artist and creative director Phil Barnes has outdone himself several times not and continues to push the bar with his work and skill. As for our cast, Tom Scarlett, my partner in crime has helped drive this entire project. He truly has brought vast amounts of knowledge, talent and fun to the project. Not to mention his performance as ‘Fili’ is incredible if I do say so myself. Nigel Morgan and Josh Taylor have both rose to the challenge of playing dwarves and have made the aesthetic of Middle-earth that much more real. Nigel Morgan’s performance as ‘Thrail Greybeard’ I feel will go down in the history books of fan-fiction. Josh Taylor’s sharp performance as ‘Nain’ brings a whole new dynamic to the story. As for all the extras, the picture would not be the same without you. It has been a pleasure and an honour working with everyone. Thank you.
RT: Do you have a favorite character or dwarf from The Hobbit? Who is it and why?
DC: If I had to pick a favorite character throughout Tolkien is would have to be Gandalf. I believe he is one of the greatest characters in literature. Gandalf’s belief in the goodness in people and creatures is something I feel many people are drawn to. He is one-of-a-kind. As for ‘The Hobbit,‘ I am going to have to be honest: I absolutely love watching Fili and Kili. A tad bit predictable I know, but I absolutely love what Peter Jackson has done with them. Seeing as though they had long blonde beards and blue hoods in the book, Jackson’s interpretation leaves me wanting more! Saying that, all of the dwarves have been crafted so well, it’s hard to take your eyes off of them when they are on screen.
RT: What would you say to fans that are hesitant about fan-made adaptations?
DC: For any fans that are hesitant about fan-made adaptations, I will say this: our aim is to take you back to a place we all know and love to tell a new story for your enjoyment. We are paying homage to two geniuses, Professor Tolkien and Mr. Peter Jackson. Everything we are doing is for fun.
The Tales of Fili and Kili promises to be a thrilling addition to the Tolkien Community as a whole. If you would like to learn more about the film and stay updated with production, visit the Official Facebook and Tumblr pages. Additionally, you can follow Drew Casson on Twitter, Tumblr, and Youtube.