The Silmarillion explored in new Tolkien fan film Storm Over Gondolin
By Stephanie C.
Following the footsteps of notable Tolkien fan films — Kate Madison’s Born of Hope and Chris Bouchard’s The Hunt for Gollum — is Storm Over Gondolin by French filmmaker Dimitri Frank. Shot on location in picturesque France and Iceland, Frank takes the world a few steps further back into Middle-earth’s history.
The upcoming film brings the audience into Beleriand during the height of Elven glory in the First Age. Set in the eponymous city, it was the last Elven stronghold in Middle-earth that stood against Morgoth. The threat of the Dark Lord was growing: the Elves of Middle-earth were divided, and only Turgon, the King of Gondolin, stood in his path of ultimate victory. Amidst the intrigues and turmoil that threatened to expose the Hidden City to the forces of Morgoth, Storm Over Gondolin captures the journeys of the Man and prophesied hero Tuor and his shipwrecked Elf guide Voronwë.
Challenges and Expectations: From the Pages to the Screen
Frank and his team face the challenge to address the slight apprehension that every fan has at the back of their mind when it comes to cinematic tributes: how faithful will the film be to the source? It is a delicate balance, as admitted by Emmy Award-winning conceptual designer Christophe Vacher (Transformers Prime, Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame), “The responsibility in executing Tolkien’s works in the film medium can be a blessing… or a curse, if you mess it up. The whole team has to live up to the standards of the Tolkien community, and also try to not stray away too much from what Peter Jackson has done.”
Inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Fall of Gondolin”, Frank and his team of scriptwriters have placed a particular importance on the screenplay, which is especially important given the difficulties presented with multiple canon sources. As avid Tolkien fans, “The screenwriters were already well-versed with the story before being involved in the production. Writing the script is like working on a puzzle; putting different parts of the story together piece by piece, creating the links, developing the characters, and we have to present it all in context to accommodate a part of the audience who might have not read The Silmarillion.”
While conscientious about staying true to the books, Frank remains realistic about the inevitable changes in translating the books to films, “Books and films tell stories in different ways, so we have to cut some parts that work in the books, but not necessarily in the film medium. And, of course, we have to sometimes take a few liberties to have a credible story from the beginning to the end.”
Pre-production: From Concept to Reality
Pre-production is currently in full swing, with artistic elements heavily inspired by the conceptual designers’ imaginations, Tolkien’s own drawings, and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. While Frank is responsible for the homogeneity of all artistic elements, there is an emphasis in freedom of expression, “Peter Jackson’s, John Howe’s, and Alan Lee’s designs have had such an impact in our visual culture of Middle-earth today. Our goal is to find a middle ground: combining the old, the familiar, and the new conceptual art.”
An ambitious project such as this calls for a solid cast and crew. Behind the film is a team of volunteers from the film industry, including seasoned professionals such as make-up artist David Scherer (The Theater Bizarre), and wigmaker Ambre Weber who has created wigs for Sir Ian McKellen and David Bradley. As one of the conceptual designers for this production, Vacher was convinced by the calibre of previous fan films, and how Frank and his team have aligned themselves with a similar standard of production, “I like to work on projects that show professionalism and inspire enthusiasm. But beyond that, this project also gives me, for the first time, the opportunity to explore Tolkien’s world with my own vision, which I have never done before.”
Frank is confident that Storm Over Gondolin will capture the attention of the audience with both a masterful telling of a well-loved story and high cinematic standards on a budget, “Despite the compulsory changes inherent to a film adaptation, we wish to create a movie faithful to the spirit of Tolkien’s writings.” He continues, “It is very important for me to produce a movie by fans and for fans. While others pay their homage to Tolkien in other forms such as writing fan fiction and making paintings, a film is my way of paying tribute to J. R. R. Tolkien, who inspired and continues to inspire so many dreams.”
Storm Over Gondolin is a non-profit film made by Tolkien fans, for fellow fans, and it will be distributed online for free. The script is being written in English, and the final film will be subtitled in several languages. Produced by Dimitri Frank’s own studio Dreamlight Vision, the production company plans to further establish itself in the fantasy and medieval period genres of the film industry.
Production diaries will be released starting September 22, 2013. A crowdfunding campaign will also start in 2014 for those who wish to support the film. Filming will commence in 2015. Keep up with production and filming updates by bookmarking the website Storm Over Gondolin and following the team on Twitter and Facebook.
Steve, also known as “Rifflo”, is a University MBA Administrator in Ontario Canada where he lives with his wife, Lisa and two young daughters, Alexa and Ava. Steve has an extensive background in corporate sales. Steve also worked for ISAF: International Security Assistance Force and the Canadian Military as a recruiter in Human Resources for the operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan. When not immersed in Tolkien works,sci-fi, and film, you can find him training in Muay Thai, Italian rapier, German longsword, and Mixed Martial Arts. Follow Steve on Twitter @HobbitSteve