What was your filmmaking background before making Born of Hope?
KATE: When I first came up with the idea of doing Born of Hope, in about 2003, I actually didn't really have any filmmaking experience, apart from filming some stage shows. However in 2005 I got involved in a filmmaking group in Cambridge UK and made a number of short films with them, two of which I directed. When the ideas started to dry up, I decided to do a trailer shoot for Born of Hope and then never looked back.
Where did the idea come from?
KATE: Back in 2003, around the time of the Return of the King at the movies, I saw that a convention in Seattle was going to hold a fan film competition. This triggered the idea of making a Lord of the Rings fan film. However that small idea snowballed into what eventually became the feature film.
I just really wanted to have a go at making movies and the opportunity seemed to present itself. I had also really enjoyed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and wanted to explore that world and those characters further.
What was the writing process like?
KATE: When I first had the idea back in 2003, I wrote a short script. That was changed and rewritten by a friend. That script was the one used for the test shoot in 2006.
I then got to work improving the script and ended up in contact with Paula DiSante, a script editor from the USA, plus Christopher Dane, the actor playing Arathorn, also got involved in writing. After going back and forth a number of times between the three of us, with Paula giving notes and Chris and I trying to write, I decided it would probably be better to swap roles. So all the different script drafts and versions were given to Paula to try to put together into one script and then we would bounce back and forth again with me giving notes.
We worked on the script for the whole of 2007 before we had the script we would use for filming. Even then, however, the script was a constantly evolving thing. Scenes and dialogue were changed and altered and once the editing started the structure of the film changed again and scenes were cut and new ones added. The final film script was about 45 pages long.
Did you need to deal with copyright permissions from the Tolkien estate, and if so, how was that handled?
KATE: As we were making a fan film and never planned to make any money from the project or to put it out in a commercial way, we didn't approach anyone about it. However, when we got a bit of publicity during filming I was contacted by Tolkien Enterprises who own the rights to making LOTRs movies. We came to an understanding, that I could continue to make the film as long as met with certain requests.
How did you fund the film?
KATE: The budget for the production was £25,000. There was no chance of trying to get any sort of film funding, so I started digging into my savings. When they started to run out we turned to the fans for help. People donated money to help us finished the project and in the end about 2/3 of the budget can from the fans.
What sort of camera did you use for production and what were the best and worst things about it?
KATE: We shot the film using a couple of different cameras, Panasonic MVX200 HD and Sony FX1/Z1 HDV cameras, sometimes with a 35mm adapter. About ten different people operated cameras over the production and we just used whatever equipment we could borrow. Very little was hired, unless it was really necessary. Obviously the problem with not having a DOP and working with different cameras and operators was that we had to do some work in the colour correction to get them all to match.
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?
KATE: This is really hard to answer. There certainly were a lot of things that I could have done better and differently.
One of the smartest things was asking a pregnant friend if they would be interested in having their baby play Aragorn. She said yes and we managed to have a two-week old baby play the newborn Aragorn for the first scene we ever shot for the film. We also managed to persuade some members of the public to loan us their baby for the introduction scene, instead of having to use just a bundle of cloth.
I'd say the dumbest thing or at least something I would change for a new project would be to allow loads of time for planning and pre production, and having a team to help with that. I was wearing a lot of different hats and things often became rushed or were really close to the wire. Finalised costumes were often only seen when an actor came up to set and the wigs from China only arrived the day before and actually Gilraen's didn't arrive in time and two scenes were done with a different wig! More prep!
And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?
KATE: I learnt so much from making this film it's almost hard to pin point any one thing. I think the best way to learn is to go out and do it and the entire journey of making Born of Hope was a learning experience and despite the low points I wouldn't change a thing!