From the earliest writings of such authors as H.G. Wells, Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, and Phillip K. Dick, to the dazzling and thought provoking film and TV works of Gene Roddenberry, Rod Serling, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Chris Carter, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon (among others), the science fiction genre has constantly captivated the minds and emotions of people throughout the world.
Along with its memorable characters, powerful storytelling and spectacular visuals, science fic- tion has also brought fans iconic stars such as William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, and Patrick Stewart (STAR TREK and its various offshoots), plus Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill (STAR WARS and its sequels), just to name a few.
Those critical elements – a compelling story with equally compelling characters, cutting edge visual effects and a star-studded cast of genre veterans – come together in the new series BLADE OF HONOR.
Produced by Mark Edward Lewis, Steven Stone and Ryan T. Husk, BLADE OF HONOR is now deep into its Kickstarter crowd funding campaign (see link below), and hopes to produce at least 5 episodes should it reach its fundraising goal of $30,000. The series’ trailer, produced last year, is currently streaming on Youtube, and can be viewed at the end of this article.
The series’ story, set deep in 22nd century outer space (the year 2187, to be exact) takes place amid the ongoing conflict between the human-led Alliance Navy and their vicious animal ene- mies, the Calinar. With their battle as backdrop, BLADE OF HONOR centers around a young Alliance fighter pilot named Arina (played by Alison Haislip).
Having survived a near fatal collision between the two warring factions, Arina spent her childhood under the guidance and training of an ancient, yet highly religious order known as the Derids. With a strong sense of loyalty and faith already instilled in her, Arina would go on to apply her talents to fighting the malevolent forces of the Calinar for the Alliance.
Those qualities, as well as her determination to save humanity from the Calinar, end up clashing when Arina discovers the truth about her childhood, and about the real meaning behind the ongoing intergalactic war between man and monster. From there, Arina embarks on her own personal mission to fend off the threats to her life, and to those she loves, posed by both the Calinar and the Alliance.
As mentioned earlier, BLADE OF HONOR boasts an impressive array of sci-fi heavyweights, representing some of the genre’s best loved movies and TV series. The series co-stars Richard Hatch (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) as the Alliance’s powerful leader, Fleet Admiral DiCarrek, a man whose desire for greater rule is tempered by the painful memories of his failure to save his mother from being executed for high treason by a corrupt government.
In addition, Tim Russ (STAR TREK: VOYAGER) portrays Grand Master Yuni, the Deridian faith’s most revered and most influential figure. Having joined forces with the Alliance, Grand Master Yuni possesses both the power to defy gravity and space through air bending, and the persua- sive skills to bring new people to his cause.
James Kyson (HEROES) also stars as John “Hoss” O’Tekjac, Arina’s loyal wingman and adopted brother, and the second most honored pilot in the entire fleet. Despite his successes in both the tech and entertainment fields, as well as his outstanding military service, John remains haunted by the deaths of his family and friends at the hands of the Calinar.
A series 12 years in the making, BLADE OF HONOR began its life, as do all major movie, TV and web series ideas, with the written word.
It was a project that exhibited their personal commitment to portraying strong, yet multi-faceted female characters through science fiction (think ALIEN’s Ellen Ripley, THE TERMINATOR’s Sarah Connor, THE X-FILES’ Dana Scully, and THE HUNGER GAMES’ Katniss Everdeen, among many others).
“My brother, John-Paul Lewis, and I developed this idea of what would happen if someone were (performing) EVA (extravehicular activity, alone in a space suit floating in space) for hundreds of hours,” Mark says. “Would they go insane? If so, what might it look like? We wrote an entire 1-hour TV pilot, and we both felt, as we do now, that female leads in sci-fi were important; to lift up female empowered values, overcom- ing, facing internal demons and the like have been our passion in storytelling for years.”
After having pitched the script to actress Kristanna Loken (BLOODRAYNE, TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES), who was unable to commit to the project due to an already busy schedule, the Lewises’ pilot script, and their ambitions to create a wide ranging sci-fi drama, were both put on hold.
Just when it looked like the Lewis brothers’ grand vision wouldn’t make it off the page, though, Mark would soon find the critical resources to bring it to life. “It wasn’t affordable to make a large format ‘space opera’ until I started directing for STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES (a fan-funded web series featuring many of the franchise’s most popular actors), and got to work with the spaceship VFX genius Tobias Richter,” recalls Lewis. “When he gave me a budget for the script, I realized this show was going to be a reality.”
BLADE OF HONOR is a series that features both spectacular visual effects, an incredible ensemble cast, and a story as big as the galaxy itself.
At its heart, though, the series is significant in that it features a powerful, determined female protagonist whose overall character arc forms the basis of every episode. That key element is crucial to what makes BLADE OF HONOR truly unique among other sci-fi/action/adventure series.
“What sets this show apart from other shows is that it features female leads even more prominently than male leads. It’s predominantly a woman’s story of self discovery and heroism over her own demons, (and) not just being a war hero,” explains Lewis. “She has to jettison her beliefs and her training to become the only person in the Alliance – or the Calinar – who can make sense of what’s really going on and discover who is really pulling the strings.”
In fact, Lewis adds, the entire concept and story universe of BLADE OF HONOR provides the perfect backdrop for a sci-fi thriller fronted by a female lead character. “The world lends itself to a female story, because after 12 years of war, the human male population has been decimated, and now women take as many roles in the military as possible to fill the vacancies,” he says.
While sci-fi has traditionally taken on the classic storytelling style of good vs. evil, that’s not the case in BLADE OF HONOR. No matter whose story is being told, or what perspective is being featured, Lewis says that each character’s journey is filled with ambiguity. “This story and characters are in no way bubble-gum simple,” he responds. “Every character is flawed, heroic in their own way, and opportunistic, so we’re never really sure who’s on whose side.”
Given the large scope of BLADE OF HONOR’s story, one would think that a lot of time would be spent on just how its main characters, and the planet they populate, arrived at such a desperate time in the universe.
Not so, says Lewis, who discusses how he keeps in mind both the traditionally short attention span of online video viewers, and those interested in a more in-depth exploration of the individual character backstories and histories of the series’ world. (More information on both is available at BLADE OF HONOR’s official web page.)
“One of the cool things we’ll be doing with the series is jettisoning ‘exposition’ from the actual runtime of episodes,” he explains. “That means, if we’re in a scene with Lindon and Hoss, and someone mentions the ‘Ryndene Massacre’ – instead of talking about it to educate the audience about something that characters already know everything about, an ‘annotation’ will pop up in the episode and the audience can click on it for a complete writeup, additional media, pictures and more about that item.”
Bringing the star-studded cast of BLADE OF HONOR on board was easily accomplished through the producers’ personal friendships and past professional collaborations. “I immediately brought in my friends as producers including Steven Stone and Ryan T. Husk, and I went to work developing additional characters that would support an ongoing serial series,” recalls Lewis.
As production began on the first promo for BLADE OF HONOR, the camaraderie and chemistry of its cast and crew quickly became apparent. “From our pool of friends and connections we were quickly able to cast Tim Russ (STAR TREK: VOYAGER), James Kyson (HEROES), Brandon Stacy (STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES) and Jodie Bentley,” Lewis remembers. “We shot the promo, and really began the foundation of the crew which has since become family.”
Despite some difficulties during the initial stages of pre-production, BLADE OF HONOR’s family would soon grow exponentially.
With co-stars Hatch, Haislip, Rivkah Raven Wood (STAR TREK: NEW VOYAGES), Jennifer Nash (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), Aron Eisenberg and Cirroc Lofton (STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9) joining the already star-studded cast, Lewis, Stone and Husk looked forward to the challenge of bringing their series to the small screen.
“It’s been a wild ride, but we’re thrilled with the cast that we have, and the super plot of the story rivals any of the intrigue and character development of our favorite sci-fi series,” Lewis says. “In fact, the producers and I basically took all our favorite elements from all our favorite shows and created a mysterious and deep world for them all to live and meld together in.”
With the task of assembling its cast now complete, BLADE OF HONOR’s individual characters and visual aesthetic would finally be revealed in its promotional trailer. Of course, while bringing key talent on board is a challenge in and of itself, it’s nothing compared to the highs and lows that can occur on-set, and sometimes, in the editing room. As it turned out, post-production proved to be the most difficult aspect of making the show’s teaser for Lewis.
“The production process was like any other, except for one little problem. I wrote the script, we cast actors, we put together crew and were feverishly locking down locations until the day before shooting. The usual,” he says. “But, what wasn’t usual was that I wasn’t going to be able to be integral in post production – which I always am. I was leaving to be the main presenter for the ‘Sound Advice Tour’ where I taught 1,100 filmmakers how to make better productions by doing better with audio.”
Before production began on the trailer, Lewis became a one man band of sorts as he started work on refining its visual and sound elements. Knowing that he would be unable to work with the post-production unit due to his prior commitment, Lewis would do his best to make their work easier.
“I had to create the music, the cut, and just about everything before the shoot, so the post team could just do it all without me around. As a result, I took out my Olympus E500 oldie-but-goodie DSLR and shot hundreds of stills with a friend (and of myself) of the shots I wanted,” Lewis explains.
“I used the lenses I wanted to use on set, created an entire pre-visualization of the entire promo. I made a final cut with these stills, wrote the music for it, and finished most of the mix. All of this (was) before we shot. “
The final version of BLADE OF HONOR’s trailer was put together in relatively quick fashion. “Once we did the photography on set (which was 2.5 days), my team was easily able to drop everything in, color correct, and I did the final mix in my hotel room,” remembers Lewis. “It was a whacky way to have to do it, but as I told all those filmmakers on that tour, ‘post production be- gins in pre-production.’ And (in) no other production was that adage more true.”
Like any sci-fi saga, visual effects are a significant part of the viewing experience. Despite the large price tag that obviously comes with creating such dazzling sights, Lewis and his production team realized how crucial those were to illustrating BLADE OF HONOR’s intergalactic setting, and its exciting action sequences.
“Because it’s a ‘space opera’ – with lots of sorties and battles, there’s going to be a strong amount of visual effects. We all love brilliantly done space battles with both fighters and capital ships, and we’ll be seeing quite a bit of both of those as the series progresses,” Lewis remarks. “With the human Alliance nearly exhausted against the animal Calinar empire, it’ll be exciting to see how the ingenuity of the human race thrives – even while it’s at war with itself.”
BLADE OF HONOR’s Kickstarter campaign is filled with great perks for its contributors, as seen on its campaign page. While fans will obviously benefit from those incentives, Lewis adds that those who want to add their own talents and expertise to the series’ production are encouraged to reach out to him and his team, especially if they contribute to their crowd funding drive.
“We’d be very happy to speak with anyone who believes they have the skills and experience to help us with pre-production, production or post. We’ve fielded several people already. Just get in touch with us, and let us know what you’d like to do, and we’ll take it from there,” Lewis says. “Of course, the best way to be a part of the crew is to donate on a level which automatically gives you crew/producer/on camera status!”
One such perk that BLADE OF HONOR’s Kickstarter campaign features is a replica Colonial Warrior jacket from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, signed by Richard Hatch himself, for those donating over $3,500.
For Lewis, and all involved, reaching out to viewers and aspiring web series creators alike is tremendously important. They hope to share both the lessons they’ve learned and the knowledge they’ve gained from their own experiences making BLADE OF HONOR, along with the guidance they have for anyone who seeks to one day make a far-reaching “space opera” of their own.
“We’d love to have BLADE OF HONOR pave the way for more series creators (as opposed to filmmakers) to follow our path, and connect with fans, and create the kind of serial series we all love,” he adds.
“And to that aim, the only advice we’d give to those who wish to do this is to have the best mentors. If we hadn’t spoken and spent countless hours getting good information from those who’ve done this before us, we’d be nowhere.”
In conclusion, BLADE OF HONOR is a sci-fi drama that goes far beyond the typical territory covered by similar series in the same genre. It’s a story of not just another far away galaxy in peril, but of the people whose lives and decisions are affected by the uncertainty and fear they find themselves in, and of the resulting ethical and moral dilemmas they face throughout.
In other words, welcome to outer space, where everything you think you know is wrong. Says Lewis: “Ultimately, the theme of the show is different than other sci-fi shows, and can be summed up in the following way: The government and religious leaders cannot be trusted. You can only trust your friends and family, and only they can support you to your destiny.”
Note: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of BLADE OF HONOR, Lewis says: “It will be closed captioned in English, Spanish, German, Dutch, French and possibly Korean. That much we can say for sure. There may also be a German dub!”
BLADE OF HONOR’s trailer can be viewed here:
The series’ Kickstarter campaign is available at this link:
ON THE WEB: www.bladeofhonor.tv