In The Beginning....
Updated: Sep 16, 2022
Welcome to the very first entry of The Last Guardian production blog! I hope this will become a fun and informative place for you to learn about all the behind the scenes work that has and is going into bringing this series to life! I've considered doing this before on previous projects but never really let myself do it. Maybe it's because I'm in my 30's now and feel like teaching and giving back even more than I used to. Don't get me wrong, I have always been open to sharing with everyone what goes into film making. There is just something different now.
Before I really get into things though, I want to spend this first blog post talking about the cast of the series. Because without them, this would never be getting done. The cast is the heart of this series and I can't stress enough how important they have been not just to getting the The Last Guardian to the point that it is, but also getting me there. Film making is stressful work. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to back down and run away. But they didn't let me. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
Casting started well before I was even sure this project would be made. I had written a story that I really loved in 2019 on my way back from visiting Galaxies Edge at Disneyland. My mind was in the right place and it just came together. When March 2020 hit and we all went into lockdown, I refined it to where it is now. I'll go into that process in a later post but the point is, in early 2020, I had my story. By August of 2020, I had my first cast member in Melissa Radford. I pitched the idea of this badass Sith Witch queen who was estranged from her husband and committed human sacrifice to the "Mother". To my surprise Melissa latched onto that character and never let go, even without seeing the script. Over the next year of development, it was knowing that I had, what was in my mind, the most important character cast and in the most capable hands, that made me confident to keep pushing ahead.
By Fall of 2021, I now felt that I was ready to tackle this project, so I pushed on with casting. Ilke Hincer was an actor I was aware of but didn't have a ton of experience with. He certainly had the commanding presence to be the Jedi Guardian Cal. I consulted and went ahead with casting Ilke, putting my second lead character in very capable hands as well. I started rounding the cast out with my trusted friends I had worked with on previous projects. Andrew Bacon taking on the role of Jinn and a Sith Assassin. Andrew had proven himself a dedicated actor before with a good fighting background. Reliable to a fault and probably one of my greatest surprises on this film. He brought a level I didn't know he had and it was amazing to see the growth over the last 7 years! Joseph Laxton also returned for the role of Voss, the wise Jedi Master who trained Cal. Joe was my influence for getting into the arts. As my former English teacher, he helped acting capture my heart and soul. I will never be able to repay him for this. to top it off, he is an amazing actor himself, bringing unique qualities and fun to every role. Some film makers have a person they cast in every project they do, and Joe is mine! Behind the scenes, Domonique Landry also returned as our trusted and talent makeup artist! Again, much like Andrew, I knew what I was getting with Domonique, but she brought a level that I didn't know she had. And again, seeing her skills grow over the last 7 years has been such a treat. So much talent!
I still had one lead role left to fill. The role of Ilia, the badass New Republic solider with a dark secret to keep. For the first time in years I didn't know who to get to play her. So I actually did a full casting call. This is a new experience for me. I expected a limited amount of interest in a Star Wars Fan Film that wasn't paying anything. Yet to my surprise I got no less then 71 actresses apply for the role! Some were from our home area in eastern Ontario, others from Toronto, but then even some as far away as Los Angeles, Florida, the UK, Romania and Germany! And each one of these actress was special in their own way. Just saying it again, I never expected that kind of interest in this type of project and to this day I am still very touched thinking about it. Over the next 2 months I went through all the potential Ilia's until I found that diamond in the rough. The actress that just was the character, and she was hiding close to home. On December 19th, Kaelin Grassie was officially cast as Ilia. She had the acting skill for the role, and the athletic ability for the fighting, but there was something different that I couldn't put my finger on for a long time. It wasn't until we got to know her better during practices that I discovered what it was. Kaelin was Ilia. Obviously not the actual Republic soldier with a dark secret, but the heart, drive and attitude of the character were so abundant in her that it was a little hard to tell the two apart.
By January of 2022, the last two members of the cast were set. Michael Hasson joined as one of the Sith Assassins. He took to his role with great enthusiasm and became a huge support behind the scenes with the fight practicing. So much so that I would just leave him training Ilke and Melissa. I knew they were in good hands and it shows in the film. Andrea Hilborn joined as the New Republic Commander, Slowen Lo. Andrea brought a strong commanding presence to the role that was required to have that leadership look. We joked that it came from her being a mother. It was a real treat to see her step into that role and run with it. And lastly there was a role of a human sacrifice. I had no question who would play that part. Robert Thompson used to joke with me about someday wanting a real great death on screen so when the chance came, I gave it to him. And while I am not going to spoil that death here, it lived up to his expectations.
So what was the point of this first post? Well I guess it was to give you all an idea of the people involved in this project. And there are more people from behind the scenes too that I will go into deeper over the weeks and months to come. I can never truly tell these people how much they all mean to me. And I'm sure they are sick and tired of me trying! But I do think it is very important for everyone to know that this is a full team effort and couldn't be done without each one of them now and in the future. So if you take anything away from this today, take this away. I am one lucky guy to get to work with these people and call them friends!