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$255k of “favors and goodwill” made Chaos Rising possible

Warhammer-inspired indie film Chaos Rising took three and a half years and a mountain of favors to make, according to co-creator Graeme McEwan.

Graeme McEwan is a co creator and producer of Chaos Rising, a forty minute indie film inspired in part by the Warhammer fantasy world, which will release on YouTube on Saturday August 5. Filmed on site in Duncarron medieval village in Scotland, the production relied on huge amounts of support from the Clanranald Trust for Scotland, and many other sources.

In the second part of Wargamer’s interview with McEwan, we talk about his career as a movie combat specialist, the support that turned Chaos Rising from a great idea into a reality, and sourcing Warhammer army inspired costumes from other Hollywood productions.

You can read part one of our interview with McEwan here. Chaos Rising should be live on YouTube on August 5.

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What’s your background in the film industry?

So for the last 13 or 14 years, I’ve worked with Clanranald Trust for Scotland’s film and TV combat team Combat International. I’ve worked in quite a lot of productions over that time, ranging from Snow White and the Huntsman, which was my first film a long time ago, through Outlaw King, The Last Duel, quite a lot of work on Outlander – that was the last major thing we were involved in.

How did you get started as a movie combat professional?

Personally, I saw an advert in a shop window, that’s how I found out about it. Nothing quite so luxurious as Rada. It was a bit of paper.

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What were they asking for? Was it just like, “Do you want to have a scrap in a field?”

Essentially, yeah! Yeah, it wasn’t much more than that. I was like “That sounds fun, I’ll do that.” And sometime later, here I am. Having tried my hand at making my own film.

Is film fight choreography and acting your full time job?

I guess I’d probably say that “side hustle” would be the common vernacular for it. I’m actually a personal trainer and sports therapist for my full time employment. We jump in and out of films as and when they come up.

Because what we do is quite specific, we tend to be in for a relatively short stint there. So if there’s a battle happening on a production we go down for said battle but that’s very rarely going to be longer than a week or two.

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Everyone has cool ideas – how did you realize Chaos Rising was possible?

I think we were in a very lucky and relatively unique situation. The Clanranald Trust that I mentioned before – the overall company that Combat International work under – they spent the last 20 years building a replica medieval village just outside Sterling central Scotland. They allowed us to use it. The wooden palisade and the village that Chaos Rising take place in, that is a place called Duncarron, it’s a real active location.

They had a lot of costume, we had all these people that were willing to jump in and help… I think having a lot of resources on hand that most people just don’t gave us a huge advantage to actually think “Yep, this is a really cool idea”, and actually make it come into something.

When we reached out to Jack and Charlie the directing team on this, they loved it, and again they had a lot of contacts on their side of things. There was quite a unique situation we found ourselves in, where we could bring what needed to be on camera and they could bring what needed to be behind the camera, without the huge amount of money it really should have cost us to make this.

While we did have some budget from the Kickstarter and everything, this film was hugely, hugely done on favors and goodwill.

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Do you have an idea of cost?

The rough shadow budget would have been in excess of [$255,000], if not farther up than that. It would have cost us an awful lot of money to pay for everything that was on this. A lot of favors allowed us to take what was really a cool idea and make it into something. Because everyone has ideas! I’ve had many over the years.

I’m still not 100% sure how we did it! Normally, these ideas fall by the wayside. Somehow we did it.

Where did you source costume from?

So we do get given or get to buy at a pretty reasonable rate a lot of props and costumes when we’ve been working these bigger films, so that’s obviously what we used in Chaos Rising. The gambesons that the Men at Arms wear are from Robin Hood, the one by Russell Crowe. The trebuchet is from Outlaw King.

Warhammer-inspired film Chaos Rising, Knight without helm, wearing chainmail hauberk

A lot of the chainmail that we use is from the early 2000s King Arthur, the more Romanesque one. That’s aluminium and rubber [links] alternating, so it looks the part but doesn’t weigh a thing, which is lovely. I’m sure some of your readership will have spent a day in chainmail, it’s not the most fun thing on the planet, so when you film you don’t really do that. You want the fake stuff because it makes your life so much easier.

We didn’t use it, but there is the battering ram from the Robin Hood film at Duncarron as well. That was actually bought and shipped over by Russell Crowe as a thank you for the team at quite an expense. What you don’t see in the movie is that it’s towed up the hill by two tractors. Maybe if you got the current crop of world’s strongest men, they might shift it, but a bunch of normal dudes were not moving that anywhere.

We did make some of the [costume] ourselves, particularly on the Marauder side of things. A lot of that was made in house or from a couple of different producers around Scotland. But by and large a lot of the stuff was just stuff we already owned, which again, is how we managed to make something of this quality for such a tiny budget.

So a lot of your film came out of the bits box?

I mean, yeah, that’s probably the best analogy you can actually have for it. A lot of Chaos Rising was cobbled together from the bits box. Here’s hoping it’s worth a Golden Demon!

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Was there a moment when it felt like it was really happening?

I think the first time I had that was last weekend at the premiere. Because it was three, three and a bit years of work for us, and right up until seeing it with everyone there and seeing other people’s feedback…

Obviously, I knew it was real. But that moment of realization, of “oh wait, this actually is coming to fruition, this is a thing that we have done”, that was very last minute for me. It still doesn’t feel 100% real if I’m being honest.

What were the biggest challenges you hit?

There were a lot of learning processes for us. While we have, as a team, worked on a lot of films over the years, this is our first time trying this side of it, at least at this scale. Kickstarter itself, that was a learning process, we didn’t expect the success we had.

We set ourselves quite an achievable goal at the start, but it was probably not gonna be quite enough to actually do what we wanted to do. And we smashed that in the first weekend – it was like two days to surpass that and it just kept going.

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Personally, the toughest bit would be filming night shoots in December in Scotland. For quite a lot of them I was one of the silly marauders that didn’t wear a top. The physicality of getting through Scottish winter at night in December with no top on, that was interesting.

Thanks loads, Graeme.

Warhammer 40k and Warhammer fantasy fans are still waiting for live action film or television shows set in the worlds of Warhammer. Games Workshop’s Warhammer TV streaming service hosts original animations, but it’s still quite light on content. According to Games Workshop’s annual report to shareholders and companies house in July 2023, discussions with Amazon to license a Warhammer 40k film or TV project starring Warhammer 40k fan Henry Cavill are still ongoing.