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Chaos Rising film “very careful” not to infringe Warhammer IP

Chaos Rising co-creator Graeme McEwan explains his lifelong love of Warhammer, and the indie film’s connection to Games Workshop’s IP.

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - actor Graham McEwan in Knightly armor

Graeme McEwan is a co creator and producer of Chaos Rising, a forty minute indie film inspired in part by the Warhammer Old Worldreleasing on YouTube on Saturday August 5. McEwan says his team have been “very, very careful” to ensure the film doesn’t infringe on Games Workshop’s IP – though the tale of Breton knights and chaotic northern marauders demonstrates the team’s love of Warhammer.

In the first part of Wargamer’s interview with McEwan, we talk about his first Warhammer armies, what games he’s playing at the moment, how Warhammer fantasy has influenced Chaos Rising, and what his team would like to do if they ever got a license from Games Workshop.

Chaos Rising should be live on YouTube on August 5 – you can check out the trailer below.

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Where did you start with Warhammer?

My granddad got me my first set of the classic monopose Bretonnian archers when I was very young, four or five. And then a couple of years later me and my dad got the third edition Warhammer 40k starter set, Dark Eldar versus Space Marines. It’s been a very long time.

What are you playing nowadays?

At the moment mainly Warhammer Armies Project, waiting for The Old World release, and Lord of the Rings. I’ve fallen out with 40k a wee bit in recent times. I did play a little bit of Horus Heresy. I’ve quite enjoyed the ruleset. There’s quite a lot to think about with that particular system, but it is pretty fun.

What is it about Warhammer Fantasy that gripped you?

I was already interested in history. The first thing I studied at university was Scottish history. So you do obviously see a lot of parallels between real world cultures and some of the factions represented there. Well, the Empire and Bretonnians, the human factions, not so much in the more out there ones.

Yeah, who would be the Beastmen or the Orcs?

I’m sure some people have an opinion on that. But personally, I think they’re just nice fantasy ideas. I think the story is a little bit more relatable because while with 40k it is still humans, all the sci fi things you can’t really relate to.

But to be able to look back in history and see “ah, that’s kind of how people lived, maybe that’s how people would have tried to deal with eight foot tall, marauding hulking green monsters”. A big part of it is to do with the history side of it for myself, and getting those kind of parallels.

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - close up on a Chaos Warrior

Have any Warhammer books particularly influenced the story in Chaos Rising?

There’s been a few of the books around Chaos Space Marines that really humanise them to an extent and give them motives outside of “we’re evil”, which is really really cool. It’s actually something we tried to do, give motive to our characters.

So the Bretons aren’t necessarily all great guys, because you know, they’re from a feudal society, would they be that nice? And the marauders aren’t necessarily just there because “we Chaos, we bad”, there’s a bit more to it. A three dimensional character is always a little bit better to watch.

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - mounted Knight rides before fields of gold

Have you taken direct inspiration from any GW models?

We took inspiration where we could, so the Sergeant At Arms for the Breton fort is based off of the very classic Bretonnian men at arms. With the halberds and a bit more chainmail, they’re semi professional looking. His outfit’s inspired by one of them.

Do you remember the lute player from the classic Bretonnian questing knights? We have a musician among the questing Knights, he plays a lute – that’s actually my character.

But especially with the Bretonnians their costume was very heavily inspired by history because that’s the costume we had available to hand.

Have there been meetings with Games Workshop to discuss IP and copyright?

There hasn’t been. To our knowledge, they are aware of us. But there has been no official channels, no official conversations. We have been very, very careful when making this to not step on their IP or to infringe on anything like that.

This is much easier to do in fantasy than it would be in 40k because you can see the historical inspiration behind factions. Bretonnians are very much mediaeval France. The Chaos marauders seem quite Viking, and then you even have inspirations from Conan the Barbarian and other places.

So we’ve just done our absolute best to not infringe on anything, but what we have created, to make it to the highest possible standard. We’re hoping they’ll see it, we’re hoping they’ll like it! And if they do [see it, we hope] they’re like “Well, you know what, you guys did a really good job!”

But no, there has been no official conversations between us and Games Workshop in regards to this.

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - Knight prays before candles

Would you like to make something officially licensed if you ever got the chance?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. If we got the opportunity to work alongside them or with them that’d be an absolute dream come true for us. We would love that. We are really hoping off the back of this that, if not them, someone does approach us to continue with the story. Even if it’s not Chaos Rising there are a bunch of different stories we have kicking about.

Chaos Rising itself, if we are able to secure someone who would like us to take it further, is the first in a three part series. We have the next two episodes planned out – roughly, not scripted or anything, but the story is there.

So yeah, we would absolutely love Games Workshop to turn around and go: “That was pretty cool. Do you want to do something else?” Absolute dream come true for us. There are a lot of cool things that they have that would be amazing to bring to life.

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - Breton Knights in armor

If you had the license and an unlimited budget, what would you do?

If they were giving us free rein on IP… If it was gonna be 40k I would love to see either the Commissar Cain books or Gaunt’s Ghosts. I would just love to see them in live action, like they would make really, really cool, gritty, war films – obviously one being a little bit more comedic than the other.

But if it was to still be within Fantasy, genuinely I’d just like to finish the story we have to tell. If we were to get some freedom with IP, there are obviously other factions that you can start bringing to life, which could look really, really cool on screen.

We’ve kind of worked out how it would fit into the world to bring some other factions in if we ever got that opportunity. Because obviously, you’ve got to look at the timeline and what would make sense with who would be where. You know, if we were ever going to be doing this, we’d be doing it right. Or what’s the point?

Warhammer inspired film Chaos Rising - party at a Breton camp

So looking at justifying why, say, a bunch of Greenskins might turn up at this point or why they might be being pursued by some pajama wearing guys with cannons – sorry, I’ve actually got Empire guys on my desk right now, so I’m going “Oop, Pajama men” – it’d be quite cool to find ways of bringing other factions in that make sense in the overall world.

I think we can all agree that fans have had quite enough of live action adaptations not respecting the source material. That is something that we would always be very, very, very careful about, because being massive fans ourselves we’d annoy ourselves if we didn’t stay true.

Part two of Wargamer’s interview with McEwan will be live tomorrow.

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 streaming service Warhammer TV hosts original animations, but it’s still quite light on content. According to Games Workshop’s annual report to shareholdershouse in July 2023, discussions with Amazon to license a Warhammer 40k film or TV project starring Warhammer 40k fan Henry Cavill are still ongoing.