Ron Newcomb and his business partner Scott Mathias are two Christian filmmakers working to provide family entertainment with a Christian worldview for the mass market. Their movie Rise of the Fellowship is an adventure movie with ties to Lord of the Rings.
First, introduce yourself and your role with Rise of the Fellowship.
I am Ron Newcomb and was primarily the Producer/Director for the film Rise of the Fellowship. I’m also a father of two little girls and one on the way and have been married to my beautiful wife for six years now. I’m an IT Specialist during my 9-5, and pretty much work a second full time job in film trying to live out what I believe I was called to do.
My business partner and lead writer, Scott Mathias and I knew we wanted to make a film and so we that was the starting point. It’s a film that we could make as independent filmmakers, and a film we wanted to see.
I had gone to New Zealand in 2006 and am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I also knew gaming was here to stay as part of our culture. And so we kicked around the idea of mashing gaming and an epic LOTR style adventure…and so Rise of the Fellowship was born.
This is our “love letter” to Tolkien and a fun way we could, in some small way, be a part of his legacy. It pays tribute to Lord of the Rings, by having some parallels. We have many characters that are in the film, however, you’ll recognize a few others that did not make it into the LOTR films but were a part of the books.
It’s not beholden to Peter Jackson’s work and the story is really a stand alone. You don’t need to be a Tolkien fan to get our film. However, if you are, you’ll find all of the little gems; which there are many to be found.
What makes Rise of the Fellowship unique?
One of things we knew early on, was the our fans “A-lister” was really what game we would have in the film, so landing “Lord of the Rings Online” (LOTRO) was huge for us – it felt like getting a major talent.
Having real footage of LOTRO in the film really offers a unique perspective from the gamer. It does not mock gamers so much as it celebrates them. In so many films, the gamer is the “geek”. We flipped it saying, “There’s a little bit of geek and hero in all of us.” Which is our films’ theme.
We did get permission to use Sir Peter Jackson’s name in the film, which was cool and this lead to a “thank you” in the film, which then lead us to be connected to him via IMDB. Slightly unique in a small way.
What was the greatest challenge while filming?
While filming, was having a location get lost to us at the last minute. We were set to film at a park, but the afternoon prior we got word that we still did not have permission. Locations are so hard to come by for indie filmmakers as you bring a small army with you. To not know where you are shooting the next day is slightly stressful. So off Scott (my business partner & line producer) went in search of a spot. With only minutes to spare, low and behold, we got a local state park to allow us to film onsite there and they really came through for us. Somehow you just rest in the belief that it will all come together.
Also, believe it or not, from the moment Scott and I said, “Hey, let’s go make a movie” to now, it has been seven years and counting. It does not have to be that long and shouldn’t be. Next time, and fingers crossed there will be a next time but only the fans will decide that, I will condense and control the time line of the filmmaking process. Sir Peter Jackson says, “You never really finish a film, you just run out of time.”
What is your favorite scene?
That is a hard one, but I do love the fantasy world. So my favorite scene is the one that shows how Randall (our Frodo) sees the world at times and watches as his friends self sacrifices himself for the good of the group – death by paintball. We called in the “Boromir death scene”.
The shoot turned out great – with some cool make-up, and just cinematically, thanks to our DP Brian Pennington, it all pulled together; and then with the sound design and score – it turned out better than I could have imagined it. That’s why I love film – it’s a team effort.
What’s been the response to the movie?
For those that get what we were hoping for – they love the film. Those that get it, really get it. They get all of the fun references and really enjoy it. I’d say our sweet spot is the preteen or teenage boy that is into gaming, which sounds like most teens these days. However, just like in most things, our film was not made for everyone as well – and we hear from them too. It’s hard sometimes not to focus on them, even more so. But only a fellow filmmaker knows how hard a film is to bring into this world; it will fight you every step of the way.
We got domestic and international distribution, and you can find it in Walmart, on Netflix, on Amazon and bunch of different places where people can see the film and support us.
What is your goal for the movie?
Our objective is what any movie should be – and that is to first simply entertain. We wanted to offer families the opportunity to come together and simply laugh and have fun. To feel good about themselves, and for all of the geeks to realize that they are not alone – that we are all geeky about something – but they also have a hero inside, waiting to come out!
Do you have any more projects in the works?
I always have something in the works. Right now an epic action fantasy adventure has my attention. It’s a web series called “The Rangers” which can be found here; http://therangers.mymiddleearth.com/
I also have a reality TV showed I’ve put together called “Weekend Warrior” which is a show about LARP’ing and more can be found here:
I’d like to say “thank you” for giving true indie film a voice. It’s the only way we’re going to get out there. People can head to our website to find ways to see the film and thus be able to get out and “vote for the film”, which people do for films every weekend, www.RiseoftheFellowship.com.
I’d also like to say that I am the father of two girls and another one on the way, so it is very important to me to give a reflection of strong female characters that girls can relate to and root for. It’s just as important for me to offer the entire family an opportunity to be able to come together as a family and enjoy a film together. I cherish the time I get to spend with my family.
Though this film is not an overt Christian film, it was made by believers with strong themes. We all say we want more options. “Voting” for the film is the one true thing that matters most for indie filmmakers like me, so I do hope fans get out and support true indie film and “vote”!