“Some of the greatest acts of heroism in war have come on the eve of a conflict’s end. There is no greater tragedy than for someone to lose their life when a war is about to finish, and it’s even worse for those involved when they’re aware of the fact the end is so close.”
Can you briefly summarize what Operation Chastity is, what it’s about?
Operation Chastity is a feature length film project set at the very end of the Human-Covenant War, February 2553. The Covenant have long since fled Earth and the UNSC are mopping up what’s left. Lieutenant Ashton and his group of hardened Marines fight in the final operation of the Human-Covenant War, knowing the war is almost over and longing to go home. But when the Marines cross paths with an ONI agent and a Spartan on a top-secret mission, Ashton is torn between his duty to his comrades and suicidal orders.
The initial concept began quite small. The idea was to build the Warthog, a few costumes, then do a series of comedy shorts. As time went on and we built up a head of steam, however, more and more people suggested we build on the idea and push it a little bit further. So, it went from being comedy to action-drama, and from shorts to extended shorts, and eventually evolved into the full-scale feature project we are working on today.
How did the story for Operation Chastity come about? How did you decide on the time and place in which to tell the story?
My academic life was spent largely studying military history, so I spent a lot of time learning about conflict and how it affects the human condition. The core story of Operation Chastity draws on that knowledge, looking at the Halo universe and exploring the experience of regular ground troops within the conflict – the trials they endure, the dangers they face, and the challenges they overcome. That helped me immensely in choosing the specific time to set this particular piece.
Some of the greatest acts of heroism in war have come on the eve of a conflict’s end. There is no greater tragedy than for someone to lose their life when a war is about to finish, and it’s even worse for those involved when they’re aware of the fact the end is so close. That sentiment set the tone I was looking for – if there was a story to be told, it had to be at the moment. A closing statement to the human experience of war against the Covenant, looking back on the pain inflicted upon them and as well as humanity’s hope for the future.
Operation Chastity: Behind the scenes:
Did you have any concerns about what you should or shouldn’t include, how you might interact with Halo canon, and how fans might react?
As both a fan and an aspiring film maker there was a lot of personal struggle to temper my desire for “cool” things and fitting in with continuity. All the time I was busy looking over my work ensuring that whatever I did would not incite some kind of fan rage. I approached it as though it was another piece of official literature, and gave the canon the respect it deserves.
It’s one thing to take the story in a new direction and another to fly in the face of established fact within the canon. Fans appreciate this and so did I. I avoided making up new Spartans and other issues that many fans have held as contentious, but was also eager to push the story to the limit to make it a dramatic and compelling experience for everyone.
Did you look for any support from Bungie Studios or 343 Industries when you began the project?
Most of our interaction has been with 343 Industries, who have been very supportive of our endeavour to bring a fan-based story within the Halo universe to the big screen. Our project began after Bungie’s handover of the rights to 343 Industries post-Halo 3, so while we have had little contact with them, we are doing everything possible to do justice to their universe.
Was Operation Chastity always going to be something created for the community, for the fun of it, to share freely?
We always intended Operation Chastity to be a gift for the fans, our way of giving something back to the community. On a personal level, the Halo community has kept me entertained and given me so much pleasure over the years, so there’s always been a drive to give something back.
Partnering with such a reputable company as Machinima to bring our film to the web has enabled us to branch out to a much broader audience, including fans not familiar with Halo. We hope that by creating a solid piece of dramatic entertainment, we won’t just be giving back to the community, but perhaps introducing new fans to the community and helping to expand it.
What sort of technical challenges have you faced in creating this film?
The technical challenges have been great, from replicating the look and feel of Halo through costumes and props to shooting big action sequences, right through to recreating all of Halo’s iconic vehicles and ships as part of our ground breaking visual effects work. We’re aiming for a production that is of a Hollywood level, and that inherently makes our project more challenging because where something might be forgivable in an average fan film, it’s totally not for us.
Were it not for our producer, Nicola Instone, we wouldn’t be able to aim for that target. I am a first time filmmaker, and her knowledge and experience has meant we can push for that Hollywood quality. Thanks to her exhaustive skills in the fields of production and visual effects and the team she has assembled for the teaser, every single challenge has been met and overcome, and the results are stunning.
Can you describe some of your favourite moments on set?
Every moment on set filming the teaser was an amazing experience for me as it was my first time on a production of that magnitude. Having so many experienced industry professionals give up their weekends to bring my story to life was something I will never forget.
Perhaps one of the funniest moments came in rehearsals. One of our actors, Vin Hawke, knew I was a big fan of District 9. We were going through one of our scenes, and on his cue, rather than shouting out his proper line, he shouted “YEAH! TAKE DET YOU FOKKEN’ PRAWNS!” I totally cracked up.
What was it like working with your team of creative minds, and Halo fans, to bring this film together?
Collaborating with so many wonderful people has been an absolute dream, and a lot of our team are film industry professionals as well as being Halo fans. That love of the source material has ensured that, with the teaser as well as the coming feature, we stay true to the universe while at the same time finding new and interesting ways to push it forward.
Our propmaster, Ed Woodward (who recently finished work on Ridley Scott’s Prometheus), is a massive Halo fan and brought a great depth of industry knowledge as well as a love of Halo to help build props that looked straight out of the games, using concept art and in-game stills to help in fabricating realistic Marine armour.
Our visual effects supervisors, Richard Briscoe (Iron Man 2, V For Vendetta, The Bourne Ultimatum) and Sean Farrow (Batman Begins, The Da Vinci Code, 1408) have been performing miracles in bringing the Halo universe to life through our visual effects, and the teams working for us (including major names such as Digital Idea, Lipsync, Malditomaus and Bleed VFX) helped us really push the boundaries of what is possible in low budget projects.
What are some other past projects you yourself have created? Do you have plans for any future projects?
For a time I worked in a special effects studio and helped make props that were used in Doctor Who, and Ive also worked within the wardrobe and props departments on a variety of independent films including the sci-fi miniseries Trenches. Operation Chastity is my first feature film project as a filmmaker, and I’m hoping to build on that.
Right now all my energy is primarily being invested in getting Operation Chastity on the big screen as a feature film. We are frantically working at finishing the teaser, which will be released in the coming months, and collaborating with Hollywood screenwriter Marvin Willson in editing the script ready for production of the feature length version of Operation Chastity.
I also have several original scripts in the works, and working on a graphic novel with a phenomenal artist named Adam Burn, who I had the pleasure of working with on Operation Chastity.
Are you planning to attend any shows to promote the film and meet fans before release?
Closer to the release of the teaser we will certainly be attending events and beginning promotion for the feature film.
We’ve been involved with the community for some time, running Reach tournaments and competitions. Our involvement with the community is something we enjoy and are very committed to.