BGN had the opportunity to interview Eric T Elder, the producer and director of Changa, a medieval story told from the African diaspora. He discussed his project, his affinity for shows like Game of Thrones, and why he was inspired to tell this story.
So tell us a bit about Changa?
Changa is an African Game of Thrones meets Ray Harryhausen Sinbad. It’s traditional animation and will start as a 3 minute short for the web and then be continued as a series or even a indie feature. One of our goals is to be on Netflix or Amazon.
How is your project similar to Game of Thrones (or as we like to say around here #DemThrones) and how is it different?
I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and just have been really interested in seeing something similar with a focus on black characters. I decided that if I wanted to see it I would have to make it myself. I sat down and made a list of all the things I think distinguish GoT and all the things I love about it. It’s the carefully constructed and beautifully designed world, the dramatic historical references, the costume design, the House Design from the sigils to the personalities and traits of the warring families of Westeros.
I soon realized I would have to do a ton of research and prep work which did not really excite me. I’m a production guy, I like to make stuff, although the world building stuff really does interest me.
I decided it would be better to do an adaption that was the same subject matter of what I wanted to make but already had the decade of research baked in. I had already been in a conversation with author Milton Davis who I think is the tip of the spear when it comes to “Sword & Soul”. I had been talking to him for two years answering any questions about animation production he had until finally at the end of 2014 we decided to pull the trigger and start making Changa.
Why animation and why traditional instead of 3D?
Well even though animation is expensive it allows for way more control and is better for economy of scale. We are looking for a very unique look for Changa. I mean I think we have to if we want to be successful. We can’t compete at the moment with the big budget 3D of the big studios. We need to provide something that is special that will have us stand out in the marketplace. I think there is a certain charm to traditional animation done well that you can’t get with anything else.
My ideal pipeline is that for the fights we MoCap the actors and clean up the data with very crude models and then give that to the animators to use as reference. It seems very similar to the virtual camera process that James Cameron is using to create the Avatar movies.
Our fight scene choreographer has been studying traditional African arts for 20+ years. I think we are going to be showing some action that people have never seen before. It’s very exciting!
There are some very strong female characters in Changa. Can you say more about them?
Panya is amazing, I love her!! We are basing her physically on Sanaa Lathan who has to be one of the most gorgeous actresses in Hollywood. Panya is a “Daughter of Oya” the Ifa Goddess of the wind who brings rapid change.
In the world of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), Panya would be considered a Cleric class. Wizards/Magic Users can’t wear armor or carry swords normally for balance. Clerics can where armor and usually carry a mace or hammer. They have magic but it’s usually mostly focused on healing spells and resurrection spells. Thoros of Myr in Game of Thrones would be considered a Cleric.
Panya is really the emotional anchor of the show. She meets Changa to heal him physically and winds up healing him in other ways.
Bahati is not the villain of the piece and she is the antagonist. In Ifa she would be considered a witch or one of the Night Sisters. The Night Sisters can be Red, Black, White or any combination.
We are basing Bahati physically on the actress Lupita Nyong’o. In the book, she is described as such a beautiful creature that even the Gods were entranced by her. We thought about how entranced the world became with Lupita after 12 Years A Slave.
Why Seed & Spark versus Kickstarter or Indie Go Go?
Well lots of reasons. For one when your content goes through Seed & Spark you automatically get digital distribution through their site because it acts as a portal. Seed & Spark also has established deals through Verizon Fios to get distributed also on Amazon, Hulu, Google Play, iTunes and Netfilx.
We were also attracted to the because of the structure they offer. They give you a six week action plan on how to conduct your efforts pre launch and then a detailed plan for how to run your campaign.
Also I had an opportunity to meet the CEO Emily Best and she is a brilliant woman who is committed to diversity and really disrupting the Hollywood film model.
For more about this project and Eric Elder, check out the links below!