Interview with Director and Screenwriter of Auror’s Tale
An interview with Leo Kei Angelos and Cassandra Johnstone
Director and Screenwriter of Auror’s Tale
Conducted by Keith Hawk
Transcribed by Tracey Wong
Leo Kei Angelos (LA)
Cassandra Johnstone (CJ)
Keith Hawk (KH)
KH: I am talking with Leo Kei Angelos, the director for the new fandom made film Auror’s Tale, along with the screenwriter and longtime friend, Cassandra Johnstone. So tell me guys, how did this project come about? Was it a recent desire or has this been in the works for a while now?
LA: Yeah, I’ve been wanting to do this for a really long time now and I met Cassie this year and it was the right fit, so we were able to start brainstorming and put this project together.
KH: So is this Red Phoenix Pictures your production company, Leo?
LA: Yes… It’s my production company and we shoot commercials and industrial videos and fashion videos, and I’ve been working in the movie industry for a couple of years now. And I love shooting action, I love telling stories, and I love the Harry Potter series. After the final movie came out, after the series was over, I really wanted to help find a way to continue the story in my own vision. So that’s what I’m doing with this.
KH: How did you meet up with Cassie?
LA: I went to the New York Harry Potter meetup group that Jonathon Rosenthal runs and that’s how we met.
KH: Yes, I know the group very well. Cassie, you have been writing for years and putting together shows in Chicago, is that correct?
CJ: Yes, I’ve got a theatre company in Chicago for – yeah, quite a few years now. So I’ve been writing for that, directing for that. Writing has always been my passion so this is really exciting for me.
KH: So when did you start writing this project?
CJ: Recently. We just started in March and I wrote through all of April and here we are. So I’m still writing on it, I’ll be writing all year. But – yeah.
LA: You want to tell them the progress of where we are with the series?
CJ: As in where…
LA: Well, we just finished writing the first episode, working on the second and the third one. Something I want to stress, because I don’t think I mentioned it at all, is that the teaser is not really footage from the actual show and it’s not really story that’s from the actual show. It’s just something we shot as an example, like a test, like an exercise in the styles of filmmaking that the Harry Potter movies are doing.
KH: Okay, so what will you actually film though, I mean… the teaser is actually your work on this, correct?
LA: Oh yes, definitely.
KH: Okay, so we are going to actually see this form of a movie from you, right?
LA: Exactly. Yes, I made it to show people what we’re capable of, what can be possible. But it’s not actual stuff taken from the show. I mean, some of the stuff that we shot could be incorporated into the show.
LA: But we intend to film the first episode at the end of May.
LA: Yup. End of this month. So now that a teaser is out, we’re focused one hundred percent on pre-production for the actual first episode, so we’re really excited.
KH: So the first episode for the Auror’s Tale is scheduled to be released this summer, correct?
KH: How often do you think each episode will last? I know each of the individual episodes will be 7-10 minutes in length…
KH: But how long do you think the whole series will go, in other words, how long between the release of each of the episodes?
LA: They will become a feature film in the end. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were asking about the duration in between each episode. I want to shoot an episode per month if possible. I think we’ll get faster as we move along, because we would have collected more assets and locations and we’ll be able to shoot – like props and costumes. We would be able to shoot several episodes at a time as opposed to the first episode. We only can film in one episode in the beginning and it’ll probably be another month and a half before we shoot the next one. So as we move further along, the time period between each episode will come closer together. So ideally, I’d love to release one episode per month. That would be ideal. That would be a lot of fun.
KH: So that will take us up until early next year when we will actually have the entire thing finished.
LA: Exactly. So by this time next year, the web series would have turned into a finished feature film, a feature fan movie.
KH: So from my understanding, once each episode of the entire film is released, it’ll be placed into a full length DVD. So will you be using the proceeds of the DVD sales as a charitable project?
LA: I haven’t really discussed that yet with Jen Levine who’s helping out with the marketing aspects, but that’s what I’m thinking. I mean, we’re not looking to make any money whatsoever from the production. It’s purely a fan-based work. We’re not trying to sell or make money whatsoever. It’s just because we love the series and it’s for exposure. So if we do – I mean, I was ready to give out the DVDs to anyone who asked for it. [laughs] But if we do have to cover the cost of manufacturing the DVD and ask for a price, then any extra money would go to charity.
KH: Great. Now will the actors that you had filmed for the teaser feature be the actors that are seen in the actual project?
LA: Yes! They’re all in the project.
KH: So tell us what Auror’s Tale is all about.
CJ: Okay. Well, it’s about the sort of first year or so on the job of our newest recruit to the force, which is Lokai Hawthorne, and he gets himself into a bit of a tangle because he realizes, maybe a little too late, that one of his good friends from school that has actually become involved with the vicious street gang, the Hellhounds, who are sort of black market mercenaries of New York and are plotting to sort of commandeer the entire city by way of a very strange and terrible magical monopoly.[laughs] So it’s his struggle with this – there was sort of a young woman featured in the trailer and that is sort of the gang member that he sort of becomes involved with, but just they get into this sort of web together and…
LA: [laughs] A strange relationship.
CJ: [laughs] Yeah, a strange relationship. They get into this web and they have to sort of navigate their relationship and their circumstances. So it is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing but hopefully a little more twisted and edgy. [laughs]
LA: [laughs] Yeah, when I first had the idea it was basically Mr. and Mrs. Smith with magic in the universe of Harry Potter. And basically it’s like a spy movie, like new recruits with mad fight skills that are on the run from everybody because of the choices they make. And yeah, it’s set in America and it’s several years after the events of the last movie. So the school that they all went to is Salem Academy in New England, and basically I wanted to tell a story of what would happen if like a Gryffindor student and a Slytherin student got together in Hogwarts, in school, but then after school one became a Death Eater. But that’s really far-fetched so I applied it to our time period, our setting, with a complete new cast of characters. One thing that’s very important to me is I want to stay faithful to the ideas and the themes presented in the books, like the morals and the stories and the characters. I don’t want to mess with any of that. I don’t want to change people’s perceptions or people’s views of their favorite characters and settings and locations, even in fan fiction.
CJ: So we’re not dealing with any canonical characters from the series.
LA: Yeah, exactly.
CJ: So it’s all fresh and it’s all new and it’s set obviously in New York.
LA: However, there might be…
CJ: [laughs] Yeah.
LA: …[laughs] a few surprises.
CJ: There might be a few little Easter Eggs for the fans.
LA: Yeah, real-life paintings and magazines, newspapers, of a couple of – we have several very good lookalike actors…
CJ: [laughs] Yeah.
LA: …[laughs] for some of the famous, well-known wizards…
CJ: Yeah, tid-bits.
LA: …in the UK Potter universe.
KH: Yeah, I can’t imagine who that would be [Sarcastic] laughs.
CJ: No, there’s no Bellatrix even though I do favor her.
LA: It’s already after – it’s several years after the Battle of Hogwarts, so it would not be…
KH: I’ve seen Cassie as not only Bellatrix, but Tom Riddle, Narcissa Malfoy, and others…
CJ: [laughs] No, we won’t be meeting her, I’ll tell you that. But we do have some – yeah, we have a very talented cast and we’re so excited to share them with you. I want to really stay true to the tone of the books but we are pushing it, too, a little bit. I guess edgier and darker but still there will be the whimsy of the books that everybody loves, too. So we will try to stay faithful to the tone but obviously put our own spin on it. As sort of older fans of the books, we’re going to write where we’re at right now.
KH: So it’s going to be a modern tale?
LA: Exactly. Yeah, what’s really important to me is that – for me, I was eleven when I read the first book and Harry was eleven in that book, and it’s like the Star Wars of my generation if I was to tell people. And for me it defines my transition, the books, from a kid to an adult. So now that the book is over and that we’re adults and we’re working and trying to make it in the world after school and after all that is over, I want the stories in this series to reflect those struggles, to reflect the more grey world of a more grown up person, as opposed to a black and white world of Harry that Harry had to deal with. A little bit more taxing and like drama and a lot of that drama, the action, happens in the Auror’s office. It’s a little bit like a cop show, like a police drama, that way.
KH: Now the Department of Magical Law Enforcement [DMLE] that you have set in New York City, is that primarily the same type of function as what we know of from the Ministry of Magic in the Harry Potter series?
CJ: Yes, and obviously the Aurors are sort of the special force, so they’re dealing with the most intense cases. They’re doing more undercover work than your average witch or wizard would. So they do function essentially in the same way as the British Ministry’s Aurors, for sure.
KH: Tell me who else is involved in the project? I know that Jonathon Rosenthal is involved [leader of the New York City HP Meetup group (TGTSNBN)] in the Production Studio, as well as Angelo Lopez and Christopher Lopez, but what other names can you throw out there that will be involved in this film?
LA: I mean, that’s the main production team right now.
KH: Do you have someone lined up to play the role of Hawthorne?
LA: That’s about it. I’m directing and… yes, I am playing Hawthorne.
KH: Oh okay, good… I thought that was you in the teaser trailer…
LA: [laughs] Yeah, it was me in the trailer.
KH: Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?
LA: I can’t think of any right now, but if you have any more questions…
KH: Okay, well I will tell everyone here that you can follow Auror’s Tale on their website at: http://aurorstale.com, Twitter at http://twitter.com/aurorstale, Facebook at http://facebook.com/aurorstale, and Tumblr at http://aurorstale.tumblr.com. I have to say, I am anxious to hear about how this is progressing and looking forward to when these are released for the fans to see…
LA: Yeah, I do have something to bring up if we have time for it. Yeah, I definitely want the fans to be very involved throughout the process of production because it is for the fans and we are a part of that community. So we will be starting a Kickstarter project to raise some funds, some budget for it, [laughs] because we shot the teaser on a really, really minimal budget. Like basically everyone just showed up to help with one camera and just running around stealing shots, getting shots. The nighttime shots were lit with my carlights. So yeah, we worked really hard just to get that piece. And just doing the teaser really helped because I remember first day of shooting the teaser, we had the cast show up at the location – that showed up just to check it out and we stole a couple of shots. Just good filmmaking. And then just me and a bunch of friends, and that was the first day. And then by the last day we had a full crew with camera people and underwater camera housing to shoot in the swimming pool for the Auror training sequence at the beginning of the trailer. And that happens because I was able to show the rough cut of the teaser as I worked on it, to really convince people that this was worth getting onboard with. And it really worked and people started getting interested and seeing how good the footage looked, and it started helping us. So things will get bigger and better by that process, and that’s like a smaller scale of what we’re going to be doing with the whole series. So I’d like to share behind-the-scenes footage and material, and probably tutorials on effects and stuff like that. And we’ll be starting a Kickstarter and we just hope that people get onboard and help us out and share the fun of making this production. I mean, there’s going to be lots of great rewards on the Kickstarter program and people – I’d love to work with the fan community, and if people would like to be in it or can make props or music or costumes, and they want to join in the fun, just send us an email. I’m totally open to that.
KH: I did hear about this Kickstarter program, but I wasn’t sure if it was confidential or not, so when are you doing this Kickstarter program?
LA: That’s the confidential part. [laughs] No, we’ve just got to figure that out. We have to figure that out at this point.
KH: So all of the logistics still have to be worked out.
CJ: But it’s coming quite soon.
LA: Yeah, soon.
KH: Go ahead, Cassie…
CJ: Oh no, just that it’s coming quite soon.
KH: So once the Kickstarter program starts, then fans can begin to either get involved or help out the project through donations as well as some other avenues, correct?
LA: Yes, that’s correct. I mean, as far as all the creative avenues go right now, if people want to email us we’re always open.
KH: And you are filming everything in New York?
LA: Yes, but not – I mean, I’m not tied down to New York. I travel to New England to shoot, to Connecticut, Massachusetts, to shoot all the time. So anywhere nearby, anywhere that’s easy. I love the city. I love the look that the city brings.
KH: And that’s the natural home for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, so that is where the story has to take place, right?
LA: Yes. I think it’s a great place for wizards and witches to hide in plain sight among Muggles, and I think it makes for a really interesting playground for the characters.
KH: So just one last question, are you going to be shooting any film up in Salem to represent the Salem’s Academy of Magic?
LA: I’m not sure yet. I don’t know yet. I know several castle-like, privatized schools that could work. There will be Salem flashback scenes – I’m glad you asked because part of the idea is that the world is so grim and bleak now that when you’ve grown up and it’s working in this hostile environment. But I want to show the Salem flashback scenes to show the innocence and nostalgia of being in wizarding school just like Hogwarts, and it’s our way of returning to that universe that we love so much from the books and the movies, like returning to the school days of Hogwarts. So I don’t really have a place set in stone for the Salem Academy yet. So if anyone has ideas, I’m open.
CJ: And we love Salem, so… [laughs]
LA: [laughs] Yeah, we love Salem. We go there all the time for Halloween. It’s a fantastic town.
KH: So we are referring to the Salem where Pereus and Draco and Joshua [friends of the TGTSNBN group] are from right?
CJ: Oh yes, of course. Is there any other Salem? Yes.
LA: Yeah, I remember. J.K. Rowling…
CJ: Thank you!
LA: There actually hasn’t been a Salem Academy.
KH: Okay, great… thank you for your time, guys, and good luck with the film. We will be looking forward to seeing it.
LA: All right. Thank you so much.
CJ: Thank you.