A short time ago, in
a galaxy not so far away, two ordinary average guys took the
fanfilm world by storm with an epic duel that was "Ryan vs.
Dorkman." Meet Ryan Wieber and Michael "Dorkman"
Scott, fueled by the success of RVD, the duel
I had the great
opportunity to talk with Ryan and Michael concerning the long
awaited release of the sequel to their widely popular
lightsaber duel. The premiere was held in California (US) on
February 24th, with the web release on the night of March
With spectacular effects
and brilliant choreography, this film is not to be missed. Read on
as Ryan and Michael give us a better look behind the
How was the
turn-out for the premiere? What was the reaction like?
Ryan: Turnout was very good. When we got there
early, there was already a line of 15 people or so. The theater
seats 400, and it looked about 3/4 full to us, especially filling
for the second hour, when we were playing RvD and RvD2.
Mike: People seemed to laugh and cheer in all the
right places -- it's hard to say because while we were playing it,
I was panicking about the fact that the laptop showing the film was
running out of battery power (I forgot to bring the AC adapter to
the screening). I was distracted with the terror, knowing that the
computer would die before the end of the film, which it did.
Luckily two of our audience members ran out and bought us a new one
while we answered questions, and we were able to screen the film in
full. After a half hour's anticipation, and the possibility of not
seeing it at all, the reaction to the ending was through the roof.
We got a standing ovation.
Can you tell
us a little bit about yourselves? What interests you, and
what you might be found doing outside of work and
Ryan: It's the "outside of work" part
that makes that a tough question. Work, for me, is always busy, and
it was a real challenge to maintain enthusiasm and sanity working
10 hours a day in After Effects, and then coming home and opening
up After Effects again to work on another project. Even now, with
RvD2 finished, most of my time is spent at work, and it has sort of
become my mission to deliberately do nothing when I have the time
to do so.
Mike: I'm sure many of your readers can relate,
but I feel like it's been a long time since I've done anything
outside of this project. I like watching movies, of course, and
good television. Just before we got rolling on RvD2 we watched the
entire series of Babylon 5, which I hadn't seen before, and we've
been keeping current with Heroes. I also like good books, and in
some of my spare time I try to write. Also before we got into RvD2,
I was taking a martial arts class, and I'd like to get back into
that or some other form of regular exercise and shed some
When did you
both meet up, and what originally sparked the idea to work
Mike: We met online on a film site we both
The first time we really took notice of each other was in a
lightsaber effects contest, in which I took first and he took
second place after a heated competition that left us less than
friendly with each other. But when I took on another effects
project some time later (the fan film "The Formula"), and
the slate was too heavy for me to complete alone, there was only
one person I knew talented enough to take some of the sequences. So
despite our rivalry, I asked him to come on board. Working together
on Formula, we eventually became friends, and have remained good
friends ever since.
Ryan: The funny part, though, is that the fan film
community didn't know we'd ever become anything other than enemies
from that old contest. So when the first lightsaber choreography
competition started up, we thought it would be funny to not do
individual entries, but instead to do one together, where we
literally fight each other. We met face-to-face for the first time
to work on choreography for RvD and over the course of about 3
weekends, made that fight. Our goal was to make, first and
foremost, a great fight with focus on the choreography, but in a
way, we're "playing" ourselves, so we made no effort to
make Star Wars inspired costumes and stuff like that. i think
people responded to that simplicity.
you also work in the industry?
Are you hiring? [laughs] I actually lost my job last August, right
when we were about to shoot RvD2. At that time I was working at an
engineering firm that was bought out and moved to Cleveland. Since
then I've been collecting unemployment benefits, essentially making
RvD2 my full-time job. But my benefits ran out this week, and the
film is done, so I'd better start looking!
Have you both worked together on other
Mike: Besides sharing FX duties on "The
Formula," and of course the original RvD, I made a short film
called "The Monkey's Paw," based on the short story of
the same name, and Ryan was AD for me. He also did the titles and a
few effects shots for the film.
Aside from your own work with RVD, and other projects, what
is your favorite lightsaber duel scene (whether Star
Wars or fan film)?
Ryan: Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan is the reason I love
lightsaber fights. The first effects test I ever tried to do was to
emulate the shot from that fight that they had in the trailer for
Episode I. The choreography and speed and intensity is fantastic.
For me, that's kind of the pinnacle and the goal of what I want to
do with saber fights.
Mike: Tough question. My favorite
"official" fight scene is a tie between the fight with
Darth Maul in Phantom Menace, and with Darth Vader in Empire. In
fan films, also a tie between Duality, and an entry into the third
choreography competition named Eclipse. In both ties, the former
film I like for the lightsaber swinging, blade clashing action,
whereas the latter of each pair is more thought-out and character
driven, with fewer strikes or attacks but each one
really liked about the first RVD, aside from the fantastic effects,
was the brilliant choreography. I read that you worked
this out over the course of a few weekends. Did this
also include spending a lot of time reviewing
Mike: The only fight scenes we watched during our
choreography weekend, as I recall, were from the movie Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- which Ryan had never seen! I think we may
also have watched The Matrix a few times, but that was more to get
a sense of the rhythm of a good fight scene.
Ryan: I think we looked for inspiration in movies
and other fan film saber fights, but in terms of choreography we
were mostly just bouncing ideas off of each other that we had.
Also, it was the entire
film that was done over the course of three weekends. The
choreography itself was completed in one weekend, with occasional
changes or adjustments on-set.
Another thing that really got me when I first saw the
original RVD, was the effective use of the camera. Details, such as
the shot of Michael's broken glasses on the floor, really helped
strengthen the video, I thought. Was a lot of this planned prior to
Ryan: In a general sense, yes. We would propose
ideas like that like, "I knock you, then shot of the glasses
skidding on the floor, then back to you..." and then when we
were filming, it was about just placing the camera and seeing what
worked and looked best. Most of the time we were on the same page
without having really discussed it. We were mostly just looking and
finding the angles as we went. If we watched a take and it felt
weak, we'd try another angle, and see if it worked better.
One big step forward for RvD2 is that we did all that before we
even went onto location. In the choreography process, we would give
special attention to the angles and really try to find the best
shots as we were recording our choreography footage. We
wanted to have a good sense of that early on, and have a strong
plan when we got on set, so we could move forward as quickly and
smoothly as possible. There's still stuff we made up on set (a fair
amount of it) but for a lot of the fight, we had it pretty figured
out months before we really shot it.
absolutely stunned by RVD2. Seeing that long list of credits, I am
curious to know what the workflow was like, and how it was getting
everyone together on this project.
Mike: In terms of that long list of people, there
was no workflow to speak of. Most of the people named in the
credits donated the money we needed for airfare and lodging and our
score, but the editing and effects were still done solely by myself
and Ryan, and two 3D artists contributing three shots (the first
shot where I'm looking at the stump of my arm, and two shots
utilizing a CG lightsaber).
Ryan: The crew of people who worked on RvD2
directly is actually quite small (excluding the musicians who
played on the soundtrack). When we filmed, it was only 4 of us:
Myself, Michael, Travis Boles (who drove 11 hours from Texas to
Georgia and filmed most of the fight) and Brandon Flyte, who is a
friend of ours and helped us do whatever else we needed, which was
indispensable. The 4 of us shot it all in about a week
On the post-production side, bringing people on to help us out was
very fluid. We had ideas, for instance, to film our own pyrotechnic
elements, and we would just start asking people we knew, like Bob
Forward, who runs Detonationfilms.com. As it turned out, he was a
big fan and happy to help us shoot all kinds of elements that
worked great for this project. Mike can talk about our composers a
Mike: The post workflow between me and Ryan was
pretty simple. We did all of our cutting on a MacBook Pro loaded
with Final Cut Pro, mostly in the mornings after nights of filming.
We did our FX work on PCs, not because of any kind of platform or
processor preference, just because those were the desktop machines
we already had. Since PCs can't read the DVCPRO-HD footage from
Panasonic P2 cards, we had to render out a version it could read,
and we discovered that the only truly lossless video format out of
Final Cut was, in fact, "None" compression. So we were
both working from a 26GB master edit of RvD2, isolating shots one
by one in AfterEffects and doing the work, rendering them back out,
and then plugging those into the Final Cut
soundtrack is also amazing. How did you find the
Most often, no
matter how satisfied someone is with their finished work, there is
sometimes something that may still bother them. Is there anything
you might have done differently?
Mike: I found Gordy when I put out a call on
Craigslist when I needed original music for "The Monkey's
Paw." He sent me a link to his website and I immediately knew
he had the chops to score not only that film, but anything else I
might throw at him. He's a brilliant composer, and we really
clicked and had a great experience working together. When Ryan and
I committed to RvD2, there was no question that Gordy was our first
choice to compose the score. In fact, I believe that it was because
we knew Gordy that the decision was made, early on, to get an
original score. When we discussed it with Gordy, he asked us if he
could bring Kyle on board as co-composer. Our attitude was, if
Gordy trusts him, we trust Gordy. Both of them brought a tremendous
amount of talent and passion to the plate for us and we look
forward to working with them on our future
Mike: I wish we had committed to a digital arm
removal (during the final sequence) earlier than we did. Ryan and I
are both of the opinion that digital effects should be the last
resort to any problem. Besides the shot where it's actually chopped
off, which we knew would be digital, we had intended to use a
severed arm prosthetic to achieve the effect in-camera.
Unfortunately, the prop wasn't delivered on time.
We kept pushing it back and back waiting for our prop to arrive
until finally, on the last night, we knew we had no choice and
decided to shoot it with the intention of adding a CG stump later,
and just hope for the best. We had planned our shots around an
in-camera effect and not a digital one, so we had to change our
plan completely and I think the last portion of the film suffers
somewhat for it. That last night was really rushed, and we had to
work mostly within "safe" angles and more or less
locked-off shots, whereas if we'd had more time to plan
with that in mind, I think we might have been more daring with how
we shot and paced that.
Ryan: I think there are always things you're never
quite satisfied with, and it comes down to hoping you can finish in
the time allotted with the budget you have, and have something
you're proud of. There's a small handful of things that, especially
retrospectively, could have perhaps been done better, but that's
inherent to filmmaking. For me, it's mostly things on the
post-production side. A few visual effects shots that I would have
liked to spend more time on, things like that. But if there were no
deadlines, nothing would ever be finished. In the end, I'm proud of
the work we did.
There were also
some great comedic moments in the film. Given all the work that
went into this, do you feel there was a good enough balance of fun
involved to keep things moving?
choreography in RVD2 was again fantastic and even more intense. How
long did it take this time around to prepare for the shoot, and how
long did you actually spend filming on location?
Ryan: We started months before the shoot, going
out on weekends and filming choreography ideas. So when it came
time to shoot, we had a lot of concepts that we had developed and
practiced so we could move quickly on-set. We gave ourselves about
10 nights on location, starting around 8:00pm and going until
workers started coming in and using machinery about 7:00am, and we
filmed 7 or 8 of those nights.
Mike: I think individual viewers will feel
differently. Some people apparently think the moments of humor
throw the pacing off or somehow "cheapen" the film. I
think they're necessary to keep the whole thing tongue-in-cheek, so
people know we're not taking it too seriously. We also spend a lot
less time striking poses this time, it's almost non-stop all the
way through, so the little moments of laughter help break it up and
give it a breather. I will say, though, that even though we knew it
was kind of funny, I didn't expect the saber hitting me in the face
to be hands-down the biggest laugh of the film. It seems to be
everyone's favorite moment.
Ryan: Absolutely, it is always a biggest response
from every crowd I've seen the film with. I think those kinds of
moments are what give the sequence personality. We're two regular
guys who have lightsabers and for some reason are engaged in an
epic duel. It's not meant to be completely serious. Getting people
to laugh with us brings them in, lets them enjoy it more, and
become more involved with us as characters, which is important,
even though it's an 8 minute sequence with no
anything, there is always something that can go wrong at any given
time. What kind of obstacles did you face in making RVD2? Moreover,
were there any hard lessons learned?
Ryan: I think on-set our main obstacle was time.
We spent the first two days in Atlanta getting set up, figuring out
how we wanted to arrange the stuff in the factory for the film,
work out some lighting, plan the geographic flow of the
choreography, etc. And then, of course, it always takes longer to
actually film sequences (especially action) than you think it will.
I think we gave ourselves as much of an advantage as possible by
working out most of our choreography beforehand, and planning it so
that we could spend about 10 nights with access to the location in
which to film everything. Even so, we found ourselves very
pressured to keep moving quickly and prioritize what we needed to
get versus what we wanted to get. In the end, we had to omit a
chunk of choreography involving hand-to-hand fighting that we had
planned, in order to actually finish the film. The sequence works
perfectly fine without it, in fact we made a strong comedic moment
out of NOT fighting hand-to-hand, so it worked out just fine.
Mike: Here's some lessons: No matter how long
you've been up or how tired you are, if you're going to be running
a two-hour film festival from a laptop, make sure you have your
power adapter. That's a hard lesson that I shouldn't have had to
learn, but there it is.
Also, always always always back up your work. That's a no-brainer
and luckily we had heeded this advice. All of our work flowed down
to an external hard drive which, of course, failed on us the
morning we were going to do our final render. Luckily, we had
prepared for that possibility and all of the rendered footage was
backed up elsewhere and we were able to reconstruct the edit fairly
quickly, but that's just typical, isn't it? My desktop computer
also started crashing for no good reason that same morning and I
had to run several system restores to stabilize it. I truly believe
technology can be intentionally malicious, because there had been
no problems before that morning.
If anyone's wondering why it was out so late on March 1, that's the
Adobe After Effects, what other programs were used in the making of
Ryan: Final Cut Pro for editing, Soundtrack Pro
for sound editing, Pro Tools for sound mixing. We also used 2d3's
boujou for 3D camera tracking for many of our shots, especially the
parts involving the wall. I believe our 3D artists used Maya for
modeling/animation, and mental ray for rendering.
after RVD2, are there any plans for future projects?
Mike: Absolutely. We've had a few people approach
us wanting to work with us. There's a new website,
5minutehorror.com, that will be specializing in short
form horror films that has asked us to contribute a short for the
site. I wrote a script for that which we're all excited about. I've
been working with a management company to develop an idea for an
action feature, and I'm hoping to also develop a feature based on
one of H.P. Lovecraft's stories. And a few big ideas that will have
to wait until later in our careers. We're always discussing new
ideas. Plus I'm hoping that RvD2 will catch the interest of people
with existing scripts, which will make our future possibilities
that much broader.
Ryan: People always immediately ask when we're
going to make RvD3. I always tell them we'll wait another 4 years
and then we'll talk. In all seriousness, I think in the immediate
future it's going to be original work like what Mike was just
saying, but we'll surely get back to playing with lightsabers later
Do you have any
tips or advice for others looking to create their own films, or who
are looking to get into this line of work in general?
Ryan: I'm going to give some controversial advice.
Kids often ask me if there is a film school that I recommend, or
what sorts of courses they should take in college. I tell them that
they don't need to do any of that. Is it a good idea? Yes, it
absolutely CAN be. But is it necessary to being a filmmaker? From
everything I've seen, no.
I never went to film school, and I never really took a filmmaking
class. I'm certainly not a billion-dollar filmmaker or anything, so
you can take that with a grain of salt, but I've heard a lot of
stories about people who spend ludicrous amounts of money on film
school and never use a camera, or arguably worse, schools that put
a camera in your hands and don't tell you what to do with it. I
think if they had spent all that money simply making a film,
instead of trying to learn how you're "supposed to" make
a film, they would have gotten a much more educational experience.
Is this true of everyone and every school? Absolutely not, but it
is something I hear about a lot.
I would say the same goes for the field of visual effects. Having
the credentials to "prove" to people that you should
technically know how to do something is good, but it is completely
secondary to being able to show them that you actually can. Build a
reel, make a film. Actually do it. Even if you aren't very good.
You grow and improve through. If you can do this without going to
school or taking classes, then fantastic. Video technology and
software is getting cheaper all the time. If you can train yourself
to make a film or do visual effects just well enough to get a first
job or freelance gig doing it, then you have that to put on your
brag sheet, and you have that much more experience. Leverage that
to get another gig, and another, and a bigger gig. It takes time,
patience, and a lot of hard work, make no mistake. But the
opportunity is there, if you can prove yourself. And it is my
opinion that you can do all that on your own.
Mike: In terms of film school, I agree with what
Ryan said. I didn't go to film school, but I've worked on a number
of film school sets, and it's just sad sometimes to watch them
spend so much money and believe they're getting something out of
it, when they could have spent a fraction of it on a decent digital
camera and a Netflix subscription and gotten as much or more
practical experience and education.
Also, do this for me: think of the worst possible experience you
can imagine making a film. Really try to imagine everything going
wrong, because it will. Try to place yourself in that position, and
then ask yourself, from that place, "Is there anything else
I'd rather be doing?" If your answer is yes, forget about
filmmaking and just do that other thing instead.
This is not glamorous work and most of the time it's not even very
much fun. It's a long, frustrating, difficult process getting a
film made, even a short film, and it can be thankless too since
most people online thrive on trying to cut you down. If you're
looking to be a rock star of the movie world, don't bother. Do it
because there's nothing else you'd rather do, and because you can't
think of a better experience than seeing your dreams come to
That being said, also realize you don't need any one's permission
to be a filmmaker. You don't have to wait for someone to tell you
you're great, or to give you money, or whatever. If you've got a
camera (or can find a friend with one) and enough passion, you'll
find a way.
Now with The
Making of RvD2 (DVD) and the RvD2 Original Soundtrack (CD) soon to
be available, any words on these that you would like to add
Mike: I want to make it very clear that we are not
selling the films. Lucas is very accommodating to the fans and is
willing to turn a blind eye to our hobby as long as we don't start
stepping on any toes. No money changes hands if you want the films
in DVD quality. We'll be putting up an ISO torrent you can download
and burn yourself, and we're going to try to work something out
where if you send us a blank DVD, we'll burn the films to it for
you and send it back.
What you're paying for with the DVDs on our website is
behind-the-scenes material. There's going to be a lot of in-depth
technical information on how we achieved the effects (stuff non-FX
people might find boring), a documentary showing the process we
went through in putting the film together, stuff like that. The
free DVD of the films will be included with your purchase, but I
want to say again that you do not have to pay anything if all you
want is the films on DVD.
Ryan: A lot of people have watched the film and
said "I'm going to make a donation to you guys right
away!" Well, why not get something back? If you liked the film
and want to help us recover from it and make more stuff in the
future, please pick up a copy of the CD and/or
You can check out both RVD and RVD2 at the official
For more information on
Ryan Wieber, including tutorials on creating lightsaber effects,
please visit Ryan Wieber's website
supporting images are copyright (c) 2007 Blinding Light
Productions, and may not be
copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written
Notes is a Renderosity Front Page column with Managing
Editor, Nick C. Sorbin, providing reviews, interviews, and general