I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Nathan Riddle, director of the Acid Reign Series and the short film, Enter the Fringe. For those not familiar with these film projects, sit tight… it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
Just about three years ago, I stumbled upon an indiefilm project called Acid Reign. I followed them on twitter and was anxious to see where it was going. Shortly after, they seemed to go radio silent. I thought “Damn… another cool postapoc project that won’t happen.”
Flash forward about a year and here it comes… like a thirsty V8 screaming across the wasteland. There was a short film produced, Enter the Fringe, and it looked like this project was back up and running.
After seeing the trailer and short film, I just had to scavenge Nathan’s brain and get the wordstuff on this. What follows is that conversation…
Acid Reign Series – Enter the Fringe
Nathan, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today. Please, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from?
My name is Nathan Riddle. I’m the director and co-creator of Acid Reign. I grew up in the small western town of Kanab Utah, which was once known as Little Hollywood, because during the golden age of cinema, many of the classic western films and TV series were shot there. So growing up with the stories from all the locals who had worked as crew or extras really inspired me and put me on the course I’m on today. In addition to film making, I also work as the lead animator for a video game company in Salt Lake City, UT, making the popular kids game, Animal Jam: Play Wild. And I’m an accomplished Actor on both stage and screen.
Film maker, animator, actor… dang, that’s amazing! So tell me, what is Acid Reign? What’s the story behind it? Tell us about the genesis of the project.
How did Acid Reign begin? Several years ago, I had a desire to make a quick turn around film, so I looked to see what resources I had available to me. Another film making friend of mine had an old mustang he was restoring that he said I could use and I started thinking about what I could do and of course Mad Max came to mind. At this time there hadn’t been a Mad Max film for a while, and the new one hadn’t been announced yet. So I started brainstorming ideas that were very Mad Max-like and came up with some initial concepts that I was really liking.
Then they announced the new Mad Max, Fury Road… I about fell out of my chair. The whole look and feel of that film was what I was imagining for Acid Reign. I felt the wind leave my wings. So I took a look at my story and changed some of the world elements from being such a direct mirror of Mad Max to a more hybrid concept that incorporated a lot more sci-fi/cyberpunk elements, but still kept the overall feel of the Wasteland that had initially captured my imagination.
Once I had that film outlined I reached out to my good friend and screen writer, Ben Wray, to see if he would be interested in helping me with the screenplay. Again, expecting to do a low-budget, stand-alone film. He was completely on board and we started fleshing things out. It wasn’t long as we were world building and making sure the story was interesting, that we realized the story was one that was too big to tell in one film, so it soon became three features, and then with more story to tell we chose to make it into a series where we could really dig our teeth into this interesting world we were creating.
I understand that you’ve released a short film that takes place in the world of Acid Reign, titled Enter the Fringe. Tell us about that.
The Fringe! Beyond the city of Nucrea is a holocaustic, irradiated wasteland where nothing can survive. But along the edge, between the life of the city and the death out beyond, is the Fringe. A place where men are sent in exile or escape seeking refuge from an oppressive regime. But in either case, they don’t last long as the radiation eats at their minds, turning them into feral creatures, running and hunting in packs.
In Early October, the head of the Red Giant Film Festival invited me to participate in his 10 minute film making competition. At first I wasn’t interested until he said I should do something from Acid Reign. Then I’m like “YES”! This is exactly the kick in the pants and hard deadline I need to get something produced that actually moves the series forward.
The short film script was a compilation of a couple scenes that Ben and I had developed for the series but in the end had cut for various story reasons. So the script came together very quickly. We reached out to cast and crew and put a team together that we were confident could pull of what years of testing had taught us.
We only had 10 days to make the film, and all of our cast and crew had limited availability. The stars aligned and everyone’s schedule opened up just in time for the first day of the competition. In fact, D.L. Walker who play’s Gus was nearly written out because of a scheduling conflict which miraculously changed only day’s before shooting, which allowed him to come on set for the one day we had planned for production. We were so lucky. I can’t imagine that this film would have been so successful with the loss of D.L, or any of our cast or crew for that matter. We filmed all the scenes in one day. Then over the next 9 days, I edited in the evenings, created all the VFX and worked with our composer, Cody Crabb on music to finish the film. All the while getting feedback from Ben and the rest of the team.
We submitted with time to spare, but then I immediately went to work on the film prepping it to show to a world wide audience. The version we submitted didn’t have any of the color correction done and the editing was a little sloppy. So I polished that up, and worked with my composer again to take another pass at music and sound effects that were missing. And now I’m excited to release to the world, the finished version we have today.
This short film, Enter the Fringe, is both literal and metaphoric. A man who is being experimented on is trying to escape to the Fringe. Ripp, Lilly and Gus, enter the fringe as paid bounty hunters to bring him back. And we finally entered the fringe in order to give Acid Reign the Series some momentum.
I saw that it recently won some awards… tell me about that.
I can’t tell you how nerve racking it is to sit in a dark room surrounded by an audience made up mostly of your peers, who can be the most critical of your work, and watch your film premiered for the first time. Then only to watch all the competitor’s films, and wonder how your film is being received and hoping you did enough to stand out. Well stand out we did and with the exception of only three categories (which mostly didn’t relate to us anyway) we walked away with nominations in all categories. “Holy Crap” is what our composer said! It was truly an honor. But winning would have to wait another week until the award ceremony.
Having been nominated more than any of the other films gave me some early confidence, but at the award ceremony I began remembering the other films we were up against. I said to Ben and the others, that I had a feeling that all these nominations would be like a hand full of sand, that just slips through our fingers.
Right out of the gate we won Best Makeup and Wardrobe. This was important to me because my daughter, Mikaylee, not only played Lilly in the film, but is also the head of our make up FX and did a lot to help with wardrobe. So as a Dad, I was super proud of that.
But then the losses started rolling in. An under dog film I hadn’t even thought was competition started to get the early awards. A few other films picked up an award here and there. And I just sat there. Happy for the others, but nervous. Just watching the sand slip from my fingers. Then it happened and things started turning around. Best Cinematography? Enter the Fringe! Yes! Finally. Then, bam, bam, bam; Best Director, Best Film and the honored Audience Choice Award.
It was a relief and an honor to have won these particular awards. But for me this wasn’t just a film festival win. It was validation.
For the previous years of development we’d been producing a series of short test films. None of which were turning out very well. They were teaching us a lot about how we wanted to shoot and what style we wanted to used to tell our story. But for all our fans who were excited about the project, we really didn’t have much to show for ourselves. And I really couldn’t bear to show something that wasn’t at least good content. The property and our viewers deserved more than that.
But now I feel confident moving forward. We have a film; a story and characters that people want to watch and that looks great. And we are now award winning film makers with an award winning property.
Have you been involved in other projects?
As an actor, I’ve had varying roles in lots of other short films, theatrical stage productions and television shows. I’ve produced (directed, shot and edited… etc) several ultra low budget documentaries. And I have an off-road adventure show called KrawlZone that has taken me across the U.S. filming extreme off-road and rock sports events.
I’ve also directed, animated and edited short animated stories for Animal Jam and a hand full of commercial projects. But Acid Reign is by far the largest and most robust project I’ve been a part of and best of all, I get to do it all, from prop and set building, to wardrobe and lighting, to editing and VFX.
I must admit though, building the mustang has probably been my favorite task. I find the balance between working with my hands and working digitally on the computer is really nice. Too much of either gives my A.D.D. a stroke.
The car…. You’ve gotta tell me about that car!
I call her Azrael. The angle of Death. We wanted her to be a character in her own right. And Unique. I was creating what could potentially become the next famous movie car. To join the ranks of the General Lee, Kit, the Delorean, Elanor and of course the Mad Max Interceptor. So my goal was to create something truly iconic. I think I’m close, but There are still a few things I’d like to finish if budget allows.
A 1966 Mustang coupe, Azrael was rescued from a junk yard when I realized that all the modifications I’d want to do to my buddies car was out of the question. She really is a rust bucket though. Otherwise I’d have felt too bad about just not restoring the old thing.
Luckily the body work it needed really worked in our favor of making a Dystopian Hot Rod. The car came complete and with a little tuning and cleaning, she fired right up. I knew it couldn’t be a road and track car to drive in the Fringe. It needed tires that made it feel capable of going off-road. To my surprise, I discovered that 14′ tires off of a UTV/Razor fit the wheels perfectly. That gave the traction the Fringe would require. I scavenged about to find elements to make it look armored, yet remain somewhat sleek, which will be in contrast to the other vehicles we’ll be introducing in the series.
The Armor is made from compressed masonite, I cut out the wood for the side and back windows to look like armored plating. With some creative painting It looks like rusted steel. I’m a bit scared that it won’t last long, and in the future I’d like to replace this with something more durable long term.
Having really no budget I was trying to modify the hood to look mean, but I couldn’t find anything that would work. Then I was visiting a friend who builds off-road buggies, and he had this old hood from a newer mustang, just sitting in the corner. We’ll after a little negotiating, I brought the hood home. It took some serious trimming, but I got it to kinda fit the original hood. I did a little fiberglass work to finish the seams. After adding a few rivets and some paint and I was happy with how iconic it turned out.
Another stroke of luck was the under bumper. My little brother had just upgraded to off-road steel bumpers on his Toyota Tacoma. After standing there staring blankly a light bulb went off. I scavenged the parts he took of of his truck and went to work. I cut up the old Tacoma Bumper cover to create the current under bumper on the mustang. The side steps on the car are also from his Tacoma.
Then it was down the details. The chains, the straps, the spoiler. Those were just things I either had laying about or found at the local thrift store.
Though there is still a lot to be done I’m happy with how the ol’ car looks and how it’s turning out. And it seems others are too. I get a lot of complement every time we post images on our social media pages.
What does the future hold for Acid Reign? I noticed that it’s the Acid Reign Series… will there be more films?
Acid Reign was originally conceived as a stand alone film, but as the story developed, it out grew being just a film or a trilogy for that matter. To truly engage with this story and world we were creating, it really needs to be done episodically. So yes, it is now Acid Reign the Series. We have the first season written with eight episodes that will range from 25 to 45 minutes. We have three additional seasons outlined (we know where we’re going), but the season finally for season one is still written as the original stand alone film.
We haven’t yet decided whether to break it up into two to three more episodes, or push it hard and release the finally as a feature film and celebrate with a theatrical debut. That will depend on budget and what our fans help us decide.
Gotta admit, Gus is my favorite… what was it like working with D. L. Walker and Dave Bresnahan?
Both D.L. and Dave were wonderful to work with. Both are extremely talented actors and bring so much to Acid Reign that really doesn’t exist without them.
I had a good idea about what kind of character I wanted Gus to be while we were writing. As we held auditions early on, D.L.Walker’s resume and reel came in. He had a link to a comedic barbecue commercial he worked on where he was on hands and knees like a dog, licking up some spilled BBQ sauce. It sounds silly, but his characterization sold me. In such a desolate world like that of Acid Reign, we need a level of lightheartedness mixed with the solemnity of their situation, to give the show balance, and I knew D.L. could handle it. He has exceeded my expectations. And he’s really fun on set as well.
Dave Bresnahan was another actor that had originally auditioned for another character. He didn’t fit that role, but we liked what he was bringing so well, that we wrote in a bit part for him. That bit part has expanded to be a substantial part of the show and plot. Dave has also been a huge help on and off set. When not in front of the camera, he took on BTS photography, and has been helping with our marketing, write press-releases and distributing them nationally. He’s a really great guy.
Both have also been great supporters of the project from the beginning and are really fun to work with. We’ve been at it for a while now and have had a couple of false starts, and they have supported us and stuck with us all the way. Which say’s a lot about them. In fact our cast and crew all fit that mold. Salt of the Earth, wonderful, passionate and talented individuals that have come together to support us and help us bring this story to life.
You may not be aware, but I’ve been following this project since very early on. Can you tell me about the time when you went radio silent? What happened in 2016?
I do remember you being one of our early followers. Our radio silence was a result of creating a world that was ever expanding and soon became more than we could chew. Also, it took longer to get the car, wardrobe, props and sets together than we had initially anticipated.
As I mentioned earlier, our early attempts at filming didn’t turn out so well either. That was disheartening. Those failures, along with the daunting task of finding the funds to produce such a big project almost put the project on a shelf. What had started to be a quick turn around project had become a beast.
We are still not out of the woods in that regard. We are still actively seeking investors to help us fully realize the potential of Acid Reign. But that said. We have some contingency plans to produce the series one way or another. We are in the process of getting our Patreon set up and we will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon. But don’t have exact dates yet.
Is there anything else you‘d like folks to know? Where can they find you and more information about your film?
Thank you for wanting to know more about Acid Reign and for asking me to share all of this with you. We have a new website in development that should be on-line soon at http://www.AcidReignFilms.com. Enter the Fringe will be available there as well as on Amazon.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the books. The first book which covers the first three episodes, is currently going through a final edit and should be available relatively soon.
We are excited about this project and look forward to sharing it with everyone that not only likes the dystopian/post apocalyptic genre’, but those that love a good story! Because this is a great story, and we think it will surprise everyone to find out where it takes you.
Books? Did you say BOOKS?!?! That’s fantastic news!!! Alright Nathan, I want to thank you for talking with me today and I look forward to watching the film(s) and reading the books.
You can find Acid Reign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As soon as their website is up and running, I will update this post. Stat tuned to Amazon for the short film, Enter the Fringe.