Warrioress: Interview with star Cecily Fay & director Ross Boyask

Getting a film made in the UK is a tough business.  Especially if you make the kind of films that people want to see.  Yes… you read that right.  See the UK has never been big on funding genre films and that in turn means that to fund and produce those types of films you have to be creative.  Or just a little bit mad.

Enter Ross Boyask and Cecily Fay, veterans of the UK independent scene.  Boyask has directed two nailed on cult movies in Left for Dead (2005) and Ten Dead Men (2008), both of which have been released in numerous countries across the world, UK & USA included.   Fay, as well as featuring in both Boyask’s films, is a veteran actress, stunt performer, musician and martial artist.  Teaming up for the first time as producer/director, Boyask has stepped away from his traditional action crime movies and has taken on something very of the moment – fantasy.  And thus Warrioress was born, filmed over several years (as is almost always the case independent films such as this), it arrives for the first time in the Uk on DVD on the 10th May 2014.

The story: Once in every generation, a chosen Warrior from each village must travel on a quest across treacherous terrain to an ancient stone circle to fight a ritual sword duel, each armed with a sacred sword. If the two Warriors are of equal skill, and wield the sister swords “the Opener” and “Dragon Singer” they will fulfil the Prophecy, lead the people in revolution and fight against the Falonex Empire. The time has come once again for the prophecy to be fulfilled, and two brave female Warriors will meet at the pre-destined place. But will they meet as friend or foe?

I sat down with Fay & Boyask to talk Warrioress, inspirtaions and a lot more.


Geek Syndicate: So tell me about Warrioress?

Cecily Fay
: “Warrioress” evolved from an idea to create a film with strong female action characters. As a female martial artist and screen fighter, I felt there was a serious lack of decent roles for women in the films that were being made, so between myself, Helen Steinway Bailey and Joelle Simpson, we put a lot of energy into creating a project where we could create female archetypes that are powerful and feminine at the same time.

Ross Boyask: After meeting Cecily and working with her on “Left For Dead”, we discussed a project that she had been wanting to make. Cecily had a clear vision of what she wanted to achieve, and for me it was the opportunity to experiment with doing something different for my third feature film as Director, which would still be action packed and enjoyable to watch.

GS: Ross, you’ve made your name making gangster & crime action films.  Why the dramatic change of genre?

RB: For me, there are far too many indie “gangster action films” that have sprung up in the intervening years, most of which I find thoroughly unwatchable, so I’m glad to have worked on a feature that is completely different from the norm. We shot a few test sequences in Guernsey first – it was literally just Cecily, myself and Helen Steinway Bailey (who plays Djahn, one of the lead villains in the film), then we developed and continued on with the rest of the production.

CF: I’ve always been inspired by and felt affinity with stories of Warriors and sword fighting. It’s my favorite genre and I wanted to try to make a film that I would like to see myself.


GS: It’s fair to say you didn’t have a Hollywood budget for Warrioress… what were the biggest challenges you faced? 

RB: The usual challenges of time and money. We had very two long gaps in the shoot due to various cast having offers of very well paid work that took up 6 months at a time. But additionally there were challenges like ensuring everywhere we filmed was appropriate to the project, for example no visible cars, telephone lines, contemporary clothing etc. Also from a sound design perspective it was critical that we preserve and enhance our “fantasy atmosphere”.

CF: We made “Warrioress” guerilla style – beg, borrow and steal! The biggest challenge was trying to get everyone to be available at the same time. Everyone put their time in for free so filming had to fit around multiple work schedules, but as the momentum built on the project more people wanted to be involved, and it was a great feeling to know that so much good will has gone into making the film.


GS: The film is of full of faces people may recognise from both your own previous films and from TV & films in general.   How did you cast the film? 

CF: Throughout the filming process I was working on various different productions so I met many very talented actors along the way. The story/script was always fluid, and developed as we went along. We had to be adaptable as people became available or unavailable, so if I came across a performer with the perfect look and set of skills for the film, we could write them into the story, or expand or adapt a character to suit them. So lots of the cast of a kids TV show called “Zingzillas” have cameos in the film.

RB: Primarily we cast the film from friends and colleagues. There were a few people we really wanted to use from previous projects, but couldn’t due to scheduling clashes, and we’ve also had to cut numerous sequences from the film meaning some of our good friends’ hard work won’t be seen, but in the end the running time had to come down if we wanted to sell the film.


GS: Tell me about the process for the film… how long did it take to shoot?

RB: The filming process was roughly three years of weekends and evenings, but this was partly due to those long gaps, so in reality 18 months of on and off weekends etc. Also we re-shot some sequences including the opening fight sequence.

CF: It was a very long process as when we first started filming scenes, it was really as test footage to see if we could really make the film. The first scene we shot was the final sword fight between myself and Helen Steinway Bailey. At the time it was her first ever screen-fight, and now she is one of the top stunt women in the world! We were very pleased with the result and so decided to shoot another scene. As more people heard about the film and wanted to be involved, we shot more and more of the film until we realized we had already shot about half the movie. That was when we decided to push on to finish it. We had some very big delays in shooting as Joelle Simpson (White Arrow) became pregnant twice! In one of her main action sequences she is five months pregnant!


GS: What worked well?

CF: The locations work well and give the film an epic and interesting look. We shot most of it on the cliffs in Guernsey, which are beautiful, but we also used German bunkers left over from the WWII occupation. I don’t think they’ve ever been used in a film before, so it gives it a unique feel.

RB: It was amazing that we could access locations like these, as it really helped us give the film a very different setting from nearly every other UK film being made. It was a privilege to film in Guernsey.

CF: Also the fact that all the actors perform their own fights and stunts for real in the film, and there is no fakery or wirework, really adds to the action, and how believable the characters are.

RB: I was delighted with how the action sequences turned out, as everyone really worked hard to deliver their fights. We have Joey Ansah and Christian Howard to thank for co-ordinating the larger fight sequences. They really helped by stepping in on these scenes, and this allowed Cecily to concentrate on her own work in those scenes without worrying about everyone else.


GS: What didn’t work so well?

CF: I think the fact that to get the film finished we had to change the story in places because certain actors weren’t available, so certain characters aren’t fulfilled to their potential.

RB: Additionally we ended up cutting a few sub-plots from the finished film meaning some of our friends’ work won’t be seen, and of course removing these scenes affect the way the film plays to the audience.


GS: What were your inspirations for Warrioress in terms of literature, films or TV?

CF: I’m very interested in Celtic mythology, so there is a strong influence of that in the film. I love the film ‘Excalibur’ and have always found it inspiring, and ‘Xena, Warrior Princess’ is also an influence.

RB: For me it was ‘Xena, Warrior Princess’, ‘Red Sonja’, and other stories by authors like Robert E. Howard. Fun, action-packed fantasy fare that doesn’t take itself too seriously.


GS: Did the success of ‘Game Of Thrones’ influence the direction you took on this movie?

RB: Not at all, although I passionately love the show. I’ve not read the books either.

CF: ‘Warrioress’ was conceived long before ‘Game Of Thrones’ was on TV, I haven’t seen or read it yet!


GS: What are your 3 favourite fantasy films and why? 

CF: ‘Excalibur’, ‘Dune’ and ‘Lord Of the Rings’. I love films that have a deep mythology at the heart of them, and where some of the hero characters that have a complex or “grey” morality to them.

RB: Aside from the “Lord of the Rings” films, I’d say ‘Hawk The Slayer’, ‘The Princess Bride’ and ‘Masters of the Universe’.


GS: What’s up next for you?

CF: The next feature film, that I have written and produced, ‘Babes With Blades: Flower Of Sarnia” is currently in post-production. Continuing the idea of strong, female action characters, it’s a Steampunk/Sci-Fi action film, starring myself, Lauren Okadigbo and Joelle Simpson. We filmed it in some incredible locations, so I am thrilled to have it close to completion.

RB: We’re in post-production with ‘Salvation’ the first short film I’ve directed in 10 years, a thriller about faith and family, which will be complete by the end of April. We should be shooting my fourth feature as Director, a violent revenge film called The Executioner early this Summer, and all being well we go into production on Tower of the Dead later in the year. But let’s see…

CF: Also the ‘Warrioress’ album by my band The Morrighan is out now on iTunes and Amazon. It features the full, song versions of the music from ‘Warrioress’.


GS: Where can people find out more about you and your upcoming projects?

 CF and RB: To follow our projects, check out the following websites:
www.fightingspiritfilms.com or on Twitter @fightingsfilms


Warrioress Can be pre-ordered from Amazon here, and is released on DVD on the 10th May 2014 

GS Reporter: Phil Hobden

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