Action-packed TV series and movies with a science fiction backdrop are popular these days. Look at shows like “The Walking Dead” for instance. We are in a golden age of TV shows and movies that don’t merely rely on action, but also have a sense of style and a distinctly artistic vision. Another example of this is the latest installment of the “Mad Max” film series, “Mad Max: Fury Road”; that film not only featured nearly non-stop action sequences, it had a strong enough artistic vision that it won Oscars for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Film Editing among others.
Local filmmaker Michael Neal clearly aims for both the kinetic and the artistic in his films. With projects such as “Swords of Insurgency” (a post-apocalyptic action Web series. Watch the pilot by clicking here.) and “The Arcane Wars” (a cyberpunk drama), Neal has set out to not merely create actioners, but stylized and artistic films as well.
Neal is the owner of a photography company in Washington DC, Mythology Studios LLC. His photos are highly stylized and feature dark themes. Neal has brought portraiture into his filmmaking. Another element he has brought into his filmmaking is his martial arts experience, which has informed his action oriented style. Neal took time out from his work on “Swords of Insurgency” to fill in DC Actors Examiner readers on that project and others.
William Powell: Who is your ideal audience member for “Swords of Insurgency”?
Michael Neal: The obvious audience for “Swords of Insurgency” are lovers of martial arts, action and
apocalyptic pieces such as “The Walking Dead”, “Dawn of The Dead”, “Mad Max” and “The Hunger Games”.
However, we also focus a lot on drama and intrigue which would interest lovers of shows like “Game of
Thrones” and “Breaking Bad”. I think we have a broad appeal for a lot of different types of fans, anyone
who loves a good story and lots of twists and turns.
WP: What’s it about?
MN: “Swords of Insurgency” is a post-apocalyptic action drama Web series about a resistance movement
surviving through their ability to fight in defiance to an oppressive regime. The regime is run by
antagonists Emperor Taneg and his son Droll, who run a brutal prison for all who oppose them.
Throughout the apocalyptic years guns have been confiscated, collected and destroyed and only held by
a powerful few. Martial warfare as returned as the prominent way to battle. The story begins with a
prisoner named Abigail who escapes to find the resistance who is hiding in the countryside.
WP: What inspired it?
MN: It was a marriage of my personal interests I suppose; Japanese martial arts, European medieval
history, apocalyptic films, and also my love of the outdoors. The setting not only takes place in typical
apocalyptic urban locations but also a return to more simple times and more primordial ways: country
landscapes, woodlands and a colonial style village.
WP: Who stars in it?
MN: Rebecca Hausman is our lead and she comes from a dance and theater background with stage
combat experience, especially in sword styles. Her ability to learn and perform choreography is
remarkable in addition to giving a great acting performance. Jarod Kearney is the main antagonist and
he is most known for his role as Luigi in the YouTube massive hit “Mario Warfare”, a parody piece. Jarod is
also a swordsmith and is very familiar with the katana [sword] which is the featured weapon in “Swords of
WP: Who is doing your fight choreography?
MN: We have had a variety of fight choreographers including James Couche, Dylan Hintz and most
recently Jeff Wilhelm, each bringing their own particular style to the fights.
WP: How would you describe your visual style?
MN: I am primarily a portrait photographer so the visual style is a very critical element for me. I am a big
fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s style and I like to show lots of emotion and drama with close-ups as well as
mystery, intrigue, and even a bit of horror with visual elements in the scene. But at the same time I
don’t really think it about it too much. I go with my gut instincts when framing a shot or directing the
action for a scene. Shot lists and story boards are great tools but I really rely on my artistic
impulses in the moment for the most part. Omar Juarez is the Director of Photography for SoI, and he
definitely has his own style as well, but I think we mesh rather well in what we find visually appealing as
well as just going with the gut. Therefore, Omar has a lot of independence on the project to use his own
WP: What other projects have you directed?
MN: “Swords of Insurgency” is my first directing gig, but I am also currently directing and also doing the
cinematography for “The Arcane Wars”, another dystopian type action series which is in a setting closer to
WP: You’ve been successful in crowd-funding, what’s been the key for you?
MN: I think the success of our Kickstarter was due to showing a completed first episode to our potential
backers so they could see what they were getting for their pledges. A lot of crowdfunding campaigns
you can’t be sure exactly what you are getting until later. [With this campaign, we put in] a lot of effort every day promoting the campaign everywhere we could.
WP: Talk about your perks for your current campaign.
MN: My current crowd-funding campaign is an Indiegogo for “The Arcane Wars” but we will be doing
another one for “Swords of Insurgency” as well when we release episode 2 in the next couple of months.
Some of the perks include signed posters and prints from the cast, DVDs, participating in the editing
group, dying on screen as an extra, getting a character named after you or becoming an associate
producer. We have a lot of fun on set, everyone looks forward to them so some of these perks are
hidden treasures so you should grab them when you can.