Hollywood may not be able to successfully put together an Uncharted film, but that doesn’t mean Uncharted films aren’t being made. We caught up with independent studio Vacant Republic ahead of the release of Uncharted; Drake’s Odyssey, the sequel to their successful Uncharted: Drake’s Legacy.
Thank you for chatting to us. We love hearing about Uncharted inspired creations of all media. So to start off – who are you, individually and as a team?
TYLER HICKMAN: I’m a director/editor mainly, though I do write on occasion. My main influences are David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia), Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and a lot of others that would just make this too long an answer.
BRENNAN SCOTT: Like Tyler, I’m also a director. More so, I’m also a writer/cinematographer/composer. I’m a mixed bag of cinema treats if you will. My main influences are Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, and Mario Bava.
Team wise, Tyler and I are what I would call “soul mates of filmmaking.” There are just those people you always have to work with because they bring out the best in your talents. I think we do that for each other very well. We’ve developed a shorthand when we work on anything which is pretty special.
TYLER: We met back in film school in 2007. We got on quickly, and have since worked on over a dozen films together. We both bring different things to the table. Brennan has a more horror/thriller aspect to his work and aesthetic, where as I tend to lean heavily towards action/adventure work. Both of us strongly believe in the power of story and character co-existing, not one in service of the other.
From a filmmaking standpoint, Brennan and I always approach every story from the same perspective: why should I care? What makes this story unique or special or horrifying or heart pounding? We like to work with stories that don’t happen in everyday circumstances. Heightened stakes, tension, emotions, etc.
Can you tell me a little about Uncharted: Drake’s Odyssey?
TYLER: When we made our first Uncharted fan film, “Uncharted: Drake’s Legacy”, we were very inspired, of course, by the games. But also, seeing other Uncharted fan films, we as fans weren’t happy with what was being made in the fan world. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are INCREDIBLE, but for us, we just wanted to see some solid action and adventure, Uncharted style.
BRENNAN: After we made our first Drake’s Legacy, there was all this time to rewatch it and wonder if we could’ve done something better or different. When Tyler pitched me the idea of doing another, I knew I’d be up for doing it if we tighten the screws, so to speak. Really bring an intimacy to the characters this time.
With the first, there was a slight disconnect with the action scene that played out for the bulk of the film. Tyler and I wanted to reverse it; bring it back to those intimate moments between characters. Good or bad. And what helped inspire this segment was that central idea. Let’s just tell a good, hopefully fun story.
TYLER: For this one, “Uncharted: Drake’s Odyssey”, we decided to make it a direct sequel to the first one we did and really flesh out the story and create a larger canvas to tell it. This one was HEAVILY inspired by the Indiana Jones trilogy, and I think it shows in the finished product. We also played through the Uncharted games a few times for this one. Lifting lines of dialogue word-for-word from the games in some places was something we felt would really help to bring out the authenticity of these characters in a real-world setting. We were inspired to make a better film than our last one. That, and Uncharted 4 is coming out, so we’re just a little excited about that!
As for plot tidbits, we can let slide that Piri Reis factors into the plot. That’s all I really want to say about it.
BRENNAN: Drake gets punched. A lot.
I am very pleased to hear you are keeping it authentically Uncharted! I see Elena kicking a serious amount of arse in Drake’s Legacy, and then gets sent packing by Nate. Can we expect to see her back and being all brilliant again?
TYLER: We were very fortunate to be able to cast Ashley Castro in the role of Elena Fisher in Uncharted: Drake’s Legacy. She nailed the role! As she wasn’t too aware of the games before filming, we worked very closely with her as a creative team to help bring Elena to life.
As such, Nate and Elena have a very complicated relationship. Between the first and second games (where our story takes place), they’ve experienced a breakup, and things aren’t great between them. Drake’s Legacy scratched the surface of what was going on between them, and we wanted to bring that relationship into a much more clear view in Uncharted: Drake’s Odyssey.
BRENNAN: Elena’s character is the humanity in Drake’s life. And a lot of what she brings to the table is heart, as well as, information that drives the stories home. So, by us bringing Elena’s character back, she has to have that brilliance to virtually create this new installment. She really makes herself known in Odyssey. She’s provides the motivation for this new adventure. And she has a bit of a bone to pick.
Also, I’d like to talk a little about the special effects, which in Drake’s Legacy were kind of awesome. There’s a lot of shooting, and blood, and bullets smacking the ground and trees, etc. How much of the production time is taken up adding all those details? (I assume the fire out of the front of the gun wasn’t actually there, for example)…
TYLER: Thank you! We appreciate that. There was a TON of action in Drake’s Legacy, and to get all those details right did take some time. For some of the shots and VFX, I was learning as I went. There are great resources online to utilize, and I made full use of my time on the web learning how to do the VFX for the short. While none of the guns actually fired, most of them were real firearms. The only ones that weren’t real were the ones Nate and Elena used (which were plastic and rubber). All of the firearms used by the baddies were, in fact, real.
BRENNAN: There were many days after principle photography to find actors to be bad guys and film action that could fit into the previous footage. It was the most work we had done using sfx in a short.
Does Uncharted; Drake’s Odyssey film fit within Uncharted canon, or does it take some liberties with the timeline?
TYLER: It does. This film fits between Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune and Uncharted: Among Thieves. We didn’t want to take too many liberties with the universe just out of respect for what Naughty Dog has done. You can’t really improve upon what they’ve built, so why try? We try to be as faithful as we can, so instead of changing anything, we just add in our own stuff.
Casting is a big issue for fans of Uncharted. Can you tell me who your Nathan Drake is, and why you chose that particular person?
TYLER: Casting is incredibly important in these sorts of films. The fans (including us) have very strict ideas about who Nathan Drake is. What drives him, how he reacts to situations, his physicality, his charm and determination. All of those attributes are extremely difficult to pin down without having an extremely talented actor. We looked at some talented individuals for Drake before settling on an actor we’ve used many times in the past: Nate Loftin.
He’s very gifted as an actor, he is physically able to pull off the stunt work, he looks pretty damn similar to Drake, he’s a very hard worker, and he will do the scene until it is absolutely right. Not only that, but before Brennan and I even told him about the project, he was already an Uncharted fan.
BRENNAN: He even contributes to the dialogue and action scenes as well. We could never use anyone else.
What is the next dream for you, in terms of film-making?
TYLER: We would love to make a feature length film. We’ve got more than a few feature scripts between the two of us ranging in genres from horror to thriller to action to drama and virtually everything in between. Finding a financier and distribution for our feature film would be a dream come true, and hopefully the first of many films!
BRENNAN: Even if it’s just as writers, it would be amazing to be a part of something bigger that makes its way to more people. I know I definitely just want to reach out to as many people as possible with my filmmaking. And it’s an amazing medium for that. Hopefully, Uncharted: Drake’s Odyssey will provide more of that reach.
We would like to thank Brennan and Tyler for taking the time to chat to us. When the finished product arrives you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be letting you know. In the meantime, take a look at Vacant Republic’s first Uncharted film…