Every few years, the filmmakers in York put their heads together and come up with something really quite magical: the ever talked about Web Series. With the Zomblogalypse team focusing more on features and The I Am Tim team - after a very successful reign at various comic cons, Raindance and the like - starting to head towards new series and movies - it is high time for the web series baton to be passed on to some new kids. This time, it’s the turn of the all-female powerhouse Natalie Roe and Max Gee, neither of them strangers to filmmaking after working on pretty much all of the above.
Natalie and Max’s new series Tales of Bacon (great name already) is already filming, with Zomblogalypse’s Tony Hipwell on cinematography duties. It is a medieval comedy road-trip adventure comprising of 6 episodes.
We asked the series creators Natalie and Max to interview each other and let us into their mad, crazy world of webisodes and Bacon.
Hi Nat, so apparently we’re interviewing each other today, that’s a bit—
Weird, yes but we’re attempting to make a web series set in Medieval England with no money at all, so that is pretty weird! The White Queen had £25million, we have £2.50 to buy pasties…
When you put it like that… where did all this insanity begin?
I had the idea during a long car journey from London after a comiccon. I was randomly thinking of The Canterbury Tales, how fun the characters were and I kept coming back to the character of the Pardoner. That was a strange job! They sold "pardons" for people’s sins and also made cash from selling holy relics, which were almost always fake. I thought, "There should be more stories about Pardoners." I mentioned it to Max one day in Spring Espresso, thinking it would make a cool graphic novel, she told me to make it into a web series… Why on earth did you say that, Max?
My screenwriter’s instinct..? On a more serious note, we’d been talking about collaborating and this idea was a perfect fit. We’re based in York, a city with an impressive medieval heritage, and here was a chance to develop a web series which was fresh and, most importantly, had a set of characters who, although very rooted in their period, were relevant to a modern audience. I hadn’t written for a web series before, I’d tended to work on longer pieces for screen and theatre, so this is where Nat’s experience came into play. You’d been making web series for a long time, haven’t you?
I’d spent three years on them but I wanted to write and try my hand at directing. So Max and I barricaded ourselves up one New Year and wrote the series. We went to Brackenborough Hall in Lincolnshire with our friend and Production Co-ordinator Anna Bennett Squire and sat around in front of roaring log fires, eating leftover turkey for four days. There were actual Medieval ruins in the grounds so we wandered around those for inspiration in the wind and rain, like the Bronte Sisters, though I’m not sure which is which.
Clearly I’m Emily.
Yeah, I’m probably Anne but I want to be Emily! After that, we needed feedback which we got from the York Screenwriters’ Guild which Max leads.
I’ve always found it important to get other writers’ eyes on scripts, so when I came back from America I set up the Guild. Several scripts that have been through the process have been made, including Nat’s Foley Folly and Glass Cannon’s Holmganga. So we popped the pilot script into the group and had it nicely ripped apart. We saw what worked, what was funny, and where we still needed to think through character motivations. The biggest change was to the protagonist. We’d always thought it was going to be Thaddeus Bacon, our pardoner, but Elfrida, a young noble woman, actually had the stronger dramatic drive.
It’s funny, I hadn’t intended to have a female lead but there she suddenly was. Then we discovered we could gender-swap other characters as we researched more into the period. There was a female blacksmith at the Tower of London, a female manuscript illuminator in Paris, and noblewomen were educated so they could teach their children. I realised we could have more women in the story, without it being historically inaccurate. They didn’t all need to be wives or nuns!
We had more freedom to rethink the episode outlines and find a gender balance with the characters. The later episodes were monk-heavy so we could be more creative with earlier characters, which brought extra surprise and humour to scenes we’d planned. That was great. I love it when research pays off! Nat: So we had all the episodes written, the next job was to find a crew, cast the roles and get the pilot made. Tune in next time to find out how we brought the idea to life!
Next week, Nat and Max will be telling us more about the making of, spoiling us with tales of on set and that ever sought after release date.
BTS Photos by Matt Durrant @hotelcapitaineTales of Bacon