With a new Harry Potter film on the horizon based on ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ it seemed more than perfect that a brave production team put together a film based on one of the mini plots of the Harry Potter series. I spoke to the cast of ‘The Greater Good’ about this amazing film.
My Art and Self-Publishing Adventure: Chapter 7: Harry Potter Returns For The Greater Good
Kingsley Olaleye Reuben: Thirty two seconds into the film and I’m impressed by the setting. It’s a beach and the waves are frolicking with the rocks and sand. It seems like a very intelligent choice for the duel that will commence soon enough. Whose choice was it to set the film there considering the duel there?
Justin Zagri: Well honestly when I came up with the idea to shoot this scene from the book, I knew I couldn’t do a wizard house or Godric’s Hollow. Making a house a wizard house requires budget and resources we didn’t have and Godrics hollow has a certain look that we don’t have in LA. It is also a pain to shoot in public places. So I wanted to use a more secluded place that would be beautiful.
A friend of mine did some modelling shooting at a beach in Malibu, CA called El Matador. When I saw it, I knew it was what we needed.
Justin Zagri: Jake and Amy are both very talented visual effects artists. Jake is a friend of mine going back several years. Amy found out about the production on the internet and volunteered her services. She resides in England so we communicated via internet. Mike did a few quick shots with background removal and sky replacement when Jake and Amy got too busy.
Justin Zagri: I’ve worked with Alex on several films since 2007. He and Juan both are graduating from Berekely school of music, which is basically the Harvard of music schools. Alex is insanely talented and I won’t score anything without him. One of his heroes is Hans Zimmer and he served as a lot of inspiration, but Alex and I did a lot of one on one sessions figuring out the right sounds and tones.
Justin Zagri: That’s because I did the casting 😛 It took quite a while to find everyone, especially Josh who played Gellert. Josh was actually the last one. Gellert has a very specific look. Albus and Ariana do as well but finding a blue-eyed ginger in LA was damn near impossible. So I went for the best look and feel of Dumbledore while casting an experienced actor. Aberforth has no description of him when he was young so I just had to find the right feel for his character.
Justin Zagri: Again that was me. I looked at what Albus and Gellert were wearing in that tiny picture we got to see from Rita Skeeter’s book, along with what Ariana was wearing in her painting, and tried to emulate as best as I could. Went to a lot of vintage and thrift shops.
Justin Zagri: Well technically Gellert probably got his wand from Gregorovitch. The truth is that since the young Dumbledore’s don’t have official wands, I gave them Weasley wands. Aberforth got Ron and Albus got Charlie’s. All three wands were from the official WB harry potter store.
The duelling was completely choreographed, especially the 3 way duel. I wanted it to look real and make the VFX people’s job as easy as possible. They should you know, actually be duelling. Chris was the one who put the duel together. We talked about the fighting styles of each character. Albus being refined, Aberforth being blunt, and Gellert being a bit of both, but certainly unrelenting.
Justin Zagri: I didn’t read any fan fiction, but I wanted to make sure the story was both epic, tragic, and had a bit of a message to it. Albus and Gellert were getting into plans that were messing up his family. He was never particularly close to any of them, and he regretted that because of the death of his mother, that he had to take care of them rather than travel the world. Once Albus realized his ambitions were going too far and he really did care about his family, this pissed off Gellert who has no family. It basically carries the argument that your family is more important than a large ambition, even if it does serve the greater good. The greater good can’t get in the way of family. All the same, it was because of Albus getting involved in the first place, ignoring Gellert’s true nature that inadvertently caused his sister’s death. So ironically, Albus never loved again and only focused on the greater good. It’s complicated : P
Justin Zagri: Oh it was easy for her. I simply told her “be river from firefly.” She immediately knew what she meant and required very little direction from there.
Colin Goodridge: I’m glad that the final scene was powerful for you and made you cry. Those were indeed real tears, and I give my eyes full credit for tearing up.
Kari Swanson: I think it took 3 takes – but it was all my fault! The sun was glaring into my eyes as I lay there that morning, and I couldn’t stop myself from closing them or squinting! The team was so fabulous though and did all they could to make it quick and painless. To get the shot they had to set up and focus the shot while I lay there with my eyes closed. Once the camera was rolling I opened my eyes for 10 seconds, fighting the impulse to shut them again while they got as much footage as they could. As for the sand in my hair – I wasn’t too concerned about that, I’ve always been a bit of a “tomboy,” so a little sand and dirt never bothered me!
Kari Swanson : Oddly enough you’re the first (that I’ve heard of, perhaps Justin has had people say something to him)!
(he said this should answer both questions)
Josh Brodis: I honestly laughed out loud at the thought of me doing this, and unfortunately- I did not. It came from a very deep rooted place of evil. I never, NEVER get to play the villain – so I really dug this time and found how truly manipulative, emotion-robbing and vicious Gellert truly was. How soulless can one be to not only use love as leverage, but have that love be one he would never seek to begin with? Gellert gives V@#%?! a true run for his money with his heartless manipulation, and I wanted to make sure the audience truly felt that. This evilis far worse than any kind of hatred or rage.
Colin Goodridge: For Aberforth, I wanted to bring a brash, immature, and ignorant quality to him, but show that the source of these unfavourable qualities were his love and compassion for his family, primarily his sister. He’s young, so his wizarding abilities are far inferior to Albus’ and Grindelwald’s, yet he believes that he can compete among them and duel with Grindelwald. Aberforth is blinded by his stubbornness and insistence on killing Grindelwald in order to protect his family and others, but ironically, he unknowingly plays a huge part in his sister’s death.
Christopher James Crammer: I agree that Dumbledore should dress well, luckily for the integrity of the film I didn’t have to pick out his costume. I thought his outfit was spot on and it felt great to wear. The outfit helps guide a character and the outfit picked out by the director and the costumer helped me complete the character.
Christopher James Crammer: I was well aware of Dumbledore’s “great tragedy” going into shooting. However, I wouldn’t say I used this knowledge as a building block for the character. Working with Justin we built our Dumbledore by concentrating on the emotional side of Dumbledore. Starting off with the fact that he was a man who wanted to impress his “friend” no matter the cost. For me this was easy because I think it’s safe to say we have all been there. We have all had a love that we have wanted to impress so badly that we sacrifice parts of ourselves. It’s not until we sacrifice too much and try to regain what we have given away that things begin to break. This story is where Dumbledore realizes he has sacrificed too much and wants something back from Grindlewald; that something can be respect, admiration or as most will see it, love. (I hope that answered your question)
Kari Swanson: Justin and I talked at lengths about how to play Arianna and how important she was to this story. I went back to the few passages in the book that discussed her condition. I then watched some other actresses portraying characters that were emotionally and mentally damaged (River Tam from Firefly as played by Summer Glau for example) and studied what they did to embody that off kilter look and feel Justin and I also discussed the tragedy that Arianna embodies – we discussed in depths that she probably was bound to be one of the most powerful wizards of her generation – potentially even more powerful than Albus – which makes her encounter with the muggles even harder for her family to deal with. It also makes her more dangerous because she has the powers of a full blown wizard but the mental capacity of a child and instinct often wins out with children – can you imagine what a temper tantrum must have been like in the Dumbledore house?
It was also really important for me to remember that this beach was Arianna’s safe haven. Coming here is a desperate attempt to survive, because the fighting at the house was about to make her explode. So I took all my character research and remembered where I came from and what the place I was in now meant to me and took it from there!
Justin Zagri: Sean is a true friend and is always down to help out on a set. But he was more stoked to be shooting on a beach without his shoes on than anything else.
Justin Zagri: Jordan was responsible for mixing the sound, but I did all the sound to begin with. All the dialogue was recorded after because despite the fact we were nowhere near cars, the sound of the waves and wind was too much. All the background noise had to be added as well. Waves, wind, gulls, feet moving, sand etc. The spells were all either from the HP movies or various video games like Skyrim.
Justin Zagri: I love Harry Potter. It is probably my favourite series of books. It surpassed Lord of the Rings for me because Harry was a far more relatable character for me than Frodo. No offense to that series, it is brilliant and I love re–reading LOTR from time to time. But I wanted to make a fan film to use as a calling card to show filmmakers and potential investors my skills as a director, and making a fan film garners far more attention than the film festival circuit, and is far less expensive. Since the film is getting so much support, I am flirting with the idea of another HP fan film. Maybe about a certain group of Gryffindors 😉
THE PRODUCTION TEAM, CAST AND SYNOPSIS
Set almost a hundred years before “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” it is the end of a friendship, the beginnings of the dark wizard Grindelwald, and the tragedy that left the Dumbledore family in ruins.
Written and Directed by Justin Zagri
Starring Josh Brodis, Christopher James Cramer, Colin Goodridge, and Kari Swanson.
Visual Effects by Jake Akuna and Amy Carpenter
Music Composers Alexander Arntzen and Juan Carlos Enriquez
Sound mixing by Jordan King
Camera Operators – Zero Kazama and Peter Donaghy
Makeup by Patty Carrillo
Additional Effects by Mike Schaffnit
Special Thanks Leetal Platt
All materials and characters of Harry Potter are owned by JK Rowling and Warner Bros Studios. This is a non-profit, exhibition only fan film.
Watch the teaser trailer here!