• Simon Roptell

So, where did Quest for Steel come from?

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

40 is the best age for realising something important: You don’t need to make what they want you to make, you can now make what you want to make. Life is too short.

After almost a decade of making commercial and corporate videos and having finally understood that cinema is a very corporatized and controlled medium I thought what I don’t want is to call myself an artist and have someone control my brush. If you are going to make something, make something that is totally you. You don’t want to be defending someone else’s mistakes. So I abandoned the corporate/commercial gig and set about to make the type of pictures no one else is making. In 2017 I heard the BBC harshly attacking post war British comedy (It ain’t half hot mum, Benny Hill) and I thought that such criticism is unwarranted as these were deeply appreciated classics and should be celebrated and not condemned. I had grown up on them and I did not turn out a bigot, why taint genres with such a broad stroke? I made the Top Secret Adventures of Clara Chapman to prove that you can make something in this genre and still be an excellent non-bigoted person. Besides being an ode to the UK comic strip heroine of the war years, I also wanted to set an action sequence on a London bus. This first venture into Simon Roptell Films creative was supposed to be a 10 minute short film but one of Sydney's premiere photography/film venues kindly offered me their venue to screen the piece so I thought I’d better make it a half hour.

An ode to the abandoned BBC comedies of yesteryear. Clara Chapman (2018)

Once again, at 40 you start to think. I thought back to a time when entertainment really mattered and that was when I was 15. See, I went to a boys school and a boy’s school is prison, in the respect that it a really glum place. I would walk home with my pal Michael Lomas and on the way we would stop off at Video Ezy. One day there was an R rated movie called Deathstalker. One look at that cover told us ; someone understood us.

Back then Video Cashiers did not really care if you were taking out an R rated film, $3.50 was $3.50. Did the movie live up to the Boris Vallejo artwork? Of course not, but it had sword fighting, orc type monsters, sheer bastardry and nudity. Thank you for understanding us Italian, Argentinian/American co-producers!

But in the 90’s when I became a man, it was Woody Allen and the foreign cinema that drove me. Once again, even as a youth it was BBC period dramas and comedies that occupied my time and this has continued throughout my adult life. I was also reading a lot of literature and I started to think why can’t you take elements from these intellectual works and put them in sword and sorcery? (I had not hear of George RR Martin and the fantastic A Song of Ice and Fire series. I also did not see the television adaption until late into making Quest for Steel so I did not really know someone was doing this).

Having proved to some level that I pretty much have the know how and resource to create any film I want to, I set about to make Quest for Steel - an idea I had been toying with since seeing Deathstalker. But it was to be, what if Ken Loach made Deathstalker? What if Masters of the Universe featured the same kinds of warnings that accompanied 70’s greats such as Deliverance, the Exorcist and Midnight Express? That really moved me. I also knew that I was going to go for a more traditional approach to camera work and editing, despite being 100% green screen. What I mean by that is I want QFS to have the pace an feel of the Never-ending Story and not the loud, explosive fast feel so many modern movies have.

Having fallen in love with the traditional art and culture of South-East Asia, I thought it would be really great to have the female leads to dress in a mythologised Asian way as opposed to the usual fur wearing blondes and have it set during the late Bronze age but on the Russian steppes where Asiatic tribes had settled.

I then enjoyed myself penning the script and set myself a realistic 2 year production period. The process has been mind blowingly enjoyable. I am doing this movie my way and I know of no better way.

Here’s to total independence!


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