Before I’d even seen Pendragon: Sword of His Father, I knew I wanted to interview its creators. Marilyn Burns, who stars as Wenneveria in the film but also handled other film creation aspects — from cowriting the score to designing costumes to helping with a million logistical details — was kind enough to grant me an interview. As I’m a writer, I wanted to know especially about the writing of Pendragon. Enjoy!
Rachel: Every good movie starts with a good screenplay. What was the process of writing the Pendragon screenplay like? Who really took the role of screenwriter?
Marilyn: The Pendragon screenplay was written as a joint effort by the team… which (although it definitely led to some interesting debates!) allowed to us to incorporate good ideas from every member of our team.
The script writing process began when our team got together for a week-long trip over Christmas break. The distance between our families was a challenge, but we continued to work long distance, and got together many times to work over the next year or so.
Each person had a slightly different role in the process – Chad kept everyone on task, I used a laptop to organize our ideas, Aaron and Nick generally provided a little comic relief… The younger kids always had plenty of ideas as well, and the parents would stop in now and again to offer suggestions. There was never any lack of opinions!
Rachel: Those of us who write books know that a story will change considerably from our original idea as we encounter obstacles, new ideas, and creative spurts. Did you find this to be true in the writing of Pendragon?
Marilyn: Definitely! The process of creating the story and writing the script took several years, and the final version was definitely much different from our original concept.
It was often a struggle to create a unified storyline from the many different ideas offered by each team member, but we hope that the final product allowed us to create a powerful story with a strong and unified message.
Rachel: Pendragon is based on one of the great archetypal stories of all time: the story of Arthur, King of Britain. Your Web site calls Pendragon “an exciting historical fantasy.” How much would you say is history, and how much is fantasy? Did research influence or change the story, or did you do most of the research before writing the story?
Marilyn: The story is based on the few facts which are actually known about the character Artos or Arturius, a British general who later became the basis of the legend of King Arthur. Pendragon is a name referring to this British leader, and his standard – literally “head of Dragons.” We mainly avoided the later legendary material, and built our own fantasy on the general historical setting, and the few factual elements which are known.
We did a great deal of general research before beginning the script, and specific research later, as we were developing concept art for props and costumes, etc.
Rachel: My sisters and I watched the credits with our fingers on the “Pause” button so we could read them in depth. I was impressed by how much YOU did–writing music, designing costumes, playing a starring role, and more. Did you know what you were getting into when you began this project? Out of all the hats you wore, which was your favourite? Which was the biggest stretch for you?
Marilyn: We definitely had no idea what we were getting into when we began the project! Balancing each of our many roles was definitely one of the biggest challenges for our team. (Not to mention that many of us had jobs or were going to school full-time “on-the-side”! The scope of the project grew as we worked on it, so the final outcome was on a much grander scale than what we had originally envisioned. It’s probably a blessing we didn’t know what we were getting into at the beginning, or we may never have started!
Personally, my favorite job was probably the hands-on creative aspect. Imagining a fantastic costume or prop and then setting about turning that into a tangible object. The ingenuity required to do it on our budget just added to the challenge, but it was great fun. One of my favorite creations was Ambrosius’ leather armor – it is constructed from a set of covered hockey pads… just add leather! The music was also a lot of fun, and wearing the costumes… and the opportunity to talk with kids was definitely my favorite part of playing the “princess” role.
Rachel: Some Christian artists feel that Christian art, whether it’s music, movies, books, etc, shouldn’t be based around a particular message. Others feel that communicating certain truths is the whole point. Pendragon obviously doesn’t shy away from communicating messages. Of these, which do you feel is most important? If your viewers could come away with one truth burned in their hearts by the movie, what truth would you want that to be?
Marilyn: Our goal with Pendragon was definitely to communicate a clear message – we hope to inspire viewers to embrace the specific challenge that God has for their lives. “The One who gave the Vision still calls…”
Rachel: And of course, the Most Obvious Question: is Burns Family Studios working on another film?
Marilyn: Our goal at Burns Family Studios is to produce Christ-centered historical action films that will inspire and encourage – up till now this is a genre almost untouched by other Christian film makers. Our current goal is to pay off Pendragon‘s creditors, and lay a financial foundation for the next film, which we hope will have a significantly larger budget and broader reach. Stay tuned…