Anyone knows me knows how big of a fan of the Three Musketeers I am. It’s one of my favorite books and I’ll pretty much watch any adaption of Dumas’ novel no matter how truly awful it is. My 3M movie collections is pretty extensive, though still incomplete, and I have prints from original woodcuts hanging on the wall for writing inspiration. Athos, Aramis, Porthos & D’Artagnan are also the main reason why I got into historical fencing with the SCA and stage combat.
So you can understand how I excited I was when I first learned about the indie-film project, The First Musketeer. About the project:
The First Musketeer is a brand new and original action/adventure web series, based on The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, shot in the South of France. This exciting new project follows Athos upon his arrival in Paris, as he meets the people who will eventually become the sword-wielding heroes we know and love.
I was intrigue, but also a little cautious as I’ve seen my fair share of bad musketeer films. But the videos posted as the cast and crew crowd sourced for a budget and the supplementary pictures from their shooting has pretty much washed away any doubt. These guys know their story, know the genre, and know how to shoot an exciting film.
The webseries will run about an hour in total and will be split up into five separate episodes. The cast and crew are aiming for an early 2014 release. I’ll be sure to let everyone here know when it’s up and will review it, too. Here’s their promo trailer:
Writer and director Harriet Sams and Edward Mitchell, who plays Athos, were kind enough to answer a few questions I had about The First Musketeer and their love for the swashbuckling genre, and Dumas’ original novel.
First off, how’s filming going? I know you guys started recently.
Harriet Sams: Filming is going very well, we’re in our third week, but due to having next to no budget we are having to squeeze a lot of film into a very short amount of time so making sure we hit schedule each day is a challenge (especially with no days off).
So, what inspired you all to do a webseries about the musketeers?
I was walking through a small town in France and my dad commented on how it looked as though it hadn’t changed for about 500 years, and how I should make a short film about The Three Musketeers there as I wouldn’t need to build a huge set. As most things do the idea snowballed from there. We didn’t want to make a film and try to scramble around for distributors so we chose to make it for online distribution, giving us complete control over what happens with the project.
We’ve seen a ton of different renditions of the Three Musketeers over the decades. Some are great, some are downright awful. How does the First Musketeer compare to Dumas’s novel and other movie renditions? Where does it fit in in that universe and the lore around the characters?
The First Musketeer is based partially on Dumas’ novels, combining the backstories he has written for the characters with real historical events to create a new adventure for the Three Inseparables. It involved a lot of research and I hope the original books have been done justice, although we film makers always like to take a bit of poetic license here and there.
Obviously, this is a prequels of sorts. D’Artagnan is probably a small child at most, and Athos hasn’t quite hit his drunk, bitter and belligerent stage (or maybe he has!?). If I remember correctly, Athos’s marriage with Milady is what drives him to become a Musketeer. Is that the case in the world you guys have created or has his background changed at all?
SPOILER ALERT! Our story begins just after Athos has discovered Milady (or Anne at this point) is a criminal, and has been drinking his way across the French countryside to escape his former life and the memory of her betrayal. D’Artagnan isn’t in our series so the focus is primarily on Athos, Porthos, and Aramis and how they met and became the King’s elite.
One thing that I love from the behind-the-scenes pics you have been posting is the locations. They’re beautiful and authentic, and probably made it just that much easier for the actors to get into the spirit of the story.
The locations are amazing, and I think they help both the cast and crew push on through the tougher night shoots. We specifically wanted to give the project a very medieval feel, partly because the Louis XIV and Versailles style architecture that is often associated with Musketeer films are too modern for the dates our musketeers are introduced, and also to give it a feel of being “before”. We want it to feel like the musketeer’s past, and so the slightly stylised costumes and locations are a reflection of a time before D’Artagnan turns up.
What is it about the musketeers, do you think, that captures and excites so many people?
Everyone loves a story about heroism and honour, and also brotherhood. The friendship between the Three Musketeers is one of the most interesting thing for me, and in fact Athos and Porthos (SPOILER) first meet by fighting one another, so the developing friendship is one of the most interesting parts of the story for us.
Webseries are usually known for being super-low budget and having to be innovative in making every penny stretch and count. Not that you guys have a huge budget by any means, but you were able to get some horses, which is impressive, and the costumes look pretty solid. Has there anything you wanted to do but couldn’t because of budget constraints or any scenario in which you had to get creative to accomplish?
We have had to get very creative with the look of the series due to the lack of money, trying to create something that looks historical that still remains within a budget is so difficult, so the way we have combated this is to go for a slightly stylised 17th century feel, trying to remain faithful to the essence of the early 1600’s. But the biggest issue with the budget is the lack of time we have to shoot the series, as everyone is collaborating on this project for free we can’t keep them in France for months at a time, which means we have to take what we can get as far as things like weather are concerned.
As a historical fencer and stage combatant myself, I’m a big fan of swashbucklers and the sword fights in these movies. The sword-nerd in me hopes we get long cuts of sword play instead of the super-fast quick cuts that make what normally be a beautiful fight scene almost unwatchable. What can fans expect from the fight scenes in The First Musketeer?
It’s very difficult to create epic balletic sequences without the resources and kit that a big budget production has, but we wanted the fights to stand out and the choreography to tell a story rather than just clip in close ups of slashing swords, so the other night we actually shot a sequence where the Duke de Luynes fights 5 assassins down a long corridor without a cut in one extended shot, which should hopefully be something the audience hasn’t seen before.
The BBC is also producing a musketeer mini-series. I’m guessing this is pure coincidence, but do you think that show will help get people interested in the First Musketeer webseries or steal your thunder?
We actually finished writing the script a few weeks before the BBC’s version was announced, and at the time we were very worried that they would either be going from the same angle as us with a prequel story, and that due to our budget we wouldn’t be able to match up to them, however, since then I think we have realised it could work out as a blessing, because if the BBC’s version is good, it will draw more fans into the Musketeer universe and hopefully lead them to find us online. Also from the released images online and the fact they are shooting with Prague as the backdrop and D’Artagnan as the lead character, I think we can safely say we are also telling very different stories.
What’s been the most challenging part of creating The First Musketeer?
Having to hold down three part time jobs at the same time as organising a team of around 50 people to bring everything together to where we are now.
Anything else you’d like to add that I might’ve not asked?
I think just that the cast and crew are all so committed to the project and have worked themselves ragged, based purely on how excited we all are to be part of such a promising series. We recognise our limitations in series one due to lack of finances, but if enough people like what we have created it could mean some pretty exciting things for the future of the First Musketeer and the stories we have to tell.
And, lastly, you don’t happen to need a character with a Boston accent do you? Because I can totally swash and buckle with the best of ’em. Historical fencing and stage combat is my thing. Just sayin’. 😉
We do actually have an assassin from Kentucky, no dialogue though 🙂
Edward Mitchell, who plays Athos, also answered a few questions for us
Edward Mitchell: I’m an actor from the Southeast of England based in London, and I trained at East 15 acting school.
What was it about The First Musketeer that drew you to the project?
The opportunity to play such a renowned literary character in a context that hasn’t been shown before.
What’s been the most fun and the most challenging part of shooting The First Musketeer so far?
The most challenging part has been fights. Bringing authenticity to a fight is incredibly difficult. The most fun has been exploring the amazing locations.
The promo and behind-the-scenes shots have looked fantastic. Not sure you realize how envious I am that you’re shooting a musketeer film in France. What’s it been like to be over there, in costume with swords on hips and acting?
It almost been unreal, as if I’ll wake up tomorrow back in England as if it had never happened.
Which movie rendition of the Three Musketeers would you say is your favorite and why?
The Richard Lester films are my favourite as they stay the most true to the original story and Dumas’ vision, something which I feel Harriet has managed to achieve with our series.
Lastly, what is it about the musketeers, do you think, that captures and excites so many people?
The Musketeers embody qualities that we all like to see in ourselves, heroism, loyalty, bravery, I think people connect with that.