The Taken is an Alan Wake fan film by John Baxter. We spoke with him about the Taken, and what it’s like to make a fan film!
1) What gave you the inspiration to do a fan film?
Well, whenever I decided I wanted to make my own short films, I made a promise to myself to stick true to myself no matter what. I said that I will make films that I would want to see. That’s kind of been my motivation for every film I’ve made. So, needless to say, love video games. I also love making short films. So in March 2011, I got together with some of my friends to go over ideas for future films. He mentioned Alan Wake. At that time I had never played the game. I knew very little of it. But he explained to me that much of it takes place in the woods and that’s something we have in abundance where we live. He told me more and more about the game and it seemed like the most practical one. So the next day I went out and bought the game. I just wanted to get a feel for it. I put it in my Xbox and started it up and before I knew it my whole day was gone. I was instantly addicted to the game. The game is very simple but the story is what drives it. It felt more like an interactive movie, but I loved it. So in about a weeks time, I beat the game. Now there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, we were making an Alan Wake fan film no matter what.
2) Is this your first fan film?
It actually is. It’s one of the first films period that I’ve directed and edited myself. I’ve done a few films prior to this that were inspired by video games but none that were based on one.
3) What were some challenges you encountered during the creation of this film?
The initial challenge was trying to find someone locally who looks like Alan Wake. That didn’t happen, so I ended up buying some black spray on hair dye that they use for stage performances and asking my friend if he would like to be Alan Wake. He’d been asking to be in my films for a long time so I knew he’d say yes. At this time, I didn’t have much of a name for myself nor did I have any money (still don’t) so I was pretty much forced to use my friends as actors. But I still use my friends as actors because it makes it a much more fun experience. Plus, I normally don’t have much time from the time I come up with an idea to the time we film it to hold auditions or anything like that. I love making movies, not thinking about making movies.
The next challenge was finding a location. It wasn’t that hard. Almost all of my friends have a fair amount of woods in their backyards so it was just a matter of finding one that matched the feel of Alan Wake more. We decided on this location because their were more open areas and an old rotting house.
Probably the biggest challenge we had was the fact that Alan Wake, takes place almost entirely at night. We thought of just filming it in the day and making it look like night in post, but I didn’t want to risk the quality of the film. So I bought a few work lights from home depot to light up the area. The only problem now was getting power to those lights in the middle of the woods. The smartest thing to do would’ve been to get a generator. But we were broke, so we had to go with the cheapest solution. We bought about 500 feet of extension chords and ran it from my friends house to the middle of the woods. The problem now was the fact that the lights were too harsh(bright). The solution to this was point the light away from the scene and let it naturally reflect off the other trees. We also used a reflector to reflect more of the light onto the actor’s face. I am very pleased with the way this turned out.
The only other challenge we had was time. We started filming at around 9pm that night and were still at it at 4am the next morning. We had to hurry it up because the sun was about to rise, but we managed to finish just in time. Filming the next night wasn’t really an option because some of the people involved had plans the next night. So yeah, it was shot all in one night.
4) Tell us a little about the plot of “Taken.”
There really isn’t much of a plot. The main goal I had with this film was to accurately portray the feel of the game as closely as I could as the game has a very distinct atmosphere about it. So all I really did was take the story of the game and condense it. In short the game is about a famous novelist who goes on vacation with his wife to a small town. They obtain keys to their cabin from the local diner. As they get to the cabin and begin unpacking, Alan finds out that Alice, his wife, has set up a type writer. She wants him to work on another album while they’re on vacation but he doesn’t want to. He gets mad and walks out to the lake by their cabin. While he is out there he hears a loud scream by Alice. He looks for her and looks out the window and notices sees an entity drag Alice into the water. And basically, he spends the rest of the game trying to find her. Come to find out, when he notices the typewriter, he actually began writing his latest album then. The rest of the story was what he was writing. He just became so entranced in the story that he became a character in it.
5) How many people does it take to make a fan film successful?
Honestly, it’s according to what kind of fan film. I mean, we did one about Super Mario that only took 2 people. For Alan wake we had about 10 people involved. I’ve worked on other fan films where there were 30+ people involved. I think the main reason why Alan Wake was so successful was because I knew exactly what I wanted. I let everyone else know that I had a certain vision. While with other films we’ve done, I’ve not been as sure of what I wanted so I let everyone chime in on their own ideas which is great BEFORE you start shooting but not DURING.
6) What gear did you use to film?
All we used was a Canon Rebel t2i with the kit lens and the 50mm 1.8f lens. We made do with what we had. You don’t need the best lens or the best camera to make a good film. It’s about having a good story (or at least good visual effects) and a plan on how you want to film the story. We have an Azden SMX-10 mic and a h1 recorder but we only used it for one small scene. The rest was added in post. Other than that, we had 2 big work lights that you can get at any hardware store and a reflector.
7) Do you have any plans for more films?
Oh yeah, of course. Check out our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/indyriot
). We’re constantly putting new films on there. We are also working on some films to put into film festivals. We will probably put a trailer up on YouTube for those films first, then after it goes to the film festivals we will put them in our YouTube channel. You can keep up to date with all our latest films on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/indyriot
). We have several fan films that we’re either working on or discussing now including (but not limited to); Prototype, Nazi Zombies, Battlestar Galactica, Infamous.
8) Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to say that anyone out there who is passionate in something, whether it be in the film industry, medical industry, construction, or whatever, don’t stop doing it. Don’t stop chasing your dream. Think about it, if you stop and say, “you know what, I’m done with trying to be a (insert what you’re passionate in here), I think I’m just going to work at this job I don’t really like because it pays the bills” then are you ever going to be happy? Even if you don’t make it big in whatever industry you’re in, chances are if you stick to it, you’re going to be able to at least make a living. How many people want to be able to say, I make a living doing what I love. I’m not saying, don’t pay your bills. Because, I have a ton of bills to pay, that’s why I can’t make a video every week like some people, I have to work too. I work as a Pharmacy Technician (getting a little over minimum wage) and I also do side projects for other filmmakers for a little extra cash and I’m also in school. But I’m still going to find the time to make videos no matter what. And I’m going to do this the rest of my life no matter what. Once I finish with school, I’m going to be done with my regular job and see if I can make a living by taking on more visual effects projects for other filmmakers while continuing to make my own videos to build my name up and see where it goes from there. If I find out I can’t make it on that budget alone then I’ll pick up a part time job again but eventually I am confident that once enough people see my work I will have a much easier time finding work in the film industry. Bottom line, never give up.
9) Where can people contact you, or see more of your work?
The main place is of course my YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/indyriot
. Also, add me on facebook at
. Email me at
Thank you so much for the interview! We definitely are looking forward to seeing more of your works!