When people think of independent web-series, they think small. A small cast, modest budget and minimal crew. Talented yet feasible in terms of production. What we don’t think of is Swords of Insurgency. One looks at the trailer is jaw-dropping. A towering prison complex opens the clip, a fantasy for any independent film-maker. Not only do we get some great fight scenes, but two armies, no shortage of extras here, run at each other on horseback. This could be one of the biggest web series an independent company has come up with to date. When asked about the size of this incredible project, director Michael Neal said, “We actually started really big and decided to scale it down.” If this is scaled down, one can only wonder what the original script looked like.
The series takes place a few decades after a worldwide economic breakdown, following a series of World Wars, referred to as the Apocalyptic Wars. With several governments left powerless, warlords swept in and took over their own territories, claiming lands and putting themselves into power. The specific warlords we will be hanging out with this series is one Taneg, head of the Taneg Empire, with a particularly nasty son, Droll. They own the aforementioned prison block, where they keep anyone that tries to oppose them. Namely one freedom fighter, Abi, the hero of the series. The series follows her story, trying to break out of the prison and reunite with the resistance. Basically, the series is shaping up to be a blend between gritty apocalyptic Sci-Fi, but with some impressive martials arts thrown in to keep the action intense, gritty and grounded.
This is one of the things that makes Swords of Insurgency one of the most exciting upcoming web series about at the moment. We simply don’t see much of the martial arts genre in this format. On asked about why he was taking this almost unheard of leap into the world of marital arts, director Neal said, “I have been a martial artist off and on throughout my life starting with Tao Kwon Do as a kid, then later in adulthood Aikido, Judo, and then Brazilian Jujitsu. So that was probably the biggest influence over what type of series I wanted to make.” The cast are just as happy with the fact that they have managed to get a place on board this martial arts rollercoaster. Jarod Kearney, the actor bringing bad guy Droll to life, excitedly confirms that “It is indeed a blast making a martial arts movie. It’s great seeing so many talented martial artists and stunt people working on this.” Director Neal is confident that the fight scenes will look as good as they sound. “They are pretty fun to film actually,” he confirms “I have had a great time. It’s usually more gruelling when you go to edit. For one scene we had 5 cameras and going through all of that footage was just maddening. On other scenes we learned that we don’t have enough footage so it became a challenge.”
It helps that most of the cast are just as well versed in fighting as the director. “I did deliberately pick a lot of cast members based on fighting experience, especially stage actors who are used to doing choreography all of the time,” Neal says. “Our lead actress Rebecca Hausman is certified in several sword styles as well as being a talented actor and dancer.” Which brings us neatly to Abi, Hausman’s character. She is shaping up to a very interesting hero to take us through this web series. A martial arts prodigy who was once one of the empire’s most promising officers, Abi found herself on the wrong side when there were competing interests for the throne. The only reason she hasn’t been executed by the time the series starts, is because Kearney’s Droll has a delusion that she will learn to return his love for her. It is an interesting new dynamic for the hero and the villain, leaving this movie fan struggling to wait to see how this story is going to unfold. Michael Neal insists that Abi is hardly the perfect action hero, though, far more three-dimensional than your standard protagonist. “Abi is strong, stubborn, sometimes selfish and often does not consider what happens to the people around her due to her own actions.” She might be the hero of this piece, but it doesn’t mean that she is always going to make the right choice.
Of course, the character is interesting in herself, simply for being a female hero in a genre often dominated by men. The great martial artists are suggested to be Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, perhaps Jet Li in this day and age. Neal promises that Rebecca Hausman has in it her to be just as influential a martial arts lead as those characters, especially when it comes to independent film-makers toying with attempting their own action series. It’s not just Abi, but several other female characters who are worth investing in. “It actually got to a point where we had to beef up some of the male characters so they wouldn’t appear too wimpy,” laughs Neal. In short, all of this is shaping up to be a series to watch in the very near future. With an impressive trailer, some great stills and a step into a relatively unknown space for the independent film-maker, Swords of Insurgency is definitely worth checking out when that pilot episode drops online. “I think it will blow people away,” Kearney insists. “A lot of effort is being put into it and it will entertain the crap out of folks.”
The pilot episode will be released July 28th and be available on the series’ webpage.