Fright Exclusive Interview With HEAVENLY SWORD Screenwriter Todd Farmer!!

Todd Farmer has definitely made a name for himself in genre films. Having written the “Jason Voorhees in space” FRIDAY THE 13TH sequel, JASON X, as well as co-writing films like MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D, DRIVE ANGRY and the now lost HALLOWEEN 3D with frequent collaborator Patrick Lussier, Farmer is a staple in the horror community, an all around nice guy (I witnessed Icons’ Aaron Pruner once tossing a pencil at Farmer at a convention and surprisingly Aaron didn’t get the knuckle sandwich that Pat Healy’s character was given by Farmer in CHEAP THRILLS), and from the sound of it, a pretty avid gamer. Given that knowledge, it would come to no surprise that Farmer’s recent endeavor is the full length computer animated film adaption of the popular video game, HEAVENLY SWORD. Ambitious and full of memorable characters, the HEAVENLY SWORD film is one hell of a time, and whether you’re a fan of the game or not, it’s one to watch. Todd was nice enough to answer a few questions regarding HEAVENLY SWORD as well as what direction that he would like the next FRIDAY THE 13TH film to go, check it out!


Writing an animated film seems like it would be a lot more freeing, without a lot of the restrictions of having to be confined to reality, in terms of things that could be done in real life, was that something that perhaps appealed to you?

It’s like going back to the beginning. When I first pitched JASON X, I pitched finding Jason cryogenically frozen in a BLADE RUNNER futuristic city, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. As a result I was told NO, budget won’t allow. And even after I went the ALIEN route, I wrote a giant set piece that took place in zero gravity..because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Again I was told NO, budget won’t allow. But writing within the world of animation allows you the freedom to let your imagination flow!

Were you familiar with the video game beforehand?

My gaming goes back to my first console, Pong. My second Console was an old Bally system. Then Atari, Commodore 64, Atari 2600, 5200, I fought my way up from the beginning. I lost time playing Doom and Wolfenstein on PC. EverQuest devoured me. And although I had heard of Heavenly Sword I was stubbornly sticking to keyboard and mouse-look. I was still meeting my pal, Dean Lorey, in the world of Quake II where we’d frag each other into fits of anger. Or raiding in World of Warcraft.

What was your process with HEAVENLY SWORD?, Did you go back and replay the game or play it for the first time, to get the idea of the characters?

HEAVENLY SWORD forced me to play with a controller. I loved the 3rd person games as much as the POVs but with Tomb Raider, EverCrack and WarCrack I was allowed to continue my mouse/keyboard addiction. HEAVENLY SWORD forced me to change. I went in bickering. I went in because it was “for the job”. But within the first few levels the story… and those amazing characters. I was hooked. And of course, I fell in love with Nariko. Of course the gameplay was amazing but it was the story and characters that pulled me in. No other game game did this to me. Half-Life was close but to turn Half-Life into a movie you’d need to fill in many blanks that are simply built into HEAVENLY SWORD. And although Portal had come out around the same time, I hadn’t played it. And as great as the Portal story is, it’s still not the complete story the HEAVENLY SWORD game gives you. So for a time, the job was forgotten. I had to get better. I had help Nariko and Kai win. I had to defeat Bohan!

The film of HEAVENLY SWORD has a decent amount of new elements to it, with new characters and plot points added to the mix. They feel like such welcomed additions, adding a lot to the overall story, were those additions always in your mind from the beginning?

Those elements quickly became unavoidable. HEAVENLY SWORD is rightfully episodic. It’s level based. As a game should be. But that doesn’t perfectly translate into a 90 minute narrative. Nariko needed a goal beyond survival or staying one step ahead of Bohan. She needed to be active to pull the audience through this journey. So relationships were tweaked. She was given a goal to get the sword to the person born to carry it. This wasn’t a reinvention of the wheel as the ideas from the game are all still there. I just occasionally aimed the wheel in a different direction and added a few obstacles to jump.

There’s a lot of confusion as to where Jason Voorhees will go next, with the found footage route being mentioned. As someone who has written a FRIDAY THE 13TH film (JASON X), if it was up to you, where would we see Jason next?

Found Footage is an interesting… can we call it genre now? Not really. It’s a chapter in the story of horror. The name itself is the biggest clue. This is footage that was found. BLAIR WITCH, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. The idea is that, hey, look at this footage that we found! This really happened! To me, that’s what made those movies scary. So found footage Jason throws me a bit. Because, any footage found of Jason Voorhees… well, footage found of bigfoot would be more believable. Of course, CHRONICLE and the plethora of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY sequels have proved my theory wrong. Not to mention, Found Footage can be shot on a shoestring. And until people stop going… but if it were up to me… before I put bonehead in space, Jimmy wanted to tell a story that took place in winter. A white FRIDAY THE 13TH at Crystal Lake. Snow and frozen lake with occasional splashes of red. Yeah, that’s what I’d do.

You’ve had your hands in writing some pretty high profile genre films, like HALLOWEEN 3D, and the HELLRAISER remake, both of which sadly were never able to see the light of day. As a writer, do setbacks like that affect your future writing, or do just brush it off and look at that next project?

You brush it off and on to the next. The list of movies Lussier and I either wrote or fully outlined seems often unending. THE FLY, GHOST RIDER, FRIGHT NIGHT, the list goes on and on. But that’s not uncommon, it’s always been this way. Writers write stories after stories to get one made, because Hollywood isn’t always about story. Well, it’s rarely about story. It’s about timing, package and politics more often than not. I regret not doing them all because I loved the stories we came up with. I wanted to tell you those stories. Because when you remove all the BS from this silly business, that’s what this is supposed to be! You and me sitting around a campfire telling stories. And of all those stories, HALLOWEEN 3D will likely be the biggest regret. Halloween. HALLOWEEN man! That movie led me down this path. HALLOWEEN sent me on this journey. Halloween’s the reason I loaded my truck with garbage bags full of clothes and an old 486 computer and pointed it West. Halloween’s the reason I slept in a Venice Beach hammock for three months when I first moved to LA. And for one fleeting moment the Holy Grail was in my grasp. It’s more beautiful in person than you can ever imagine. But like that… it was gone. Let it go, Indiana. To those fortunate knights that find it, Patrick and I wish you nothing but the best. And you know, don’t screw it up.

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