The Dreamsmiths Unleashed

The Dreamsmiths Unleashed - virtual reality in Cinefex 151

My Cinefex assignments usually require me to peek behind the scenes on the latest feature films. This issue, my task was a little different. Inspired by the recent boom in virtual reality, the editorial team decided it was high time we took a look at the brave new world of immersive entertainment.

As a VR virgin, I had a basic working knowledge of virtual reality, but little more. Still, it’s sometimes better to go in baggage-free than laden with preconceptions. But where to start?

A quick round of research confirmed what I already suspected – VR hardware and software are developing so fast that even the online technology sites are having a hard time keeping up. Published every two months, Cinefex has a long-lead production schedule, meaning any attempt to make this a tech-based article was doomed to failure.

That was fine by me. While I knew I’d be talking tech to a degree, what really interested me were the creative challenges faced by industry professionals as they explored new ways of working in a largely untried medium. As I began to contact potential interviewees, it soon became clear that a surprisingly large number of people working in virtual reality come from the world of visual effects – Cinefex’s specialist subject.

I ended up with 22 interviewees, and after hours of conversation found that I’d amassed around 80,000 words of transcript. Topics ranged from shooting methodologies to camera tech, creative philosophies to nuts-and-bolts issues like how do you edit a 360-degree film? In an immersive experience should you acknowledge the presence of the viewer? When the camera sees everything, where the heck do you hide the crew?

With so much material, it took me a long time and many drafts to find structure in the chaos. It was my visual effects contacts who came to the rescue, when I realised that through their many and varied experiences I could track all the aspects of virtual reality that I wanted to cover – they effectively became my guides.

Among those who helped steer me along my path were: Ben Grossmann – visual effects supervisor of Hugo and now boss of VR specialists Magnopus; Robert Stromberg – production designer on Avatar, director of Maleficent and now head of The Virtual Reality Company; John Gaeta – visual effects supervisor of the Matrix movies, now creating VR experiences in the Star Wars universe at ILMxLAB; Saschka Unseld, director of Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella and creative director at Oculus Story Studio … the list goes on, and I’m grateful to each and every one of the people who gave me their time.

Cinefex 151If you want to get clued up on everything that’s fizzing right now in virtual reality, you can read my article, The Dreamsmiths Unleashed, in Cinefex 151. Picking up a copy means you also get to enjoy in-depth coverage of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Westworld, Passengers and A Monster Calls.

 

 

3rd Strike Reviews “Crown of Three”

Crown of Three: The Lost Realm - Dutch EditionHaving devoured Crown of Three, my fantasy novel for younger readers, review site 3rd Strike has tucked into its sequel, The Lost Realm. Here’s an extract from the online review of the Dutch edition:

“J. D. Rinehart (Graham Edwards) shows he can come up with an interesting plot that still runs very strongly in this second installment of the series … The Lost Realm is an exciting continuation of the story that was slowly being laid out in the first issue. In this book you’ll see how the powers of the [triplets] evolve and how their arduous quest truly kicks off. If you were into the first book, this one will surely push you to the edge of your seat in this constant struggle to finally liberate Toronia from the evil that runs amok.”

I would be failing in my duty, however, if I did not share this warning from the reviewer:

“Before you know it, the casualties are piling up, again invoking that Game of Thrones for teenagers vibe, which actually works quite well for this series. That being said, perhaps for some ten-year olds this series might be a bit too violent, as some gory scenes are described in detail.”

You have been warned!

The Lost Realm Cover Choice

 

The Lost Realm - German and Czech editions

I’m spoiled for choice. Having just received the German and Czech editions of The Lost Realm, my fantasy novel for young readers, I just can’t decide which cover I prefer. Do you have a favourite?

The Lost Realm is the second volume in the ongoing Crown of Three series, written under the pseudonym J.D. Rinehart. The final volume in the saga, A Kingdom Rises, will be published by Simon & Schuster on May 30, 2017.

Cinefex 150 – Arrival and Allied

Cinefex 150

Looking for an extra stocking filler this Christmas? Then try the latest issue of Cinefex. It’s packed with meaty behind-the-scenes articles on four of this season’s biggest movies – Doctor Strange, Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Allied.

As soon as Arrival landed on my assignment list for this issue, I went straight out and bought Ted Chiang’s short story collection Stories of Your Life and Others, which contains the novella from which the movie is adapted. The story blew me away, and set me up nicely to interview visual effects supervisor Louis Morin and a bunch of talented artists from Hybride Technologies, Oblique FX, Rodeo FX, Raynault VFX, Framestore, Fly Studio and MELS VFX.

Arrival PosterI also got the lowdown on the design of Arrival, speaking with production designer Patrice Vermette – who together with his wife, artist Martine Bertrand, conceived the extraordinary graphic appearance of the alien ‘logograms’ – and with concept artist Carlos Huante, who developed the look of the alien visitors themselves. My only regret is that, despite my best efforts, I never managed to pin down director Denis Villeneuve for an interview. Mind you, at the time he was hard at work on the set of Blade Runner 2049, so I suppose I can forgive him …

My other assignment for Cinefex 150 was the wartime romance Allied, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie guided me through the movie’s re-creation of 1940s Casablanca and a bomb-torn London, with visuals brought to the screen by Atomic Fiction, UPP and Raynault VFX. Having spent a fair chunk of my boyhood avidly building Airfix construction kits, I also enjoyed speaking with an engaging fellow called Dave Hobson, whose company Gateguards UK built a full-scale replica Westland Lysander aircraft for the film.

As for what’s coming up, well, I’ve already submitted my single assignment for issue 151 – an in-depth look at the fast-emerging VR industry, primarily from the perspective of the many visual effects professionals who have made the move into the virtual realm. Despite putting that one to bed, I’m not ready to wind down for Christmas yet – as I write this blog, I’m deep into interviews for my next pair of articles in Cinefex 152, out next April. I won’t reveal what movies I’m covering just yet, except to tell you one of them looks set to be my most monstrous assignment to date!

 

Sledge-Lit 2016

Sledge-Lit 2016If you want to hear me blathering on about dark tales, fantasy moviemaking, and many of the strange things that fill up my head, book yourself a place at Sledge-Lit 2016.

This one-day convention is the Christmas special edition of the ever-popular Edge-Lit, Derby’s ongoing celebration of science fiction, fantasy and horror fiction. Guests of honour include science fiction author Justina Robson, novelist and screenwriter Stephen Volk, and British Fantasy Award-winning writer Sarah Pinborough.

You’ll find a host of other literary guests lurking on a wide range of panels throughout the day. If all that’s not enough, you can take part in workshops, attend book launches, visit the dealers’ room, and generally hang out with a bunch of like-minded folk eager to kick off the Christmas festivities early with a healthy dollop of speculative storytelling.

As for yours truly, you’ll find me on Shadows Lengthen, the first panel of the day, where I’ll be debating the topic “Has fantasy becoming darker been good for the genre?” with my fellow panellists KT Davies, Mark Latham and Freda Warrington.

Sledge-Lit 2016 takes place on Saturday 26 December, from 10:00am–6:00pm, at the Derby QUAD, Market Place, Cathedral Quarter, Derby DE1 3AS, United Kingdom. Your £25 ticket will earn you a goodie bag and access to all events on the day.

3rd Strike Reviews “Crown of Three”

Review site 3rd Strike has posted a warm review of Crown of Three, my fantasy novel for younger readers. Appraising the Dutch language edition, the review remarks:

“The first book of Crown of Three is a very interesting young version of Game of Thrones, albeit with many original and magical quirks of its own. While the story may initially be directed towards children, it might not be for sensitive young readers, but it’s still a great read for a more adult audience. In the end, Harry Potter wasn’t really an adult series either, and see where that one ended up. All in all, Crown of Three has a great story, which is presented in an interesting and captivating fashion, thanks to the very appealing characters.”

Cinefex 149 – Chariots and Spaceships

Cinefex 149It’s in a mild state of dizziness that I’m announcing the publication of Cinefex 149, the latest edition of the world’s leading visual effects magazine. Why so dizzy? Because not only have I just submitted my two articles for the following issue 150, but I’m about to launch into wall-to-wall interviews for issue 151! Issue 149? Ah, it seems so long ago …

Luckily, I remember vividly writing my two articles for this October 2016 issue. The first goes behind the scenes on Timur Bekmambetov’s reimagined Ben-Hur. The movie may have underperformed at the box office, but trust me, the story of how it got made has all the blood and thunder you could wish for.

As well as speaking with the talented visual effects teams at Mr. X, Scanline and Soho VFX, I was also lucky enough to interview Ben-Hur second unit director Phil Neilson, who staged the high-speed chariot race for real in a full-scale Roman Circus set at Italy’s Cinecittà World. If you want to get down and dirty with what it really takes to put a major action scene on the screen, this one’s for you. Here’s a brief extract:

Rigorous safety regimes ensured that the shoot concluded without major incident, and no horses were injured. Nevertheless, with the principal performers riding front and center, in chariots regularly hitting speeds of 40 miles per hour in a dust-filled arena, there was no disguising the danger. “I think that was probably the most stressful thing I’ve ever done in my career,” asserted special effects supervisor Andy Williams, veteran of action films including Mad Max: Fury Road and Black Hawk Down. “A car or motorbike has got an off switch. Four one-ton horses don’t. Once they’re going flat out, it’s virtually impossible to stop them.”

My second article chronicles the making of Approaching the Unknown, a rather wonderful low-budget sci-fi movie written and directed by Mark Elijah Rosenberg. It was a delight to chat with Mark and his close-knit team of filmmakers, who resurrected 1980s motion control camera equipment to photograph deep-space sequences using miniature spaceships, cloud tanks and all manner of old-school techniques. Talk about a labour of love.

Cinefex 149 leads with Joe Fordham’s stunning article on Steven Spielberg’s The BFG, and also contains in-depth stories on Suicide Squad and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, written by Joe and Jody Duncan respectively. It’s available on newsstands, or through the Cinefex online store, links below.

A Kingdom Rises – Cover Reveal

I’m proud to reveal the beautiful cover artwork for A Kingdom Rises, the final instalment of my fantasy trilogy for middle grade readers. It’s out in hardback in 2017, so if you haven’t read the first two volumes now is the perfect time to catch up.

The Lost Realm – Review Roundup

The Lost Realm by J.D. RinehartThe reviews are stacking up on Goodreads for The Lost Realm, the sequel to Crown of Three – my fantasy novel for middle grade readers. In fact, the book has a 4.4 out of 5 stars rating on the popular bibliophile’s website. Here’s what a couple of readers have to say:

Somewhat darker than the first, but an excellent read. Full of action, adventure and magic, and intrigue, this is truly a great series for kids who want a Game of Thrones like read.

I need more of this series now!! So glad it turned out to be such a good read.

And Homewood Public Library rates the book as:

Highly recommended for grades 4-6.

Want to know more? Here’s the blurb for The Lost Realm:

The kingdom of Toronia is being torn apart by civil war. The only hope comes in the form of illegitimate triplets, who are prophesied to kill the king and rule together in peace. Separated at birth and scattered throughout the realms, the triplets face a desperate fight to secure their destiny. Will they survive long enough to rule?

The resurrected King Brutan and his army of the dead control the city of Idilliam. Outside, Elodie and Tarlan are trying to hold their own army together and find a way to rescue their brother Gulph who is trapped inside the city. Or is he? Gulph has found a passageway to the lost realm of Celestis, which lies beneath Idilliam. Meanwhile, Tarlan and the wizard Melchior set out on a quest to restore the wizard’s powers, leaving Elodie and her army to keep watch. But Elodie is betrayed, her troops slaughtered, and she is taken captive by Lord Vicerin, her former guardian, who is determined to use her to get to the throne.

Seemingly further from the throne than ever, the triplets will need to use all of their strength and abilities if they are to survive—let alone rule.

Amazing Stories Reviews Dragoncharm

Dragoncharm Special Edition Ebook by Graham Edwards

Amazing Stories has posted a review of my novel Dragoncharm, recently reissued as a special edition ebook.

As well as sharing some insightful thoughts on the challenges of writing from the point of view of non-human characters, reviewer Ira Nayman also has some nice things to say about the book:

Edwards’ masterstroke is showing how both sides succumb to charismatic, demagogic leaders who set them down the path to war. The charmed are led by a dragon whose lust for power over others is palpable, while the natural are led by a dragon whose sanity is questionable … Dragoncharm is at its most insightful when it portrays the ways such leaders play upon the ignorance and fear of the populations they lead … If read as a fable rather than a work of epic fantasy, Dragoncharm succeeds brilliantly.

You can read the complete review here at the Amazing Stories website.

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