Above: Timothy Hines’ Chrome: The Series conceptualized by illustrator Bryan Randall.
In the early 1990s director Timothy Hines was misdiagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and told he had little time to live. Like a 50’s Warner Bros movie soap opera, he sat down and penned the ultimate unfilmable fantasy action film that he would have like to have seen on the screen as an ending legacy to his life. It was a screenplay with the scope of The Lord Of The Rings. Knowing he couldn’t shoot this movie, Hines payed no attention to budget constraints as he told the story of an abused robot slave who breaks her “Human Injury Inhibitor” to wreak havoc on her cruel masters.
Hines had envisioned the style of the picture as having retro qualities reminiscent of the 1927 Metropolis. Indeed one cast member, Dave Morrissey Jr. who plays the massive former police robot, NAL, recently coined the idea after seeing an advance screening of the picture as, “Wonder Woman meets Metropolis.”
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/SplFH2Ek6k8
This was the character Chrome. She inevitably joins forces with a robot underground led by a little flying repairbot named Perdix, (deftly performed by Natasha Coppola-Shalom, grandniece of Francis Ford Coppola, niece of Nicholas Cage and cousin of Sofia Coppola), to right a planet turned upside down where humans behave in lockstep under a misguided corporate government and where robots are the only ones who retain humanity.
Photo: Natasha Coppola-Shalom who plays Perdix in Chrome: The Series.
It turns out, that Hines didn’t have lymphoma, but had what was years later diagnosed as a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Hines submitted “Chrome” to every Hollywood studio from Spielberg’s pre-Dreamworks company, Amblin Entertainment, Disney and 20th Century Fox, to James Cameron’s Pacific Coast and Miramax’s fantasy division, Destination Films. Hines was told time and again that the story was great but way too big to ever come to the screen. That it would cost $200 million to finish.
Hines ultimately was forced to shelve the picture and turned to a version of War of the Worlds with a planned cast of Charlize Theron and Michael Caine.
Pendragon Pictures’ production of War of the Worlds was delayed due to the tragedy of September 11th, 2001.
Then disaster and evil struck as the September 11th attacks occurred mere days before filming was to begin. Every studio temporarily shut down. Hines and his partner producer Susan Goforth watched in dismay as their $42 million dollar budget evaporated. Suddenly at the time, nobody wanted to see a movie with buildings blowing up. To save what investors they could, the production pair pulled out Hines’ Chrome script and decided to mount it as an indie production much like George Miller had done with the Mad Max Road Warrior series of films.
“Everyone was in a fog,” reflects Hines. “People were looking for anything that was forward moving and I think that helped in most of us missing just how big the bite was that we were going to try and chew. I am so glad we were all so naive as to the challenges and the scale of this production or else we never in a million years would have attempted to make Chrome.”
Led by a cast of Katie Erin Tomlinson (now Katie Diamond), Susan Goforth, Anthony Piana, Darlene Sellers, Jamie Lynn Sease and other talented cast members, photography began in a small city south of Seattle in the foggy and rainy northwestern State of Washington.
Katie Erin Tomlinson (now Katie Diamond) on set filming as Chrome in Chrome: The Series.
The epicenter of Chrome, where offices were setup and approximately 20% of the principle live action photography took place, was a closed middle school where the gymnasium was converted into a soundstage for built sets and the class rooms became hair and makeup, special effects construction, actors’ dressing rooms, and prop-making fabrication. The school administration offices and the principal’s office became the production offices.
“Tim’s idea of converting the closed school into a movie studio was masterful,” says Chrome producer and cast member, Susan Goforth, “It was a perfect fit as much as if the facility had been designed form the ground up as a movie studio.”
Above: Jamie Lynn Sease, who plays common variety XJ electrician robot Copper, is body cast for her elaborate costuming.
Below: Jamie Lynn Sease on set for an upside down rig shot during filming of Chrome:
The live action of Chrome was filmed in a massive brewery that had been closed a decade earlier. The facility was over a city block long with several huge outbuildings and warehouses that became soundstage spaces for constructed sets.
“The brewery was in part serendipity that it was only two blocks away from the converted school studio,” specifies Susan Goforth, “and it was owned by an eccentric millionaire who lived in the facility and reminded me of a sweet version of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama. He struck us a great deal and we had 100% free run to reconfigure the space, cannibalize the machinery and refrigeration structure of the brewing industry to our needs. We were able to construct massive sets and locations in giant over-scaled warehouses which were perfectly suited to become full scale sound stages that matched or exceeded anything you might find on the Warner Bros. or Sony Lots.”
Construction and miniature designer Ezra Hamill does a cameo as a Flying Iron Guard on the 20 week live-action production.
Director Timothy Hines elaborates, “We also had access to a vast network of industrial rooftops with a city backdrop in every direction. It was perfect for the dystopian vision of Chrome.”
Above: Susan Goforth is transformed into the villainess EL The Reclaimer.
The production started a mere couple of weeks after the tragic September 11th World Trade Center attacks when no other production was moving forward in America. While the country was grieving and lost, trying to regroup, Hines and Goforth suddenly formed a band of out of work industry professionals and extremely talented up-and-comers ranging from effects experts, stunt players, costumers, set designers and builders and effects makeup artists as well as a film crew with solid production experience. This was the true beginning of their company Pendragon Pictures which survives to this day 21 years later.
With the principal partners Timothy Hines, Susan Goforth and Donovan Le, Pendragon Pictures has gone on to create War Of The Worlds The True Story and 10 Days in a Madhouse, both of which had US theatrical releases, competed in two Oscar competitions and won numbers of awards with fan and critical praise.
Above: Katie Erin Tomlinson performing a stunt on a floating train sequence during the 5 month long live action shoot of Chrome: The Series.
In 2018 Pendragon Pictures joined forces with School Of Old, fronted by producer Dominick Martini and comic turned movie star Greg Kritikos, to create the soon to be released feature film comedy Charlie Boy. Charlie Boy stars Kritikos as a mobster turned good along side Kelly Le Brock and Academy Award nominee Burt Young.
Above: Director and visionary of Chrome: The Series on set with Charlie Boy cast member Kelly Le Brock.
The live action shoot of Chrome lasted 20 weeks. But that was only the beginning. Chrome has been in production so long that director Hines recently received a message from Ashley Green who costarred in the Twilight movies alongside Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson who is the new Batman. She informed Hines that she had been on his set with her brother as a child in human relocation camp scenes and reminisced on how far the world had come since then. Early test footage featured Rose McGowan’s sister Eva McGowan as both the character Chrome and the villain El, The Reclaimer.
Above: Illustrator Bryan Randall’s rendering of the former police bot NAL and the final live robot with Perdix the Repairbot from a team led by Ezra Hamill.
Above: Aries, leader of the robot underground with construction and design brought to life by director Timothy Hines.
Over the years literally 1000s of technicians and effects experts have contributed to the production with houses ranging from Foundation Imaging which was the original FX house for Star Trek The Next Generation to Paul Allen’s Vulcan.
Above: (Chrome) Katie Erin Tomlinson (now Katie Diamond) on set being fitted for a flying rig stunt.
The many robotic humanoid costumes were conceptualized by Hines and a sharp design and construction team led by an eccentric FX artist named Ultrakarl and sketched out by illustrator Bryan Randall. Multi-talented construction and visual designer Ezra Hamill spent years on the production building props, set pieces and costume elements as well as a massive trove of miniatures.
Above: Darlene Sellers as Mercury, communications robot.
Hines absorbed advice along the way from an army of industry professionals like Dave Hardberger who filmed the original models of the Millennium Falcon in the first Star Wars trilogy.
In the mid 2000s, Hines and Goforth, with founding Pendragon Pictures partner Donovan Le, who was originally lead stunt player in the Chrome live action scenes and embodies the strange, cool character Viper, initiated miniature production and photography. A process where nearly two years were spent constructing and filming large scale miniature sets at 1/6th scale (barbie doll scale) with a team coordinated by producer John J. Gallo, who died unexpectedly of a bacterial infection on the night of Thanksgiving 2009.
Above: The Scav gang in Chrome. Producer John Gallo (R) puts in a cameo as the Scav Leader.
Joining Donovan Le, Hines, Gallo and Goforth were costumer and miniature technicians Cherelle Enmore and Jonelle Enmore, a powerful sister team, who built and painted what seemed to be endless miniatures as well as worked intensively on Mac computers as rotoscope and FX artists cleaning up green screens.
Ezra Hamill churned out waves of miniature counterpart puppets to live action characters as well as large motorized vehicles for complicated and spectacular future-car chases.
Large 1/6 miniatures were favored on Chrome: The Series over CGI. Above: Director Timothy Hines lines up a shot.
Hines and Goforth were directly hands-on through the construction, puppeteering and filming of these 65-feet long miniature sets and the action on them.
Hines remembers back, “It was a paradise time. Working with Ezra Hamill, Cherelle and Jonelle Enmore and the versatile John Gallo was a literal dream come true. It was like being a child playing with GI Joes and Barbie dolls for two years but on sets larger than a lot of people’s houses. Choosing miniatures paid off in the end. There is a realism that CGI cannot recreate in that the physics were real. The constraints of the real world set the tone as opposed to running off with the imagination to a degree most audiences just give up and sit back because it is just so far removed from anything that could be experienced in the real world.”
Above: The conceptualization and the realization of the Iron Guard Headquarters.
The first episode of Chrome: The Series begins streaming on most major platforms May 30th like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Apple TV to name a few.
Timothy Hines muses, “In trying to recount all that we have endured, everyone’s contributions, the armies of talented artists and cast members, this is a gigantic feat in and of itself. And we did it. We finally wrangled the impossible and brought Chrome to the screen. Older and younger generations alike are going to get to see it begin to unfold at the end of May. I’m excited like a child at Christmas. Unbearably happy that Chrome: The Series is coming.”
Above: Two escaped robots of the Mercury and Copper variety (Darlene Sellers and Jamie Lynn Sease) have been “reclaimed” for reprocessing by EL The reclaimer in Chrome.
“I can’t wait to share Chrome; this massive body of work,” radiates producer Susan Goforth, “Chrome is a fanatically exciting, hyper action adventure with a story that evolved from the input of thousands of artists over decades. People are going to be absolutely blown away,” concludes director Hines with a childlike glint in his eye.
Chrome: The Series begins streaming on Amazon Prime, AppleTV, AndroidTV, iOS, RokuTV, Vimeo, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand and most major platforms May 30, 2020.
CHROME: The Series Official Trailer Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/SplFH2Ek6k8
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ7m7sx-LYIwtbWFw3QnKrA
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