Sunday, September 30, 2012

Of Rings and Things...

I have to admit that I approached the start of my Lord of the Rings movie marathon yesterday morning with some trepidation. This was not to be an ordinary screening, like the first time I watched the Tolkien trilogy. Rather, I was to watch it as the author of The Q'ntana Trilogy books and writer-director of its films.

I had often compared The MoonQuest and its StarQuest and SunQuest sequels to The Lord of the Rings. How would they measure up with this new viewing? And how would my director-self feel next to Peter Jackson and his masterpiece?

About halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the trilogy, I began to panic. Not, as I expected, because of the daunting directorial task I perceived to be ahead for me on my trilogy. I panicked because of scene fragments that reminded me disturbingly of The MoonQuest. "Oh, God," I groaned. "I've ripped off The Lord of the Rings."

As the film progressed, I grew more and more depressed...and then I remembered: I didn't read The Fellowship of the Ring until nearly a year after I began writing The MoonQuest and never read its sequels. How could Tolkien's work have influenced mine? As for Jackson's films, I had already completed most of my trilogy before seeing them.

Suddenly, I felt better. I had stolen nothing. What I had done was tap into that same universal well of story that Tolkien had...that C.S. Lewis had...that J.K. Rowling had...that same ocean of story we can all access when we choose to go deep, to write authentically from our passion and to surrender to the greater wisdom of our muse.

To be clear, my stories are markedly different from Tolkien's, even as they call on the same tradition of fantasy adventure that he and his successors did. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, my Q'ntana Trilogy comprises three distinct, though interlocking stories, each of which features a largely unique set of protagonists. For the most part, the resemblance between the two trilogies has more to do with feel and style than it does with plot, characters and narrative.

My director's vision, too, is not the same as Peter Jackson's. Jackson did a stellar job with The Lord of the Rings, and I worried, when I launched my movie marathon, that I would feel overwhelmed by his brilliance, by my lack of experience and by the demands of the epic trio of visual effects-heavy films that is The Q'ntana Trilogy Movies.

To my amazement, I wasn't. To my amazement, The Lord of the Rings did not stoke my anxiety. It staunched it. It did not intimidate me. It strengthened my resolve to move forward and get my stories up onto the screen in my own way.

In this moment, I don't know how I will do it. All I know is that I can, I must and I will. I know, too, that when I step onto the set on the first day of principal photography some time next year, I will know what to do to bring these stories -- my stories -- to life in a way that electrifies, engages and entertains and with a vision that is uniquely my own. I can't wait to see what that looks like!

• For more about The Q'ntana Trilogy of books and movies, including excerpts from The MoonQuest (Book I), visit

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Mily Cannon said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the movies again and that they inspired you! It's so nice to see a writer taking their work into their own hands; too many sell out to producers and see their stories hacked and chopped into a lesser form. Where are you planning on filming?

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Mily. We're still scouting locations, but will likely shoot at least part of the trilogy in Europe...because we need castles! If you go to, you'll see a few photo albums highlighting some of the castles we're looking at. As for where in the U.S., it will be a combination of available landscapes and available tax incentives!