Ancanar is a fantasy story set in a mythic past, in an era of strife between humans and a strange, deathless race. It was originally conceived as an independent feature film, and along the journey of its creation gained a passionate worldwide following. However, the project stalled and was never completed. For those interested, here is a history of its early years.


ORIGINS

The origins of Ancanar lie back in the distant year of 1999. Two film students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California — Sam Balcomb & Raiya Corsiglia — embarked on a journey to create a low-budget epic fueled by their common inspirations: legendary fantasy adventures, such as The Kalevala, Beowulf, Orpheus, and The Silmarillion. The idea was two-fold. First, sculpt a unique world with deep lore and characters driven (or brought down) by honor, greed, hubris, and sins of ancestry. Second, embrace emerging technologies to produce the film and share it with the world, such as the evolving digital video format, and most importantly, this new beast called the Internet.

FILMING

Ancanar was scripted in early 2000, and cameras rolled that November. The initial shoot lasted four weeks, with a meager budget of just a few thousand dollars (split between myriad credit cards and donations from family & friends). Costumes and props were mostly rented or bastardized from thrift store discoveries, with the exception of hero armor and weaponry forged by blacksmiths Joe Piela and Jenna Brocious, shipped across the country. It was a crew of two for the majority of filming, hauling equipment around Southern California mountains, forests and deserts in a beat-up, barely-running Plymouth Sundance. Most of the production funds were spent on renting scenic locations at Vasquez Rocks, Bronson Caves, and Angeles Forest.

There were four primary cast members, ten supporting players, and a couple dozen extras for certain scenes. The main characters were:

RECEPTION

Throughout that year, Sam had been learning web design, and launched the first version of Ancanar.com. With help and exposure from other websites including Dark Horizons, Ain’t it Cool News, TheOneRing.net, and Slashdot, visitor numbers steadily grew. The aim was to provide a high level of interactivity for fans, with location scouts, rich-media scripts, interviews, forums, personalized accounts, and fan art galleries. Visitors could change the site’s graphic themes, socialize with one another, and write their own blogs (all features that weren’t too common back in the Dark Ages of the Internet).

The constant flow of updates and interactions built a strong and cherished fanbase. At its peak, the site saw thousands of daily visitors, many of whom engaged in The Iaurond Room (official forums), and helped get the word out, years before “social media” became a common term. In a 2004 Movie Site Awards event, Ancanar.com received more votes for “Best Official Site” than any other, including StarWars.com and HarryPotter.com.

The first Ancanar trailer was released on January 11, 2003. The video file was hosted locally, this being years before streaming services like YouTube and Vimeo. It was watched over one million times in a single weekend (a solid number now, unbelievable back then). Nonstop traffic repeatedly crashed the server and resulted in massive overage fees, even higher than the film’s budget. Costs aside, the filmmakers were blown away and humbled by the response. Later that year, a special presentation of footage was shown at The Gathering, a fantasy convention in Toronto, where Sam, Raiya and Gregory were able to meet and thank fans in person.

STANDSTILL

The support and coverage were miraculous for such a tiny, no-name film, and while the filmmakers were incredibly grateful, it left them with a serious conundrum: the film wasn’t done. In fact, it was nearly impossible to finish. Due to reasons of finance, time, and dwindling resources, the original shoot didn’t cover all the scenes necessary to complete the edit. Other problems arose; footage from several key scenes was damaged by moisture leaks in the DV tapes, and because of certain props, costumes and locations not being available again, reshoots weren’t a possibility without drastic overhauls or continuity problems.

Not wanting to let the Ancanar community down, Sam & Raiya pitched the project to various production companies around Los Angeles, in the hope of producing the film on a higher budget and level of quality, bolstered by the tremendous groundswell of support and built-in fanbase. At first they were heartened by several promising leads. But in 2006, after coming close to striking a deal, yet ultimately falling short, the project came to a standstill. Ancanar went into hibernation.

While the original film was never completed, neither Sam nor Raiya ever regretted the time spent in that world. The process was always a labor of love, pushing them both to become better filmmakers. The friendships and working collaborations gained were beyond value, and above all, they were immensely thankful to all the fans for their support.


This ends the original history of the Ancanar project. Seventeen years later, the cast and filmmakers reunited for a special anniversary photo shoot.