Welcome to the FilmLore Journal, a place for various thoughts, unfiltered scribblings and strange musings that would not easily fit into any of our other categories. Not a review, interview or regular article; an entry into the FilmLore Journal will often be personal, subjective and even emotional – and it can be about anything. But most likely, it will be about film, fandom, sci-fi and fantasy. You know, the things we’re interested in around here.
So let’s get into it and begin with The Quest, an unreal reality-like gameshow like no other. I first heard about it from producer Mark Ordesky last year while interviewing him about one of my cinematic passions: Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, which he happened to be the executive producer on. Now that’s something to have on the resume!
I was still a newbie journalist back then, burdened by a major case of imposter syndrome. The interview was, in fact, my first with a non-Norwegian filmmaker, and when we got to the standard “so what else do you have coming up?” kind of question, Mark eagerly started to explain the concept behind The Quest. And despite my general disinterest in game shows and reality, I realized that this was something special!
But what is The Quest? I’ll let Mark explain it, as he did in my interview with him last year:
The Quest ironically directly flowed from The Lord of the Rings. It is a hybrid scripted and non-scripted television show. We basically take eight real people, in this case, kids, 14–16-year-old kids. And we embed them in a fully immersive, 360-degree fantasy environment, built around a besieged castle. And it’s a real castle, not a set. And there are actors, prosthetic creatures, horses… there is a narrative, there is a storyline that weaves in and out of the kids’ experience. And they are prophesied heroes to help save the kingdom.
-Mark Ordesky, in an interview with FilmLore, 2021
Watching The Quest, I can clearly see Mark’s passion for fantasy and past work on The Lord of the Rings at work to shape the project. And then the strangest and most surprising thing happened: I started to forget I was watching a reality game show. The Quest felt more like a fantasy drama with monsters, magic, epic fates and evil schemes. And despite clearly meant for teenagers (something I’m clearly not), I actually got quite invested and even emotional about it.
Emotional? Really? Yes. Let me give you some context. Maestro! Get the violin and play me some sad violin music.
You know those kids from the hit Netflix series Stranger Things? Those sitting in the basement playing Dungeons & Dragons all day? That was basically me as a kid. No real monsters, though. Only imaginary ones, and a couple of human variants. But fantasy roleplaying games were a big part of my life growing up. I got so taken up with those imaginary worlds that the real world was often forgotten. I was the strange, awkward kid in class. And it didn’t help that my love for animals – dogs and horses in particular – made me start collecting My Little Ponies. Yeah, strange and awkward. And bullied – mercilessly.
So I found a kind of safety in fantasy roleplaying games, especially the one called “Forgotten Realms” by Ed Greenwood. And later, my older friends invited me to come to join them in “LARPing” (Live Action Role Playing). Those were simple events out in the woods, with foam-and-gaffer tape swords, tents for houses and strings tied between trees to mark imaginary castle walls. And even though I wanted to believe it, to imagine it, I couldn’t. So after three LARPs like this, I quit and went back to the dice-covered tables and imaginary fantasy worlds at home.
This imagination inspired my interest in film and, later, when I was old enough, film production. I wanted to make these things I had imagined. Ron Howard’s Willow and Peter Yates’ Krull were major sources of inspiration. And, of course, Star Wars and Indiana Jones became major parts of my life as a nerdy teenager. I actually got to interview my childhood action heroine, Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark last year. But that’s a different story.
Anyway, I wanted to make all these things, so I first signed on to a course in special effects here in Oslo. It was held by one of the guys who did the AT-AT sequence from The Empire Strikes Back, so I thought I would hear a lot about that. Instead, he chose the Norwegian film Jakten på Nyresteinen (translated: The Hunt for the Kidney Stone) as his main example throughout the course. Instead of Star Wars, we got some discount version of Inner Space where shrunk kids travel inside grandpa to remove a kidney stone.
At that time, special effects were not a thing in the Norwegian film industry. It has changed somewhat in later years, but the government film fund is more likely to throw money at a The Worst Person in the World or a World War II movie than anything based on special effects.
So what does all this have to do with The Quest? I mentioned that I got emotional watching it, even though the show isn’t actually aimed at 45-year-old me. The Quest is inspiration, creativity, and imagination – all those things I dreamed about as a teenager and still dream about. I never said I quit roleplaying games, now did I? It is how I first wanted, no, dreamed LARPing would be, even though I knew it wasn’t the case. In short, I wish I could show teenage me The Quest. Teenage me would be so very excited. His imagination would go wild. He would write fan letters, and his fantasy roleplaying campaigns would be full of the stories he watched on the show. In short, it would make his troubled life so much better – and just thinking about that makes me very emotional.
Thank you, Mark Ordesky, Jane Fleming, and everyone involved with The Quest. I might be of the wrong age and nationality to join The Quest myself, but I hope you would have considered the nerdy, awkward teenager I was some 30 years ago.