“Ren is an original fantasy series about a young woman who, after a strange encounter in the woods, is marked by an ancient spirit. Cast out from her small village, she is forced to leave behind the family she has spent her whole life protecting and journey across the land to find the real meaning behind the mark she bears.” (from the Ren website).
Created by Born of Hope director Kate Maddison and award winning actor and writer Christopher Dane, the web series can be found on YouTube. Seriously, it’s easy. All you have to do is type Ren into the search bar and bingo, you’ve got episode one right at the top of the list. Pretty impressive for a video that’s only been on there since March 1st.
And what an opening episode it is. It might only be 11 minutes long and the whole series may have been made with a tiny budget compared to its Hollywood counterparts, but it has the look and feel of a blockbuster that no one wants to miss.
The most astounding thing about the episode is probably the attention to detail that’s been paid to everything – the costumes which reflect personality, wealth, status and occupation; the set and the individual buildings as well as the detail of the props. Everything looks like it could have come out of a film with a Lord of the Rings budget it’s been made that well.
Introducing all the main players in the series, the episode begins with soldiers, the Kah’Nath, chasing two thieves through the woods at night after they’ve stolen an artefact that looks like a lantern, but is obviously more than that.
Cut to the morning and the main character Ren (Sophie Skelton), an outspoken and strong willed young woman, begins to sketch that same artefact, though she’s never seen it before. Filled with warnings to not show the sketch to anyone from her friend and mentor Karn (an outcast who lives in the woods who Ren goes to see in secret), she goes to market to go about her much more mundane daily life. By now the intrigue created by this lantern is pretty high. Why is it so important? Why do the Kah’Nath want it back so badly? Why does Karn want Ren to keep her seemingly innocent sketch secret?
And that’s only the first five minutes of the episode.
The intrigue builds up through the rest of the episode, but it doesn’t overshadow everything. The world that Ren lives in is revealed – a market town where people buy and trade, the children all go to school and men and women go about their daily lives peacefully. We meet Ren’s family – her mischievous little brother Baynon (James Malpas), her widower father Dagron (Nick Cornwall) who has had a run in with The Kah’Nath Commander (Richard Zeman) before, her best friend Dalia (Grace Perry) who, though she strikes me as more content than Ren, has the feel of a strong individual. All of the characters, Torberry (Alan Hay) included even though he only had about a minute of screen time, come alive as soon as they’re introduced not only showing the quality of acting, but the quality of the writing and directing too.
Another display of excellent craftsmanship in both writing and acting are the Kah’Nath who strike wariness into the villagers not just because of their status as soldiers, but that they’re distinctly ‘other’ to the people of the village. Not bad guys, but dangerous and not from the area. Dagron, especially, is wary of them because of whatever happened in his past and goes as far as making Ren promise that she’ll stay away from the Commander in particular.
The questions I have are: who is that woman and her partner in crime? What’s so important about that artefact?
The next episode airs on Tuesday March 8th. I know the other fans and I aren’t going to be missing it and, once you’ve seen episode one, I’m pretty sure you’ll be joining us and will glued to your computer screen too.