There have been some pretty incredible live-action Halo projects in the past, but nothing on the scale—in terms of both scope and quality—of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. The five-episode digital series chronicles the genesis of the Human-Covenant War, the decades-long conflict that was brought to a close in Halo 3. It also tells the story of a young UNSC recruit named Lasky, who comes to play an important role in both the single player and multiplayer campaigns of Halo 4.
Forward Unto Dawn is currently being released piece-by-piece via Halo Waypoint and Youtube, and a code to watch it in its entirety will be included with the limited edition of Halo 4 when it comes out on Nov. 6. In the meantime, though, we caught up with digital filmmakers Josh Feldman and Lydia Antonini to chat about working within the Halo universe, the possibility of a full-fledged Hollywood Halo film, and more.
Complex: You were both described to me as "trailblazing digital filmmakers." What exactly does that mean?
Feldman: Well, we're incredibly good-looking, and we're really fun to be around. And somehow we've been lucky enough to work on, you know, separately and together, really big franchises and really exciting projects that have been in kind of non-traditional distribution. Lydia has the background that she should talk about, and I'll just quickly mention myself that I came from Playtone, which is Tom Hanks' and Gary Goetzman's production company, and we did Electric City there, which was, you know, a pet project of Tom's. So that was, you know, a really exciting opportunity—to work with someone like Tom and kind of build that project at Playtone, which had been known for doing something giant, you know—epic mini-series, and movies. So that was a great thrill. And Lydia should talk about her background, because she's been involved in some really big, kind of forward-thinking digital projects.
Antonini: Actually, when I met Josh I was handling all of the digital creative a Warner Bros., so I was the main point on shows like H+, the Mortal Kombat series—that kind of caught everybody off guard—under my purview. And the shows that I managed, we did a lot of kind of fun projects that were slightly higher-end in which we were really experimenting with this notion of television and digital sort of colliding, so that we could make really, really great shows that were direct to WHAT
How have you enjoyed working with Halo?
Feldman: It's been a blast.
Antonini: It's pretty incredible.
Feldman: Yeah, it's so fun—because it's not too dissimilar, you know, to make this comparison—when you're talking about some of the things that we had been involved in, in traditional media, whether they're from a historical perspective, you know—Halo has a decade's worth of franchise, and so many different avenues, be it the novels, of course the games, comic books, consumer products—there's so much franchise that fans are so knowledgable about, you know, when you step into it, and you're going to do a project like this, it almost requires the same type of diligence and research that if you were doing like a historical epic. You know? You have to kind of dive into a similar amount of mythology. But it's a great resource to have so much to pull from. So when we were putting this together, you know, we were able to go really right to the canon and kind of exploit a lot of details that we knew fans would really love.
Feldman: Yeah, I mean, we're huge fans of that in particular, but really all of the live-action commercials, which in some ways are some of the best commercials period, let alone for Halo. So we knew that, if we were going to do live action, we knew that we couldn't be less than the quality level that those commercials set, because the fans have already come to identify the live-action ads with live-action Halo.
How closely does Forward Unto Dawn tie in with the story of Halo 4?
Antonini: Well, pretty closely.
Antonini: We're actually—there are two—the main story of Forward unto Dawn, which is the story of Lasky, is essentially a look into the origin story of Lasky, who is in game four, and also in the multiplayer. And he's a really kind of interesting and wonderful character. So that was a really fun part of the show: to give the very emotional backstory to a character that matters to the franchise. And then we also—don't know if you've gotten a chance to watch any of the episodes, but if you have—there's the opening sequences with Cortana and Chief, that find her where we left off, where Chief is in cryo sleep, and she's trying to figure out when to wake him up. So we live—that particular story, from a time perspective, goes right between 3 and 4. It takes you from the end of 3 to the beginning of 4 and kind of fills in that space. And then the live-action, sort of main, big story with Lasky provides beautiful emotional context for the character.
Feldman: Forward Unto Dawn takes audiences back to the beginning of the Human-Covenant War, so for people that are very familiar with Halo, they're going to get a great new perspective on that conflict that they've lived with in the games for so long. But it also talks about the insurrectionists, which is the kind of former enemy that a lot of fans might not be as familiar with. But in either case, giving a little bit of a recap is a perfect setup for then venturing into Halo 4, which expands things in incredible new directions. So there's a lot of links, like Lydia was saying. The Lasky character is introduced in Forward Unto Dawn, and then lives in the game and then beyond, and it's a great recap or introduction if you're new to the franchise.