For those of you that don’t know, Rewind is a five part web series that has been running since September. It is a live action web series, based on the popular game by Dontnod Entertainment, Life is Strange. Four episodes are already floating about on the internet, available through this link, and the finale is going to be released on the 8th May, only a few days away. This seemed like the ideal time to sit down with lead star and director, Louis John Brzozka, and figure out why small-time Devon film-maker, decided to step up to the plate and take on the momentous take of doing this popular video game justice on Youtube.
Some of you might be familiar with Louis John Brzozka’s work before. He started off his film-making talents with a series of sketch shows and a handful of “Team Fortress 2 parodies which started as a joke and spiralled out of control!” However, Rewind marks his first attempt at a serious drama. “There was something about the look and concept of ‘Life is Strange’ that grabbed me,” recalls Louis on his first encounter with the game that would take up half a year of his life. “As soon as I loaded up the game and heard that relaxing guitar music I felt that this game was going to be something special.” After tackling the game and playing his way through the first three episodes, Louis decided to send out a few feelers to figure out if a cast and crew would be interested in taking on the challenge of bringing the game to life. “I have always had a keen creative mind and something just really pushed me to actually get on and do something. I can’t remember exactly at what point the idea came to me but I have in the past adapted games in to film (Team Fortress 2, as mentioned above). I just got so drawn into the game that my brain could see this being done in real life. I felt that there was a market for such a project given that the game already had a strong following by the time I was playing it.”
It wasn’t long before a cast was assembled. Louis John Brzozka himself took the responsibility of taking the role of Max Caulfield, gender-swapping the lead hero to add variety to his adaptation of the story. “I think I always had myself in mind to play Max. I loved the character in the game and I felt that my acting style suited the role.” This is also the first time Louis has explored actors outside of his comfort zone. The game was so close to people’s hearts that he wanted to do the show justice and the best way to do that was taking advantage of the local talent. “The first new face I cast was for the role of Charlie. A friend recommended Luke Abbott as he was both an actor and a fan of the game.” Louis casts his thoughts back to his first meeting with the actor who would take on the fan favourite, Chloe (or Charlie, as the character is known here), Price. “He arrived for the audition in costume with his hair already dyed blue so that was a no-brainer.” With the two leads booked in, Louis threw himself at snatching up the remaining actors he wanted for his project. “I was always keen to bring in new faces which I did in the form of Natasha Wise (Danielle), Jennifer Spreadbury (Becky) and Jemma Carlin-Wells (Jade). The cast we assembled really took to their roles and I really couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. Everyone gets on well with each other and I sincerely hope to work with everyone again in the near future!”
Of course, fans of both the game and the live action series will note that Louis hasn’t made a stroke for stroke copy of the game. While the two leads are clearly based on the characters from the game, Max sharing her game’s good nature, awkwardness and the unexplained ability to rewind time, the similarities come to a drastic end not long after. “The story for Rewind is original but it draws on the concepts, characters and plot of the game. I wanted to make a series that both fans and the public could watch and enjoy,” Louis explains. “Some of the plot points in Rewind are based on the game so the fans will say ‘Ah, I remember that from the game’ but they are written in a way that is natural to the original script. The characters generally share traits with characters from the game; sometimes one character or sometimes as an amalgam.” For example, let’s look at Louis’s own character, Max Caulfield. “Both Max characters are quite empathetic, inquisitive, a little nervous and they both struggle to come to terms with their new powers. There are physical tics that they both share which include the holding one arm with the other and the nervous rubbing of the face. Both characters also have an internal monologue for voicing their thoughts.” In many respects, Rewind works as an extension of the game, taking the general themes of the characters and applying a fresh background for them to explore. We get the same journey of Max’s quest to harness his own power and learn the true essence of a hero. Charlie, too, suffers a tough family life, perhaps worsened by his own stubborn and abrasive nature. However, Louis’s script approaches their plights in different ways, so fans aren’t rewatching something they’ve already seen, but a fresh adventure.
As we come to the end of Rewind, Louis is exhausted but content with the finished result. As he watches over the editing of the finale being put into place, he reflects on his time as a director, namely a director who is not only directing his actors’ performances but his own. “It is probably one of the most important lessons I have brought away from the process,” Louis admits, grimly. “Its not so much that I don’t feel I can direct effectively while I am acting, rather that I can’t handle the logistics of the shoot as effectively and I also can’t monitor the cameras as well as I might like.” That being said, his struggles aren’t noticed in the slightest, all four episodes of Rewind, a lesson in solid, smooth film-making. “I have been lucky with the crew that I have used and they have all taken my direction on board and produced some good footage over the course of the project. The actors all picked up their roles expertly, so I very rarely needed to give much direction!” And the series is going down really well online. “The feedback we have had from the internet has been generally very positive. We have had people who were surprised at the amount of effort we put it. We have had people who have got totally drawn in to the story and, of course, we have had one or two people who have…questioned…the gender swapping of Max and Chloe (Charlie).” Louis remains ever critical of his work, as any director tends to be. “If I am being super critical, I had expected it to be more popular given the size of the community and based on the reaction to our earlier Team Fortress 2 videos. That being said, the episodes are quite long and the average YouTuber may not have the time or inclination to sit for 20/25 minutes and watch a full episode. I also think given that most original YouTube projects might reach a few hundred views in a year and then fade off, for us to have over 15,000 views in total in about 7 months is not a bad achievement!”
And soon the audience will see how the story ends. We have been through the show right from the start, seen Max and Charlie’s relationship fracture, strength and, if the last cliff-hanger is anything to go by, come to a shocking, heart-breaking end. How does Louis think it will go down? “The plot of Rewind has slowly been diverging from the story of Life is Strange, but I still wanted to capture the mood of the game. Episode 5 was a lot darker, very fragmented and a vision of the world Max was in falling apart around her. This is what we were going for with our Episode 5,” Louis reveals, before assuring us that it isn’t all doom and gloom. “We also aim to tie up the loose ends and bring the story to its climax. We have also brought all of the characters back in some form which is something I had very much hoped to do. Finally, there is something a little different in store for the viewers at the end of the episode which I really hope they will enjoy!” And with that, the director signs off, returning to an edit and leaving us to wait until the 8th May, before our Rewind hunger can be satisfied.