'Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time' delights audiences
"Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time" may just be the biggest indie hit movie made in Oregon that most Clackmas County residents have never seen. The two filmmakers — Nic Costa and Rob Taylor — want to change that.
Both are co-writers and cast members, with Costa producing and Taylor responsible for visual effects.
The film has been screened at festivals in Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal, France and Australia, and now it has been released on demand in the United States and Canada, available on Amazon, iTunes, Dish Network, Vudu, Google Play, Playstation and Xbox.
The film's plot revolves around Neil Stryker, a hardened elite forces agent, played by Taylor. Stryker is famous for hunting down and capturing his former mentor and villainous time-traveler the Mad Scientist, also played by Taylor.
After a magnificent asylum escape, the Mad Scientist rains down chaos in a quest for revenge against the man who captured him.
Stryker now must race through time, battling goblins, robots, Nazis and a 10-foot killer penguin in order to save the world, not to mention rescuing his son from the clutches of his infamous former mentor.
What is it like playing the good guy and the bad guy?
"It's a lot of fun getting the chance to play two such boldly different characters, but it also makes things difficult technically when both characters interact in the same scene. As a filmmaker, I love the opportunity to find creative ways to shoot these scenes," Taylor said.
What he likes best about Stryker's character is how emotionless he is.
"At the same time, as a director, I know that emotion and human frailty/weakness are key to developing an intriguing/relatable character," he said.
But because the film is something of a satire, Stryker's one-dimensional persona is actually very appropriate, he said.
Taylor thinks audiences have appreciated the film's "refreshing sense of humor," adding that "comedy is tough for indie filmmakers, but I think we pulled it off."
Also in the film are Walter Koenig, who played Chekov in the original "Star Trek" TV show and movies. Another cast member is David Ogden Stiers, probably best known for playing Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III in the TV show "Mash" from 1977 to 1983. He also appeared in the televison show "Leverage" and has been in numerous other TV shows and films.
The full cast of "Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time" is available at imdb.com/title/tt4394034/.
Oregon City ties
Both Costa and Taylor graduated from Oregon City High School; Costa in 1999 and Taylor one year later. Both were involved in the school's drama department and have been making films together since 1998.
The two men, along with Taylor's twin brother, Neil, first introduced the character of Stryker in their film "Evil Cult," a straight-to-DVD film released in 2003. They began filming "Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time" in 2006 and took 10 years to complete it.
"The old adage in filmmaking is 'Your movie can be good, fast or cheap — now pick two.' We chose good and cheap," Costa said.
"Everything in this film was built from scratch. All of it: human-sized puppet robots, a 10-foot killer penguin and 17 puppet goblins that would make Jim Henson rise from the grave," he said.
"We built every set, including part of a blimp, a 20-foot spaceship, and an entire forest inside a 30,000-square-foot warehouse. We chose to shoot the majority of the movie in Oregon City because that's where it all started for us with the predecessor film 'Evil Cult.'"
Costa added, "It also helped that the director, Rob Taylor, had access to a barn that we converted into our very own state-of-the-art production studio complete with the largest green screen in the state."
When it takes 10 years to complete a movie, plenty of challenges can crop up.
"What do you do when your actors walk through a door and are suddenly 10 years older and 40 pounds heavier? You get creative and retool the script," Costa said.
"Did your actor lose his long hair after auditioning for TV's 'Survivor'? No problem, we'll just write in a haircut into the action and make it hilarious," he said, adding that audiences will forgive anything if you keep them laughing.
"We also made the fortuitous choice to shoot every flashback sequence first, just in case the film took 10 years to complete. Which it did."
Costa added that a decade is a long time to be doing anything.
"Can you imagine what a devastating disappointment it would have been if the film was a total and complete flop? Between Rob and I, that would have been 20 years of collective life wasted," he said.
What's next for the indie filmmakers?
Costa revealed that "in the summer of 2018 we begin shooting our next feature film, 'Fungirl247,' an action-adventure-comedy about three fanboys on a quest to recover Kurt Russell memorabilia."
In the meantime, he and Taylor "look forward to reminding viewers that they can still have fun at the movies."
'Stryker' strikes it big
"Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time" was an official selection at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival and Oporto International Film Festival in 2017.
The film was the winner of the Independent Spirit Award at A Night of Horror and Fantastic Planet Film Festival 2016 and won Best Feature Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Studio city International Film Festival 2016.
For more information about the film and other awards and film festival appearances, visit neilstryker.com.
Learn more about "Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time" on Facebook at facebook.com/tyrantoftime.
Parental guidance is suggested for language and brief nudity.