Colum: What would you say is the first step to getting into voice acting work, and how people prepare for it?
Carlo: Practice practice practice. Get a decent mike and start recording yourself. Read from scripts or books or transcripts of ads. Don’t just mimic someone else’s read. Discover your own voice through practice. The microphone is a very interesting device. It records intent and emotion in ways that are not necessarily obvious. Voice lessons have some value but beware that voice work is an insanely crowded and competitive field and anyone who says their lessons will lead to voice work is probably not worth the money! For me, the voice work I am lucky to do is almost incidental to being an Actor. So really a truthful ( for me ) answer to your question is you prepare for voice work by becoming and actor and preparing as an actor.
Interview with Darren O'Mahony
(Dare Media Productions)
We are proud to release our interview with Darren O'Mahony, owner & operator of Dare Media Productions, a small film and video production company based in Cork City that recently released a live-action Assassin's Creed Valhalla trailer inspired by Wrath of the Druids!
In our interview, we cover initial ideas, concept art, challenges and more.
Save 10% on officially licensed Assassin's
Creed Origins merchandise with the code "TOWCB"
Colum: Thank you Darren for joining us today. Please could you tell us a little bit about Dare Media Productions, and your role within the company.
Darren: Thank you very much for having me! So my name is Darren O'Mahony. I'm the owner/operator of Dare Media Productions, which is a small Film & Video production company based in Cork City, Ireland. I predominantly do corporate video work, short films and commercials but I've been a gamer since I was about 12 and in my spare time I create live action video game trailers.
Edited by Ashlea Buckley
We would like to thank Darren for joining us for this interview!
Assassin's Creed Valhalla is available now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation®5, PlayStation®4, PC and Stadia.
Colum: Recently, Dare Media released an Assassin's Creed Valhalla trailer that captivated the community. Where did the idea come from, and how the team develop this further?
Darren: Well I started doing live action game trailers last year. Starting off with one for Modern Warfare before doing two for Ubisoft's Ghost Recon Breakpoint. I've really fallen in love with doing these trailers, it offers me a great deal of freedom to create exciting projects with the worlds of games I already love. There's something really special about taking these known characters and bringing them into the real world. I'd wanted to do one for Valhalla since the initial game reveal but obviously with COVID restrictions and everything else it was just a bit beyond me at the time.
When Wrath of the Druids was announced it offered a second chance to create something special. Being set in Ireland too, and also being one of the only AAA games to be set here in a long time meant that it really was an opportunity too good to let slip by. As with a lot of Ubisoft's games, the location is actually almost a character in itself so it was great to showcase the beauty of our island.
From very early on, I felt that my version of Eivor had to be a woman. Despite the fact Eivor is a girls name and she is the canon version, the existing marketing had focused almost completely on the male character. I felt that needed to change. Once that was decided it was a case of finding someone to really embody the part and then building the supporting cast out from there. I'm lucky to have a great team I can call on, and for Wrath of the Druids that team grew even more to accommodate the needs of the script.
Colum: Now that the trailer is live on YouTube, what has the general response been like?
Darren: It's been really good! Feedback has been excellent, people really seem to enjoy the trailer. It's also been great to see some of the devs telling us we did a great job. That's really nice because this is their creation, their baby. You want to be sure you're doing right by them as well as the fans. The biggest compliment though is when people say it's left them wanting to see more. Where does the story go next? That's what a trailer should do. That's when you know you've done it right.
Colum: During the planning stages, were any initial ideas cut due to budget/ travel or other factors?
Darren: Yes! Quite a lot unfortunately. My initial script included a viking village where an elderly man would tell tales of the Druids and set Eivor on her way (This is where the voice over that's in the trailer comes from), a beehive hut where locals would help guide Eivor and a stone circle for the climax. We saw far more of Eivor and her companions as they traveled across the country, all the while being watched from the shadows by the Children of Danu. I really wanted to showcase our countryside and give the trailer something of a Fellowship of the Ring vibe.
Unfortunately Ireland was in a very strict lockdown for five months and moving a cast and crew across the country just wasn't viable on the tiny budget we had so elements had to be sacrificed. We filmed in a full size replica longboat in Waterford for a scene set at sea but unfortunately time restraints meant the scene wasn't ready in time for launch so it had to be cut. We also planned to shoot more scenes on horseback but we had to cut it back as well.
I think if we had managed to get everything in, it would have been truly spectacular but all in all I'm very happy with what we achieved especially given the restraints we had.
Colum: How many people worked on the project, and did the art department create any concept art / storyboards you can share?
Darren: Dare Media is just myself normally but I'm lucky to be able to build out my crew then as needed depending on the production. It started with myself sitting at home but by the end of the production the combined cast and crew numbered almost twenty including costuming, art direction, stunt/fight coordinators etc.
My friend Eugene D'Arcy who plays Eivor's companion Svend is a graphic designer so he did some concept art for me based on the locations I had in mind as well as designing his own character and Halfdan, who was played by Joe Lyons. Raff Muracca who came on board as production designer came up with some concept sketches for the Druids. These were great for helping to get others on board as it gave a strong visual identity to the whole project.
Colum: Were there any difficulties filming during the pandemic, and did COVID restrictions present any challenges?
Darren: Absolutely! Aside from the practicalities of shooting itself, pre-production was very difficult. Being in full lockdown meant I was based in my home town of Tipperary, Raff was in Cork, Team Emerald Cosplay who created Eivor's costume were based in Limerick, Sinead our lead actor was in Dublin. It's very difficult to plan and create a film, especially one so costume driven as this without being in the same room as the costumes and designers. Really though everyone across the world was in the same boat so I think everyone at the time had the same struggles. Thank god for social media and Zoom eh!
Colum At the time of planning and filming, very little Wrath of the Druids DLC material had been released, so how did the team produce something so accurate to the game? Did Ubisoft provide additional resources?
Darren: No. I asked but unfortunately my requests were turned down. Which I totally understand. Here was this random stranger approaching Ubisoft looking for concept art and details on an unreleased project! I'm sure they fifty requests like that a day! Maybe for the next one, now that they can see what we can put together, we might be able to get some support who knows! I'm very proud of how accurate we managed to get it. One of the dev team who saw the trailer commented that we must have been listening in on meetings! To me that's a huge compliment.
Our only reference was the concept sketch released as the Wrath of the Druids announcement poster. This was the single image that myself and Raff had to work off when crafting the Druids designs. I decided that our druids should reflect their respective roles in their look. So the Druid priest wears a stag skull, stags often being seen as a regal creature. The druid guardian or giant as we called him during the design stage would be a powerful, strong ram and the “soldier” druids would each have individually designed masks that were less ornate. Raff did an incredible job creating the masks, making sure that they looked the part but also were easy to wear. Team Emerald Cosplay created the Druid clothing based off that initial sketch.
Story wise from the brief synopsis that Ubisoft had released I was able to write the trailer in a way that I felt I had covered the probable direction and tone of the DLC without going into any actual specifics. I think a good trailer will make you want to see more, it doesn't need to show you everything. Simple is often best. As soon as I saw the official trailer that launched just before we released our video I knew we'd made the right call. I didn't expect the werewolves though! That caught me by surprise! So we added some wolf sound fx to the video last minute.
Colum: Did you host casting auditions, or did you already have an idea who would fit the roles?
Darren: No, I pretty much knew who I wanted to cast for all the roles. Eugene has worked with me on pretty much all my game trailers so far so I knew what he could bring. He plays Walker in our Ghost Recon work. Joe who plays Halfdan starred in a multi award winning short film I produced a few years ago called the Marksman so again I knew he'd fit the role easily. Sinead I've known through the Irish film scene for a good few years, we'd never worked together but I'd seen plenty of her work in the past and mutual friends highly recommended her. I knew she'd be perfect for Eivor. As well as being a talented actress, she has a fantastic work ethic. As soon as she was cast she went off and immersed herself in the role. All three actors even took horse riding lessons to prepare. I'm really lucky to have such a dedicated team that go all in to make sure we get the best possible result.
Colum: How did you pick the filming locations, and did the team have to travel far?
Darren: Initially I had the locations in the original script already picked but as Covid restricted our ability to move around I was forced to change some of them. It might sound strange but the hardest location to find was actually the forest clearing. We must have visited a good half dozen woods trying to find a spot that had a large enough clearing, the right kind of foliage and decent access for cars and equipment. You'd think woods or a forest all look the same but really it had to be right or it would look wrong on camera. In the end we found a spot only twenty minutes away from our base.
The longboat scene, which didn't make the released cut, was shot about two hours drive away. It was a replica ship that's on public display in Waterford City. It's right by the side of the road so we had a lot of bemused passers by looking at this bunch of people with a green screen!
Colum: Were all of the costumes created specifically for the project, and which one was the hardest to put together?
Darren: The props and costumes came from a variety of sources really. Raff created the Druid masks, necklaces and the altar from scratch, Team Emerald Cosplay created Eivors entire costume as well as the clothing elements of the Druids while I sourced costuming for Eivor's companions and made the prop weapons. There's actually a lot that isn't in the final cut so I'm working on an extended version just to give everything and everyone a bit of screen time.
Eivor's costume was definitely the hardest to put together. There's just so much detail in there. We used a Ubicollectibles hidden blade to save time but everything else had to be created from scratch, done on a non-existent budget for an actress who couldn't be there in person for fittings due to Covid. It's a credit to Team Emerald just how good the final costume looks on screen.
Colum: Are there any bloopers / outtakes that you can share with us?
Darren: Not so much bloopers per say because everyone really knew their parts to perfection but there are some funny images alright! We also have a really nice behind the scenes video by Mickael Do Couto, which I think really shows off the effort that everybody put in.
Colum: Do you have plans to work on any more Assassin's Creed related projects?
Darren: Definitely. I know Ezio is most people's favourite still but some of my most cherished gaming memories are of Altair escaping across the rooftops of Jerusalem after an assassination (I was never great at stealth unfortunately!!) so I'd love to do something with Altair and take it right back to the begining. But that's a good way down the line yet.
Next up for me though is Siege of Paris. Everyone of this cast and crew would like to do another one and Siege of Paris would be a great opportunity to take our work to another level. Maybe Ubisoft would like to get involved this time? I already have a basic storyline worked out, something that will hopefully put this video to shame. It's just a case of putting all the pieces in place and hopefully finding some funding. That and making a lot of battle axes and shields!