An Interview With IGN’s Halo: Bollywood Movie Makers

Our sister site The Escapist interviews the people who brought Halo to life for April Fools’ day – with a Bollywood twist.

-So how did this happen? Whose idea was it?

Fran Mirabella, Director, IGN Video: It’s hard to top a serious Zelda movie trailer, which was our prank of 2008. IGN video doesn’t usually do grandiose productions, but we always like to come out swinging for April Fools’ Day. Peer Schneider, who is basically one of IGN’s founding fathers, struck gold when he asked if we could do Halo Bollywood.

-*How* did you come up with the idea? Which came first, the idea to do a Bollywood game movie trailer (and you decided on Halo), or the idea to do a fake Halo movie trailer (and you decided on the style)?

Fran: This was a Halo Bollywood mash-up from the start. We are always trying to do something that gets more attention than our Zelda movie trailer, which is pretty tough. So, the whole setup of the trailer is that during the first 15-20 seconds you think IGN just made another serious attempt at portraying Halo: The Motion Picture. Not that unthinkable. We wanted everyone to think, “Oh, nice try IGN! Fool me once…” Then, when Master Chief’s helmet comes off, you realize we’re doing a Halo Bollywood trailer. Fooled you twice.

-How did Ishaara and IGN get in contact with each other?

Fran: IGN started looking for local Bollywood dance talent in the San Francisco area. Our production coordinator, Caleb Lawson, saw a clip of Ishaara competing on America’s Got Talent, and we immediately knew we had to work with them. Then when we started talking to them, we discovered some of the troupe already knew about IGN and were fans of Halo.

-How was the song written/translated?

Fran: Our director on the project, Nick Scarpino, and the whole team here at IGN really wanted there to be a story for Halo fans. We naturally expected a limited number of viewers would understand the Hindi lyrics, so we added subtitles. Nick and the team wrote a short love story that could play out and give the trailer a heartbeat, if you will. Master Chief is captured and turned into the perfect military weapon and he falls in love with his guide, Cortana – something every fan has thought about. Love is a pretty common base for Bollywood films, so we thought it was a another layer of entertainment we could add to the trailer. Translation was done internally at IGN by Shelly Kamboj, who’s in our sales department.

Once that work was done, we handed it over to our friend in the music industry, Chris Tilton. We were very fortunate to have him on board. Chris composes for the Fox TV show Fringe and, notably on the videogame side of things, he recently did Mercenaries 2. He used a few themes that Halo composer Marty O’Donnell had set forth, but the core dance theme of the trailer is all original work by Chris.

-What sort of process was there for melding two completely different genres, action gaming and Bollywood cinema? What were the essential Halo elements, and what were the essential Bollywood elements?

Fran: It was a bit of a mad science experiment; we took two volatile chemicals and shook them up just to see what kind of insane, Technicolor explosion we would get. Thankfully, no one went blind and we ended up with something totally original. Bollywood is a very rich, involved performance art. That meant combining a lot of key moving parts: the music, the choreography, the colorful costumes…and that’s just one side of the trailer. Then we needed to give it a good injection of Halo and sci-fi visuals. Part of the joke was that there would be some over-the-top shots in the trailer, and Bollywood is no stranger to that. So we had the leads winking at the camera, Master Chief dancing on a ship, and, of course, the wedding ring at the end – I hope everyone caught that. We also wanted to make sure we had some really sweet, cinematic shots from the Halo universe. Nick and our post production manager, Brennan Ieyoub, created them all in-house and really showcased how nimble we can be as a team when we set our minds to it. Even though this was a prank, we wanted to take the opportunity to continue to fuel the hype for getting a real, Hollywood-born Halo movie someday.

-Shahil, have you – or other members of your troupe – ever played Halo before? Do you play any other games?

Shahil Patel, Co-Director, Ishaara: Definitely. Halo is probably in my top 5 for best video games in history. I think that’s what made this project even more exciting. Most of our team is comprised of college students born and raised in America. Halo was THE game we all played throughout high school, just like Super Mario Bros. was the game we all played as kids. I don’t think any of us are gamers anymore, but we used to play tons of games like Counterstrike, Splinter Cell, Zelda, Smash Bros., FIFA, NBA/NFL Live, Starcraft, WoW, GTA, Diablo … the list goes on … shout out to Street Fighter from SNES … etc .. Most of us remain kids at heart, so I don’t know if video games will ever get old.

-How long did it take to make? Where’d you get the cool Master Chief suit?

Fran: We had the idea since mid-2009, but we didn’t start any work on it until 2010. With a concept like this, it’s hard to quantify the time spent – you could spend half a year on it if you wanted. But there’s always a lot of coverage to do here at IGN, and we had to keep our core offering of reviews, trailers, etc. moving alongside this production. Most of the time was spent discussing the shots and where we’d get the dance troupe, music, etc. When it came down to the final shoot, editing, and finishing, it was really only a few weeks – which we did in the middle of moving our offices across town! It was a lot of work, but this is a labor of love and something we’re really proud of. We were also really thankful that the original creators of Halo at Bungie, supported us on this. They leaked a screenshot from the production saying something big was coming that week, and it really created this huge viral buildup.

The Master Chief suit, anyone can find online. We made a few small modifications, like getting the visor to read well on camera, though. Likewise, you might be interested to know that most of the props were from a toy store. We had painted N.E.R.F. guns and glowing juggling balls on the set, among other things. We even shot one of us in an ape suit, starkly silhouetted against a desert sun backdrop – it was going to be the Brute, but we cut it in the end. If you check out our behind-the-scenes videos you can see a lot of this.

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