WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
A Q+A with The Series of Mana's creator.
A Q+A with The Series of Mana's creator.
Tell us the basics---who you are, and how you came across Secret of Mana?
My name is Ross K. Foad. I am an actor/writer/director from Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey, England.
I first came across Secret of Mana around 1996 when I bought my Super Nintendo second hand out of a newspaper. It came bundled with a few games and one of them was Secret of Mana. I had never heard of the game before and knew nothing about it.
At the time, I was only interested in playing Donkey Kong Country! But after popping the cart in the console all thoughts of apes were quickly abandoned. I fell in love so hard with this game and this feeling has not waned ever since. Everything about the game enthralled me. It was a lengthy quest (especially given many games could be beat in an hour back then), the gameplay was addictive, the soundtrack out of this world, the story drew me in, the characters were hugely memorable, and it had co-op multiplayer! To date, it is still my favourite game of all time, and I doubt that this will ever change. The emotional impact of the story cannot be forgotten either. I recently completed another play through a few weeks ago and the ending still has me in tears
What does Secret of Mana mean to you?
It has been a massive influence in so much of my life. I am a very spiritual person, and I would say that it was The Secret of Mana that was responsible for really opening my heart to this way of thinking. Mana is life and life is Mana. It just resonates so much for me. In addition, it taught me concepts of love, loss, and friendship to a point where they actually meant something. That might sound overdramatic, but at age eight when I first played this, I had not witnessed or known anyone close to me who had died or really left my life at that point. Mana made me consider these things in more detail.
The music has always stayed with me too. I listen to it when writing, walking, and just needing to think about things. There is something quite magical about it that really takes me to another world.
Though my love for the game went beyond what was confided to the television screen. I was always the imaginative kid – the one who didn’t play football, but engaged in imaginary make believe games. I would pretend to be Randi (the game’s protagonist) as I explored forests looking for Rabites with my stick (sword) in hand. I wanted so badly to do that in real life! The Series of Mana is a way of living out that dream.
How did The Series come about?
I actually thought of doing this series around five years ago, but then quickly dismissed it as not being achievable. I believed that it needed far more money and the logistics were impossible for someone like me to create, but as time went on, and I continued to gain more experience, it really became clear to me exactly how I can do it, and I really had no reason not to do it.
After writing the series, the first person I approached was Kelsey Williams, who I have worked with for the past seven years on various web-series and films. Kelsey was the only person I could have ever imagined playing Popoi, and thankfully, she is a big fantasy fan, so she couldn’t be more excited for it. Once she was on board I immediately started pre-production, and here we are! And, yes, I am well aware Popoi is meant to be a boy, but there is still some dispute over whether the rushed English translation was completely accurate. In addition, many would agree that the appearance is very feminine..
What is your background in the arts?
Both of my parents are actors, so some of it is probably just in the blood! But I first started as a script writer on comic strip for a local newspaper when I was thirteen years old. I spent five years doing that before my artist friend and I went onto creating a double comedy act and getting into performing live comedy sketches. Then Youtube came about and we started to convert some of the live sketches onto there! Slowly learning the craft of filmmaking that way. I went solo in early 2010 and everything else has really spun off from there!
What is the structure of the production, and do you have a timeline for its execution?
There will be three series. The first series, which has concluded its filming, will consist of the first six episodes. Each episode is around 10-15 minutes long.
As it stands, eighteen episodes have been written to take us from beginning to end. The series follows the basic story of the game and a lot of the original dialogue, but with some expanded/additional/reimagined scenarios. Regardless, there will be plenty of fan service winks and nods for those that know their Mana. For the hard-core Square-Enix fan, there is also some cameo appearances planned from other games.
What are some of the challenges of the production?
Doing this on a such an extremely limited budget means that not every little thing is going to be possible from the game, so I have had to be conservative when doing the writing of the show. I only write it if I know exactly how I can film it. In addition, showcasing some of the more elaborate monsters requires a bit of thought over how to tackle it or have them represented. Likewise for the elementals. Creating some of them to look 100 percent like how they appear in the game would be tricky! So some have been a case of reimagining how they might look in a more human like form.
I want to make this amazing world a reality. To bring the characters to life beyond a screen and to go on that adventure I wanted to as a child, but this time I am not going at it alone. I will be bringing you (the viewers!) and a whole host of friends along for the ride!
I know that this game touched so many people’s lives like it did mine, and I want to express my love for this game in the only way I can. Many people have created brilliant Secret of Mana fan artwork or produced amazing covers from the soundtrack (check out The Spectrum of Mana Album) but I am neither a great artist nor a musician. However, I am an actor/writer/director with 10 years of creating successful web series. To me this is the most logical and natural way express my love of it. We also have to remember that The Secret of Mana is only around sixty percent of the game that it was meant to be. There was so much cut due to cart size restrictions, and even the dialogue that is there is redacted. This medium allows a little more character development to occur, and a few different paths to be taken. I know that I am not the only one who wonders what else could have happened in this game.
The above is an extracted version of an interview with the Mana Redux Blog. The full article can be read here.