16. The End

Way way back in 2013, I finally got motivated and wanted to make something for myself. With a kick in the pants from The Meaghan, I made a viking movie, TYRFING.

My initial goal was just to get screened… anywhere. Just one screening and I’d be, “Mission accomplished. You’re such a brilliant and talented boy!” Pat. Pat. Pat. The film ended up in 8 festivals and I couldn’t be happier, so I’m moving on and putting a bullet in the old girl.

Too harsh? Eh, get over it. Amidst all the erotic fan fiction, Tumblr artists post aspirational quotes about failure, mistakes and angst in the artistic process. I’ll Cliff Note it for you, “Make shit.” Just go and do it, it’s better than not.

That’s not to say the film is brilliant. It’s not. It’s clunky, really self important (high on its own farts if you will) and the pacing is molasses. There’s a ton of good good stuff in there, luckily I have very talented friends. Anything great in here you may see comes from them. I’m just the dope that said, “Let’s make something.” Thanks again gang, your contribution was incredible. 

Best bit of feedback I got was from a friend’s wife, “It just doesn’t seem like Steve.” Essentially, if I’m going to make stuff, I should at least make stuff I’d want to watch over and over again.

I learned a ton from making this film. It reminded me how much I love to write. I wrote a feature and short last year, and I’m working on another feature now. I’m writing all the time. Thanks TYRFING.

Here’s the film in all its imperfect glory!

https://vimeo.com/independentne/tyrfingfilm

15. Hang On To Your Shorts Film Festival

The TYRFING team was honored to be a an official selection of the Hang on to Your Shorts Film Festival in Asbury Park, NJ. In their third year, Hang On To Your Shorts jam packs the festival weekend, screening films across three venues. Additionally, TYRFING was nominated for Best Concept, loosing out to Think Twice. Thanks for the laurels, on to the next one. 

14. Codex Regius

The story of the Duel of Samso was preserved along with other ancient Norse poems in the Codex Regius (AKA The Royal Book.) It’s original creation and writer is lost to time, but it was found in the possession of an Icelandic Bishop, Brynjolfur Sveinsson (Do Icelanders know how to name folks or what? He’s on Icelandic money, he’s so bad ass.) The legends contained in the Codex Regius pre-dated Christianity, also J.R.R. Tolkien was a massive fan boy for it and it permeates throughout all his work. (What’s more impressive?) 

Unlike The Odyssey, no single author is attributed to the Codex Regius or the Tyrfing Cycle. They were minstrel poems, told by a seafaring, far traveling people. They were malleable and adapted to the audience. Your characters’ deeds and adventures, became their heroes’ deeds and adventures. Your stories, became their legends. They were the first crossovers. Who wouldn’t want to watch a flick where John McClane and Martin Riggs tussle? The crossover aspect is what most appealed to me.

Why are all these Norse legends in Iceland, you ask? Isolation and Christianity was straight lazy, “Pfft… Iceland? Way over there. Why bother?” So the old stories were still told, passed along and remembered. 

My primary reference (besides the magic of the internet, don't go quoting me in some term paper, all hail Wikipedia!) was the Poetic Edda, a modern collection of these poems. Is this all confusing? Damn straight. With so many retellings and translations, things get lost in the sauce. Tyrfing is found primarily in the Hervarar Saga (but also in Orvar-Odd’s Saga, crossover!) Since, each of these stories are a amalgamation, variations of the characters appear in multiple histories and legends, it all gets jumbled up, a mashup. 

 

13. TAMPA BAY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL

Made the trip down for the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival, killer festival. Awesome and completely squirm-worthy to watch the film with a mob of friends and family in my hometown (well, close enough.) Thanks for coming everyone and thanks for the continuing support. 

TYRFING screened in the Fantasy Block and was nominated for Best SciFi/Fantasy Film, how cool is that? We lost out to RESET (which aired in our block and was jawdroppingly awesome and won the entire fest.)  Killer company to be in, nice work fellas! On to the next one.

 

12. SPOTLIGHT FILM AWARDS

TYRFING scored it's first award, a bronze from The Spotlight Short Film Awards. Secret of the Lion, a documentary short I cut about the discovery of a time capsule in Boston's Old State House, took home a gold, toot toot! 

Besides the award, I was also featured as a 2015 Independent Filmmaker in the Spotlight. Brag brag brag, look at me! Check out the link for the other featured directors, my glib bio is below.

"The Award Winning, TYRFING is Stephen Polakiewicz’s directorial debut. Graduating with a BA in Communications from Florida State University and a MS in Television Production from Boston University, he now holds the position of editor at Redtree Productions cutting TV commercials.  He despises writing in the third person, particularly about himself, finding it pompous and reeking of 'trying too hard.' If he had his way, his bio would read- 'Stephen Polakiewicz, Mission Hill by way of Valrico. The Meaghan. Film. Wrestling. Comics. Beer. Galaxy Quest Quotes. In that order.' But, that doesn’t sound like something you’d read in a film festival program. Instead, he’ll drop two-dollar words and talk about his intrinsic passion for storytelling and his other blah blah blah artistic sensibilities. Stay true to yourself Steve! Never give up, never surrender!"

11. YNGVI

“They say people don’t believe in heroes anymore. Well, damn them! You and me, Max… we’re gonna give them back their heroes.” - Mad Max.

In TYRFING, the viking life of violence, Yngvi’s addiction, has left him a husk of man. He surrounds himself with magical weapons, but hasn’t the strength to use them. "There's always another hero. Another great man." - Yngvi. He clings to other heroes successes and victories and the shadows of his former life. 

Magic/violence is the addiction. Hjalmar is against magic (straight-edge hardcore) believes in himself, Orvar-Oddembraces magic (has magical arrows for example), Angantyr is a full-blown addict prone to involuntary action, does anything for the high. To Yngivi, who surrounds himself with magical items. The magic isn't real, it’sjust the perceived power of these items; folded steel and other technological advancements, seems like magic to them. 

Hjalmar is young and impetuses, Orvar-Odd is seasoned and experienced, Angantyr is jaded and spiteful, bored. He's achieved it all and finds it lacking. To King Yngvi, whose bitter and used up, wasting away. He’s squandered his life on murder and pillage and now gets his high from the exploits of other heroes. 

The Vikings refer to themselves as hero and great men. Yngvi knows this is all bullshit while Hjalmar clings to this false sense of honor through violence. Angantyr is self-aware, he knows he’s a violent murder and that's what they all are, but doesn't care and won’t stop. They dress it up with nobility and honor, but they're all monsters. 

Yngvi (as played by Jeff Gill) is so far gone, he can't get that high from violence anymore and plays games with people's lives. Instigating the duel between Hjalmar and Angantyr, he cares little for the outcome as long as there’s a hero’s death. Yngvi is the end result of wasting your life on violence. His viking hall is filled with death imagery. He’s a crow, or a vulture, salivating to to pick at bones of heroes, and he's circling Hjalmar and Orvar-Odd.

 

10. BRIGHTSIDE TAVERN FILM FESTIVAL

Brightside Tavern Film Festival is a gem of a festival in Jersey City. Eric, Dave and I headed down for the Meet & Greet on Saturday and screenings on Sunday. It was a weekend of brew-ha-has, junk food and short films. We stayed a block from the venue and hit up Taqueria Downton, Skinner’s Loft, Dullboy and Razza (who apparently has the best pizza in the tri-state area, take that Domino’s.) 

The venue featured a downstairs and an upstairs screening room. Our festival block could best be described as the bound & gagged women block (which confused the hell out of us, since our film features neither.) The two stand outs were Joseph Eulo’s Trafico (a New Jersey based web-series that delves into human trafficking) and Clown Baby, the stuff of nightmares. The Trafico crew were fired up filmmakers and a blast to chat with, just bubbling over with passion. Much to our dismay, we didn’t meet the makers of Clown Baby, we probably just would of cowered if we did. The film had neither a clown or baby, let alone a clown baby… 

Thanks Brightside Tavern for hosting, awesome beer, awesome venue. Another one down, let’s keep ‘em coming. 

09. VIKINGS HISTORY CHANNEL

One of the reasons TYRFING came about is because of Eric Propp. From TYRFING’s Press Kit, “After earning an MFA in costume design at Boston University, Eric has worked with numerous theatre companies- including Huntington Theatre Company, A.R.T., Blue Man Group, Commonwealth Shakespeare, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Boston Ballet.” On top of all that he’s my pal (the key to this whole production is having talented friends.)

For his thesis, Eric designed costumes for a play he developed about the forgotten origins of Santa Claus, mixing the Norse gods, Odin, Thor, Balder with the fairy tale of Santa Claus (sorry kids!) While developing the film and having a limited budget, I assessed assets on hand, “Hey! Eric has Viking costumes, let’s make a Viking picture!”

Eric’s a perfectionist, a complete nut. Rather than repurposing his thesis project, Eric hand-crafted all of the costumes in TYRFING from scratch. Night after night, he hammered rivets into leather on a cinder block in his apartment, repurposed corduroy pants and spoiled fur coats, painted leather to look worn, weathered armor with sandpaper. The elbow-grease shines through in every frame of the film. The costumes are incredible. Eric is incredible. He added layers of authenticity and visual panache. It’s the number one take away, “The costumes are incredible.” Thanks Eric.

For San Diego Comic-Con, History Channel’s Vikings posted on their Facebook page asking fans to submit pictures of themselves dressed as Vikings for a possible commercial campaign, all about the fans of the show. Eric hopped on the opportunity and submitted some screen grabs from the film. History Channel quickly responded asking for more of Eric “doing his Viking thing.” Eric responded in kind and is now featured in the promos for Vikings History Channel. Amazing.

Vikings Season 4: What Makes A Real Fan?