Elves, orcs and rangers

Christian filmmakers Ron Newcomb and Scott Mathias, along with a team of actors and crew, have transformed Virginia's scenic Rappahannock County landscape into the "land of Adrasil" for their upcoming production, "The Rangers."

In the story, Adrasil is threatened by an ancient evil controlled by the shadow elves known as the Umbrans. A heroic group of rangers come together to defend the people of the land from bloodthirsty orcs and the elves' diabolical quest for power.

This tale of valor did not appear overnight. Director and producer Ron Newcomb had the idea for "The Rangers" for some time. But a chance encounter with producer and screenwriter Scott Mathias at Newcomb's church film club set the stage for the story to come to life.

Drawn together by their mutual love of good storytelling and all things Tolkien, Newcomb and Mathias started their own production company, Opening Act Productions, as a way to tell their stories while remaining true to their Christian values.

"Faith is a huge part of the production and has influenced everything," said Newcomb.

"Besides the usual good versus evil theme, there are other aspects of the movie that are very Catholic in nature, such as power versus creation," said Martin Lopez, who plays a half-human, half-elf in the movie. "It is easier on an actor when the character you play shares your values." According to David DePerro, the film's publicist, "This story idea connects with the themes of the new evangelism and reaching the culture through art and film."

Watch a video about the series.

Mathias and his family recently joined the Catholic Church. "I think it is very easy to tell something about the people behind the story from the screenplay and what their views are," he said. There are subtle Catholic themes in the story, such as duty, honor and adhering to a moral code. There is even a Lucifer character in the leader of the elves, Prince Korlan. "More back story will be revealed about him, hopefully in future seasons to come," said Mathias.

Making a Christian film doesn't stop on set. A sense of Christian fellowship extends to everyone on the team. "All the actors and crew have gelled very quickly, and there is a great energy on the set that leaves room for a lot of possibility," said second unit director Allan Chacey. "It's like a big family." Many of the cast and crew working on "The Rangers" also worked with Newcomb and Mathias on their first feature length film, "Rise of the Fellowship," released in 2013.

Now that the filming is complete, the story will be put into the hands of the post-production team who will transform hours of footage into the story. The plan is to release "The Rangers" as a Web series in late December to coincide with the release of the final Hobbit movie. Newcomb and Mathias hope that fans of fantasy and Tolkien will leave the "The Hobbit" hungry for more and join "The Rangers" and Opening Act Productions on a their new epic adventure.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014