Wade K. Savage

Forced assimilation, underwear models: A mature Fallout film made in the city on the edge of nothing

Forced assimilation, underwear models: A mature Fallout film made in the city on the edge of nothing

Perth is more than 2000 miles from the nearest major city, making it one of the most isolated cities in the world. It's surrounded on all sides by thousands of miles of ocean and wide open wilderness. These circumstances make it one of the most expensive cities on the planet, on the same level as places like Moscow and Paris.

It's not exactly the first place you'd think to find one of the best Fallout fan films ever made. But on a shoe-string, crowd-sourced budget, a small team in Australia created Fallout: Lanius, a unique and adult look at life in Fallout's apocalypse that debuted at PAX Australia in July, and is nearing release.

The Report had the chance to screen an early release of the film and chat with its director.

Assimilation

Fallout: Lanius is the tale of a small tribe, the Hidebarks, and what happens when a small tribe catches the attention of a larger power, the Legion. 

The tone of Fallout: Lanius is much different than most fan films. In fact, it's quite a bit different than Fallout. Few words are even spoken through the majority of the 18-minute film, and it has none of the cutesy humor that the series has long used to offset the stark horrors of the Wasteland.

Fallout: Lanius is an action-drama about what happens in the wake of nuclear apocalypse after tribes and new civilizations have formed. It's a serious tale that takes place in Fallout's universe, rather than being an homage to the Fallout brand.

“Beyond evidently being a huge Fallout fan, and loving the universe, and the universe being so varied,” said Wade K. Savage, the filmmaker behind Fallout: Lanius. “The main thing for me was thinking we could do something quite dramatic and effective [in that universe].”

He contrasted Fallout: Lanius to previous smash hit Fallout short film Nuka Break, which is much more focused on Fallout's comedic side.

“The Fallout universe lends itself such a huge variety of genres and tones,” said Savage. “People don't usually spend a lot of time on tribalism and civilizations absorbing each other and those sort of adult themes. Rather than just a guy in a blue jump suit shooting people with lazers guns - which is great as well - we wanted to look at what actually happens. What happens when the Legion absorbs a civilization? What happens to people?”

The film is named after the antagonist of Fallout: New Vegas, Legate Lanius, a champion of the Roman-themed “Legion.” He's spoken of as an unknown legend in the game, with several characters telling different stories about his origin. 

The film isn't intended as an “official” origin story for the character, but Savage said he actually worked with Chris Avellone and Obsidian to work out which of the ghost stories about Lanius is most likely to be true in the lore.

They settled on the story that he was a member of an assimilated tribe, but much of the story was still left open. The main writers of the game didn't even actually know his tribal name before he joined the Legion. Savage said he had to work hard not to turn him into a sort of lovable anti-hero.

“I was really careful not to turn him into a sort of emotional love-interest character…he's kind of like Conan the Barbarian if Conan was a prick. That was the challenge for me as a filmmaker, because you're trying to make someone who people empathize with. Not necessarily relate to, because he's always been a sort of blunt tool, a violent person. I don't want to make any commentary about him being a good guy…because he's not.”

Arizona, 2200 AD

“Perth is a tiny city on the farthest point away in Australia,” said Savage. “We've got a tiny film industry. We've got some good resources, but we're just so damn small and we're so far away from everything. So I was thinking about what we could do that's tight and looks cool and is believable. We're Australians making a film set in the year 2200 in Arizona,” he joked.

“We made it for $19,000, but as I came to find out that is not a lot of money. Especially with fight scenes, which are just really tricky to make work,” he continued. The films' funding came from a successful Indiegogo campaign which raised nearly double its asking price.

The whole project seems to have been endowed with a considerable amount of good fortune. Perth's isolation in Australia also conveniently put them within range of some great shooting locations that could replicate the Arizona desert relatively accurately. The location also meant that there were enough people nearby willing to work for little more than exposure and experience; Perth is far away from any other place where a creative person might go to chase their dreams.

“A lot of the guys we had were stunt men or ex-military… a lot of them were like, underwear models,” said Savage. How nice to have ready access to copious underwear models when making a film that's largely about buff men in skimpy tribal clothing.

Asking the crew to work for little or no money was no small order either. Most of the project was shot in a rock quarry an hour's drive outside of the city where the crew baked in 100 degree heat.

“It was especially hard for Johnny [the actor who plays Lanius] because he's in fiberglass armor, the Lanius armor,” said Savage. “And he hated that armor, and he hated me everytime I asked him to wear it. He'd be like, 'I'm gonna kill you…I'm gonna kill you in your sleep.' But the worst part was in the studio.”

Savage said that once after one of their studio shoots, they asked the actor who portrayed Lanius if he was staying cool enough during a scene, and he replied something along the lines of “yeah…I did black out for a little bit there though.”

“He was an MMA fighter here for a while in Australia,” said Savage. “So he says 'no, no I'm good, I know when I'm gonna pass out. If I tell you I'm overheating, you're gonna pull me out of this armor, cool me down, then you're gonna put me back in the fuckin' armor and we'll have to do it all again.'”

The team endured the hot Australian sun, and a somehow hotter Australian film studio, to create a fantastic bit of fan cinema on a tiny budget about a character who is mostly an unknown. Fallout: Lanius made its worldwide debut at PAX Aus in July, and Savage said the response was great from the dedicated fans who made their way to the panel.

The full film will debut on August 27 on YouTube, and we'll be sure to feature the film on the PA Report when it goes live.