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VAMPIRE ACADEMY

About The Production
Fantasy author Richelle Mead was first inspired to write about vampires while flipping through books of old Romanian stories about different races of vampires roaming the world: the Moroi, who were described as living and good, the Strigoi, who were portrayed as the stereotypical bloodsucking vampires of nightmares, and the Dhampirs, half-human, half-vampire warriors. After studying these at length, Meade took the idea of these different sub-sets and decided to build a society out of them. "What would it look like in the modern world if you had these races at war?" she asked herself. Eventually she decided that placing them in the context of high school seemed the perfect present-day battleground. Vampire Academy, the first installment in what would become Mead's six-part bestselling series, was published in 2007 and became an instant fan sensation. Together, the books have gone on to sell over 8 million copies in 34 countries and secured an avid young adult audience. "The books touch on a lot of themes that are important to adolescents," notes Meade. "The friendships between the characters are deep and sacrificing. It's what's moved a lot of readers."

It didn't take long before fans of the book series all over the world began to create buzz on the social media front about bringing Mead's characters to the big screen. "This spontaneous viral event exploded all across the internet," says producer Michael Preger (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED.) "Finding an epic story like this for adaptation is one thing, but to then discover this mass market audience was growing exponentially and eagerly awaiting - even demanding - a film be produced, was something very compelling." In July of 2010, Preger Entertainment bought the film rights to the series, with Don Murphy (TRANSFORMERS) and Susan Montford (REAL STEEL) of Angry Films, along with Deepak Nayar (PARANOIA) of Kintop/Reliance, coming on board to also produce. Stuart Ford at IM Global signed on to executive produce the project, and next the team began to throw themselves into a search for the perfect filmmakers and cast.

The first task was finding a scribe who could take Mead's beloved story and craft it into a script that matched her vision. Given his success with both teen comedies like HEATHERS and action films like BATMAN RETURNS, screenwriter Daniel Waters proved to be the perfect man for the job. "I can promise the fans of Richelle's books that I will give them all the plot elements, characters and thematics they expect, but maybe in a different order," says Waters. "I put it all in a blender and added my special touch. I know Richelle is happy with how it turned out." Meade agreed that the vision she had in her books was honored perfectly in Waters' script. "Daniel just really got what I was trying to do - when I read his script, I just felt that everything I'd done was in there. The humor was there. He wrote lines way funnier than mine. At the same time, it's definitely not irreverent or a comedy. There's still deep emotional content in there and the action is happening non-stop."

None other than Daniel's brother Mark Waters, the filmmaker behind such teen sensations as MEAN GIRLS and FREAKY FRIDAY, was brought on board to helm the project. Going behind the camera for VAMPIRE ACADEMY was no small challenge. Given the book series' enthusiastic fan base, Waters had to walk a fine line between keeping that audience happy and crafting the movie in such a way as to bring in new audiences. He inspired confidence in the producers immediately, however. Remembers producer Nayar: "Mark's take was that he'd grown up with John Hughes movies like THE BREAKFAST CLUB that were all about high school kids and the problems they have. To him, this was also a film about high school kids and the problems they have, albeit different kinds. When he said that, it made the movie easy to see from that perspective to everyone involved. That's what makes it uniquely different to other vampire films, where they come out in the nighttime and there is always somebody lurking around the corner. In VAMPIRE ACADEMY they come out at night to study and it changes the dynamics of the genre." Working together for the first time was a dream opportunity for Daniel and Mark. "I keep teasing my brother that this movie is a lot like both HEATHERS and MEAN GIRLS," jokes the screenwriter. "We're just eliminating all the middle men this time."

Casting for the film required the production team to go on a hunt for fresh young faces that were a mix of breakouts and well-known talent. First up were the film's lead roles of Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir. "One of the things we looked for was people who would not just act a role, but whose personalities naturally fit the characters," explains producer Preger. "We went against the grain. We cast three unknown leads as one of my thoughts was the idea that we needed actors the audience could own, supported by good supporting cast to give it gravitas." Because of his incredible track record with teen comedies, director Waters was also heavily involved in the case of discovering the ideal actor for each part. Australian actress Lucy Fry, best known for portraying Zoey in LIGHTNING POINT and Lyla, one of the three mermaids in MAKO: ISLAND OF SECRETS, was the ideal fit for the role of Moroi royal princess Lissa Dragomir. Eighteen year-old Zoey Deutch, known for her roles on such hit shows as RINGER and SWITCHED AT BIRTH, was chosen for the role of Rose Hathaway, Lissa's guardian and best friend at school. Comments Fry: "Zoey and I are pretty much Rose and Lissa. She's hilariously funny, energetic, and has so much life. I'm a lot like Lissa in that I'm calm and peaceful. Our personalities just so perfectly fit our characters." Amongst the others cast were Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky (DUKHLESS) in the role of Dimitri Belikov; Gabriel Byrne (VIKINGS) as Prince Victor Dashov, the Academy elder; Olga Kurylenko (OBLIVION) as Headmistress Ellen Kirova; Joely Richardson (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) as Queen Tatiana; Sarah Hyland (MODERN FAMILY) as Victor's daughter Natalie; Claire Foy (WHITE HEAT) as Ms Karp; Cameron Monaghan (SHAMELESS) as Rose's friend Mason; Dominic Sherwood (NOT FADE AWAY) as Christian, the love interest of Lissa; Sami Gayle (BLUE BLOODS) as Lissa's nemesis Mia, and Ashley Charles (ALL IS BY MY SIDE) as Jesse.

On February 10, 2013, The Weinstein Company picked up U.S. distribution rights to the film. The sale was one of the biggest U.S. deals ever to emerge from the European Film Market in Berlin, which runs in conjunction with the Berlin International Film Festival. IM Global sold the film to many key foreign territories as well, including to eOne in the UK, Universum in Germany, Metropolitan in France, West in CIS, Hoyts in Australia and New Zealand, eOne in Canada and Intercontinental in Hong Kong. Production financing was provided by Reliance Entertainment and Union Bank.

VAMPIRE ACADEMY filmed in the UK for eight weeks in 2013 from late May through to mid-July. The majority of shoot took place on location, five weeks of which were nightshoots, in order to create the nighttime world of vampires. The UK, with its historical buildings and landscapes, provided the perfect setting to create the unique but traditional world of VAMPIRE ACADEMY. On set, Mark Waters' creative collaborators included director of photography Tony Pierce- Roberts, production designer Frank Walsh, costume designer Ruth Myers, and hair and make-up designer Pamela Haddock. Because of the large amount of choreographed action scene in the film, stunt coordinator James O'Connell proved to be one of the most important contributors to the production, however. Performing in fight scenes was uncharted territory for much of the cast, including Deutch, who notes: "When I got cast back in Los Angeles, I trained for a couple of months, both gym and fight training. Then I went out to London and had two weeks to do intense stunt training. Those two weeks were the most vital in terms of my preparation." Recalls O'Donnell: "Mark Waters and I were keen to develop a style of fighting that was something fresh and new, which is always difficult. I had to sit down and think, what would the philosophy of vampire fighting be?" O'Donnell looked at practices like Aikido, Jiu-jitsu, Krav Maga, and a few other 'kicking' arts, plus sword arts. He and the stunt team came up with basic stake patterns, empty hand patterns, and multiple attacks for dealing with Strigoi, who they compared to moving elephants in terms of fighting style. "We have very basic stances where we're guarding the neck - very much a Strigoi first response. Guard your neck and find a way out. It's a bit like if you see Agent Smith in the Matrix. Don't fight him. Get out of it...unless there are three of you. All of our techniques have a function and a philosophy. We tied in as much as we could from the books into that style. It's been really exciting and I've loved working on it."

VAMPIRE ACADEMY will hit theaters on February 7, 2014. Before audiences have a chance to check the film out, Mead has given her seal of approval. "Seeing the book come to life in a movie is like taking what I visualized in my head and making it even bigger and better," she says. "Book writing and filmmaking are two different mediums. I specialize in book writing, and I feel pretty good about doing that. But to put something on a big screen and make it larger than life is a whole different art form. It blows me away to see what Mark and Dan Waters and the rest of the team working on the movie can do. It's just incredible to have people who specialize in this kind of art form, with those visual talents, bringing this to life."

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