Posted by Powee Celdran
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!! WATCH THE FILM FIRST BEFORE READING THIS!!!
“This is Byzantine storytelling at its finest, reconstructed with attention to detail that allows us to follow the historical narrative while imagining a different fate for the Byzantine Empire with the alteration of a single event.” -Dr. Niki Dados on House Komnenos: A Byzantine Epic
Welcome back to the Byzantium Blogger! This time, I have prepared a special edition article on my most recent highly ambitious special Byzantine project, the Lego Byzantine epic film House Komnenos which was released on my Youtube channel No Budget Films last May 11, and please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my channel!
This film was another grand project of mine which took several months in the making from the conceptualizing, to the putting together of the Lego characters and sets, to the filming, and lastly to the editing. If you all remember from way back last year, I made a 12-part Byzantine Alternate History series, and like I said, one of the 12 chapters was set to be made into a Lego film, and at the end the chapter that was selected was chapter IX which takes place in the 12th century. Now chapter IX was the one selected out of all the 12 chapters as for me I found it the most interesting yet practical to make a Lego film of it in terms of plot as it wouldn’t be too ambitious by having so many epic battle scenes that I would not have been able to do or too slow with more dialogue than action. Now this article will start off discussing a bit about the film’s plot, what was historical and what was not, the characters with their backgrounds, then the creation process from the writing to the filming to the editing, and then lastly about the reception of the film and what I intended to do when making it. Once the part about my film in general is done, the article will move on to the interviews with another set of 4 different Byzantine history content creators whose main topic of interest is not really about Byzantium but happen to somehow post things about Byzantium too. The questions that would be asked from them would be about what they think about Byzantine history and if they can also market it to more people who are unfamiliar with it, especially younger people (primarily kids) as a way to overall stay consistent with the theme of this article which is about a Byzantine Lego film with a purpose to further market Byzantine history as something entertaining to younger audiences. On the other hand, before you read the rest of this article, it’s best you all watch my film, it will be found just right below!
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This latest grand project of mine being the Lego film House Komnenos: A Byzantine Epic is an action, political, and family drama film using Lego characters and sets which takes place in the Byzantine Empire during the turbulent late 12th century. At the same time, it is also a work of alternate history being based on an alternate history story (Byzantine Alternate History Chapter IX) which begins with events that took place in real history but becomes fictional as the film progress.
The film’s plot focuses on Byzantium after the death of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (r. 1143-1180) in 1180 wherein the stable Byzantine Empire is plunged into a state of chaos and uncertainty due to his son and heir Alexios II’s young age which forces him to be ruled under the regency of his mother Empress Maria of Antioch who is unpopular with the people for her Western Latin origins as the local Byzantine Greek people do not trust the Catholic Western Europeans. The unpopularity and incompetence of the empress lead the people to back someone who would champion their Greek identity and anti-Western sentiments, and this is Manuel’s cousin and long-time enemy Andronikos Komnenos who although is seen by the people as their champion deep inside has the intention to finish off Manuel’s bloodline being Empress Maria and her son Alexios and to carry out a revenge quest against his cousin Manuel’s memory as Andronikos had been mistreated by Manuel in the past. Andronikos may sure have everything he needs to gain ultimate power, but at the end only a twist of fate could save young Alexios II before his uncle Andronikos finishes him off for good. This film is set between the years 1180 and 1187 with flashbacks depicting earlier years too. At the same time, the film covers not only events surrounding Byzantium and the ruling Komnenos Dynasty but on their interactions too with other powers mainly the Crusaders, Hungary, Serbia, Venice, and the Normans as the 12th century was definitely a time the Byzantines were in constant interactions with the powers around them. As a Lego film, some elements of fun were added to the film as well together with a wide variety of epic music, Byzantine era Easter eggs, pop culture references, and a large voice cast bringing the characters of 12th century Byzantium to life, and to make it seem more authentic the film never even used the word “Byzantine” the entire time except for its title as the word was never even used then, instead the word “Roman” is used as that was what the Byzantines really called themselves. In the meantime, this project was a united international collaboration project and in fact my first one for a Lego film. Truly, the film was a success now that it has over a thousand views considering that it was just released weeks ago, however there is a lot more to explain about the film, and this is exactly the purpose of this article.
Before moving on to the main part of the article itself, here is one review I want to include for this article as a testimonial to the film House Komnenos: A Byzantine Epic from historian and blogger Dr. Niki Dados (follow her on Instagram @novi.precari)
“The intrigues of the Byzantine court come to life in this epic Lego film as the tragic fate of Alexios II Komnenos, the young son of the emperor Manuel I Komnenos, is creatively reimagined in a brilliant alternative history twist. This is Byzantine storytelling at its finest, reconstructed with attention to detail that allows us to follow the historical narrative while imagining a different fate for the Byzantine Empire with the alteration of a single event. Thank you, Byzantine Time Traveller and the cast and crew of “House Komnenos”, for this very enjoyable film. Highly recommend it!”
-Dr. Niki Dados
House Komnenos Storyline, Characters, and Historical Accuracy
The film itself opens with its protagonist, the young emperor Alexios II Komnenos narrating the story of his empire, the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire during the 12th century under the reigns of his great-grandfather Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118), grandfather John II Komnenos (1118-1143), and father Manuel I Komnenos (1143-1180) wherein these 3 emperors brought the Byzantine Empire out of troubled times and into a new golden age of power and prosperity known as the “Komnenian Restoration”.
The narration of Alexios II however stresses that this golden age did not last long as his father Manuel’s arrogance and pride which was seen with his policy in bullying neighboring powers to submit to him or be crushed led to his downfall which was made evident when the powerful Byzantine army was defeated at the Battle of Myriokephalon to the Seljuk Sultanate in 1176 which caused Manuel such great depression leading to his death just 4 years later (1180). The main part of the film then begins in 1180 at Manuel I’s funeral at the Pantokrator Monastery in Constantinople where his wife the empress Maria of Antioch is deeply worried about the future of the empire especially since her son with Manuel being Alexios II is only 11 therefore having no experience in running an empire while Maria herself too barely has any ruling experience, thus the empire’s golden days died with Manuel. Following Manuel’s funeral, two of the empire’s most powerful generals being Manuel’s nephew Andronikos Kontostephanos who is the Megas Domestikos (Grand General) and Manuel’s first cousin Andronikos Angelos debate with each other about the empire now under the administration of the empress and her young son as they walk along Constantinople’s main street, the Mese. Both generals agree that the rule of the incompetent empress and her son will only make things worse especially since the empress is not well liked by the people as she is not only a Western Latin but a Norman, a historical enemy of the Byzantines. In the meantime, just shortly after Manuel had died instability has already been brewing in the empire now that there is talk of Manuel’s long-time enemy and cousin Andronikos Komnenos staging a coup to return to Constantinople and that a random Bulgarian warlord by the name of Asen keeps shouting as he walks through Constantinople’s streets about wanting to make his lands in Bulgaria independent from Byzantine rule.
The generals here simply ignore Asen and think he is a lunatic and thus Kontostephanos reminds Angelos of the event 4 years ago that almost killed both of them and Manuel, which was the Battle of Myriokephalon. The film then shifts back in time 4 years earlier to the catastrophic battle at Myriokephalon Pass in Asia Minor where Manuel who was still alive made it his intention to fully recapture Asia Minor from the Seljuk Turks by besieging the Seljuk capital Iconium in Southwest Asia Minor, however the Seljuk sultan Kilij Arslan II sued for peace but Manuel did not comply with it as his generals wanted him to continue. However, Manuel and his forces including allied forces from the Crusader Principality of Antioch, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Grand Principality of Serbia are ambushed at the pass and nearly wiped out to the last man but at least Manuel, Kontostephanos, and Angelos narrowly escape the battle alive.
The film then cuts back to the main timeline now in the year 1182 showing that the empress Maria of Antioch can barely keep her act together as she is constantly arguing with her stepdaughter Maria Komnene- daughter of Manuel I from his first marriage with Bertha of Sulzbach (d. 1159)- over the rule of young Alexios II.
Maria Komnene here feels betrayed with the birth of her stepbrother Alexios II and plainly blames her stepmother as she gave birth to him as after all the daughter Maria was supposed to succeed her father as empress with her supposed husband-to-be the King of Hungary Bela III as emperor, however the engagement between Maria Komnene and Bela III was broken off when Bela III became King of Hungary in 1172 as prior to that Bela was educated in Constantinople and betrothed to Manuel’s daughter thus he was set to inherit both Byzantium and Hungary but following his brother’s Stephen III’s death in 1172, Bela had to return to Hungary but would still remain a Byzantine ally while Maria later married the small-time Italian noble Renier de Montferrat in 1179. Following this, the film cuts to the generals Andronikos Kontostephanos and Andronikos Angelos now coming face-to-face with the dangerous man they are sent to stop, Manuel’s first cousin and enemy Andronikos Komnenos who they face off with at a field in Asia Minor not too far from Constantinople. Andronikos Komnenos then challenges the generals to single combat with the use of just their bare hands and despite being over 60-years-old Andronikos beats the two generals easily and therefore convinces both generals to defect to him and his cause. When word of the generals defecting to Andronikos reaches Constantinople, Maria Komnene and the empress Maria of Antioch again argue over it to the point that the empress does the petty thing of attempting to drown her stepdaughter as she is taking a bath only for the young emperor Alexios II to intervene and stop the fight.
Andronikos Komnenos then arrives in Constantinople now backed by Kontostephanos and Angelos and majority of the people who open the gates for him, and as Andronikos gives his speech the people are ever more thrilled that they celebrate so greatly that the celebrating leads them to storm into Constantinople’s Latin Quarter where they carry out the infamous 1182 Massacre of the Latins as a way to get back at the empress they so hated but also to celebrate the arrival of their savior which is Andronikos. Following the massacre, Andronikos is in fact shocked that the people spilled out so much blood killing their Latin (mostly Italian) brothers but he doesn’t condemn it as this act shows that the Byzantines are proud and will no longer give in to the demands of Western foreigners. In the meantime, a celebration is being held at Constantinople’s imperial Blachernae Palace with the empress, Maria Komnene, Alexios II and his new wife the young French princess Agnes, and Maria Komnene’s husband Renier in attendance, but little do they know that Andronikos had already bribed the kitchen staff to poison some of the drinks. Andronikos then storms in to the palace together with Kontostephanos and Angelos and as Maria of Antioch tries to fight back it is too late as both Renier and Maria Komnene drank the poisoned drinks and drop dead. As the young couple Alexios II and Agnes of France flee the scene, Andronikos arrests the empress Maria and locks her up in prison.
The film then cuts to a flashback 30 years earlier in the 1150s where both Manuel and Andronikos are much younger, and here Manuel as the emperor frames Andronikos for treason and sentences him to prison for life but Andronikos claims that he had no intention to overthrow Manuel and only said something about it as a joke. Andronikos is however sentenced to lifetime imprisonment and this is when he begins his lifelong grudge against Manuel, although Andronikos is seen to have escaped prison when a guard was not looking. After this, the scene shifts back to the main timeline in the 1180s where it is the empress Maria of Antioch who is now in prison while Andronikos comes in revealing to her that her son Alexios II signed her death sentence to her disbelief. True enough Andronikos was able to drug Alexios II in order to make him sign his mother’s death sentence to make it look legitimate, and although Maria tried to fight back, she is strangled to death by one of Andronikos’ henchmen by the use of a chain, after which Andronikos orders the henchman to dump Maria’s body in a nearby beach but to not get rid of young Alexios yet.
Following that, the scene moves to 1183 and here the people are gathered at the main square of Constantinople known as the Augustaion where they cheer as the young Alexios II above a platform announces to them that he is proclaiming his uncle Andronikos as his co-emperor, but obviously Andronikos is threatening him to do so by pointing a knife to his back. Below, the generals Kontostephanos and Angelos are among the crowd, and although they are still supporting Andronikos, here they both have second thoughts about it as they too know that Andronikos got Alexios II to have his mother executed therefore making him more dangerous. When Andronikos comes to meet them, both generals still pretend to show they are still completely loyal but Andronikos warns them that if they simply question him, they will be considered traitors. The two generals then again walk down Constantinople’s market area where they discuss their feelings towards Andronikos’ danger where Kontostephanos still feels that he needs to support Andronikos but Angelos feels enough is enough, therefore Angelos decides to flee Constantinople by boat together with his sons to one of the Crusader states of Outremer.
As both generals reach the harbor of Constantinople, they say goodbye as Angelos now plans to leave for the Levant with his 5 sons, although Angelos tells Kontostephanos that he will leave behind his youngest son Isaac as he is the most able out of his 6 sons in the way that the other 5 are plainly good for nothing. Angelos plans to leave his youngest son behind in order to take his place in serving the empire, and thus Kontostephanos is tasked with assisting Isaac. As Angelos gets into a boat, back in the palace Alexios II who is reading something begins thinking about his mother and executing her saying it was not his idea and that he was only drugged to do it. As Alexios is in deep thought, Andronikos interrupts him saying that Alexios will be with his mother again, and suddenly the same henchman Stephanos that strangled Empress Maria to death earlier that year does the same to Alexios strangling him again with a chain until suddenly events turn as the henchman Stephanos is cut down from behind and killed by Angelos’ youngest son Isaac while Kontostephanos with his troops rush in to the room now having fully turned against Andronikos and putting him under arrest.
This here is where history is altered just like how it was in chapter IX of Byzantine Alternate History, as in real history Alexios II was killed by being fully strangled to death while Andronikos fully seized the throne and married Alexios II’s very young wife Agnes of France. In the film, as Andronikos is put under arrest, he still fights back as even his two remaining henchmen had turned against him but at the end he is defeated when another soldier serving Kontostephanos catches and restrains him with his spear. As Andronikos is being restrained, he tries to justify himself saying that he is only doing what he is doing for the good of the empire and for it to be a strong one again with no foreign women or young boys running it, but Kontostephanos doesn’t spare him knowing that Andronikos only aims to plunge the empire into a dark totalitarian reign only to have revenge on Manuel. Andronikos however is not killed, instead Isaac Angelos gives him the most humiliating punishment of cutting off his hair and blinding him to disfigure his good-looking face. With Andronikos now disfigured, Alexios II who is spared reunites with his wife Agnes as well as with Kontostephanos and Isaac wherein Isaac swears he will train Alexios to be a stronger man.
The film then proceeds to a montage scene accompanied by a monologue narrated by Isaac Angelos who here is now in charge of training the young Alexios II in the ways of war. As Isaac is narrating this scene, Andronikos who has now been blinded and his hair cut off is paraded at Constantinople’s streets in humiliation as the people who just supported him in his rise to power have now turned against him by throwing things at him and shouting insults at his face.
Isaac too explains that even though Andronikos will be sent into exile and has no more means to return to power, the Massacre of the Latins instigated by his arrival the previous year has sent shockwaves across Europe reaching the Norman kingdom of Sicily and Southern Italy where their king has decided to declare war on the Byzantines by sending an army to invade Greece while the King of Hungary Bela III and Grand Prince of Serbia Stefan Nemanja who were Byzantine allies too have withdrawn their support for the empire when hearing of Andronikos’ take-over despite Andronikos having already been banished. With the empire now about to slip into chaos, Isaac trains Alexios II how to fight with a sword while the scene too shows Alexios literally growing from a boy to a man. As Isaac’s monologue ends, it is already 1185 and the Byzantine army together with the now grown-up Alexios II, Isaac, and Kontostephanos have set up camp in Thrace in order to strike back against the Norman invasion while the Norman army from Italy meanwhile had already breached in to Thessaloniki, the empire’s second city and had been carrying out such a brutal massacre of the population and a looting of the city’s treasures to exact revenge on the Byzantine people’s Massacre of the Latins back in 1182, however the Norman soldiers had turned out to not loot the city’s valuable items but instead just stole construction materials such as nails, screws, and tools. The film then cuts to the army camp where Alexios II is introduced to Alexios Branas, another general who is highly skilled and fierce in battle but shady as it is unclear who his loyalty is with. Branas reports about the Normans’ attack on Thessaloniki and that one division of the Normans is headed directly for Constantinople while Alexios asks him his suggested strategy but Branas mocks him still thinking of the emperor as a little boy until Isaac interrupts and says they should stop arguing as the Norman threat is growing larger. However, before the emperor and his generals come up with a strategy to beat the Normans, the same old Bulgarian warlord Asen who was last seen 5 years ago at the early part of the film returns and this time to the imperial tent asking the emperor to give the Bulgarians their independence in exchange for Asen providing some of his men to battle the Normans. Asen’s request though is not granted as before the emperor could decide, Isaac bullies him out of the tent by threatening to make Asen into a eunuch as Isaac was never really asking for any assistance anyway and he together with Kontostephanos still see Asen as an annoying thorn on their side. As Asen leaves, Kontostephanos develops the strategy wherein he would stay with the emperor and protect their camp, Isaac would launch an attack on Thessaloniki to recapture it, and Branas would lead the main army to locate the Norman forces in Thrace.
Following the camp scene, the film shifts to the Normans led by their general Count Baldwin now pillaging their way through Thrace right when Alexios Branas and his army locate them from above a hill. Branas then orders his men to charge at the Normans in order to catch them by surprise and true enough this tactic is successful but simultaneously over in the mountain city of Tarnovo in Bulgaria, Asen who was at first seen as a joke has now assembled his own warriors consisting of Bulgarians, Vlachs, Slavs, Cumans, and Pechenegs no longer intending to assist the Byzantines in battle but to declare Bulgaria independent from the empire.
As Asen elaborates on how the Byzantines mistreated him and keeps bringing up the issue of the Byzantines harshly taxing the Bulgarians only for them to not do anything in return to the Bulgarians, the Normans and Byzantines begin clashing with each other in a bloody battle at the field of Demetritzes in Thrace. Asen on the other hand continues fueling the rage of his people on how they are treated by the Byzantines like second class citizens and barbarians while also spreading propaganda about how God abandoned the Byzantines as Thessaloniki had fallen to the Normans to the point that Bulgaria has already declared independence behind the emperor’s back. Back in the field of Demetritzes, the Byzantine have gained the upper hand now surrounding the disorganized Norman troops while Branas himself defeats Count Baldwin in battle and decapitates Baldwin himself using his sword. Although the Byzantines have won a decisive victory over the Normans and thus putting an end to the 1185 Norman invasion, the victorious Branas makes his disloyalty to the emperor evident saying that he will raise his army in rebellion against the emperor after crushing the Bulgarian uprising that he just got word of. Back in Constantinople’s imperial palace, Alexios II gets word from Kontostephanos that Branas after defeating the Normans did not deal with the Bulgarian uprising but instead declared his intention to overthrow Alexios and take the throne, while Kontostephanos too brings Count Baldwin’s severed head which Branas sent as a message to threaten the emperor. Alexios II however here says that he has learned from all his past experiences believing he failed in everything and blames his mother’s death on his weakness and thus here he says he together with Isaac have come up with a plan to eliminate all the threats- namely Asen’s rebellion in Bulgaria, Branas’ own rebellion, and Andronikos who despite being blind and in exile is still continuing to threaten Alexios in thought- at the same time in a more discreet and systematic way all while Alexios is to settle peace with the Republic of Venice, a long-time enemy of the empire since his father’s reign.
The film then cuts to a flashback taking place sometime in the 1170s where Alexios again as a young boy is with his father Manuel I who was still alive and here during this point of his reign, he declares the Republic of Venice as an enemy for making money trading in Byzantine waters and not giving much back to the empire. Manuel then tells his young son to never trust the Venetians and thus makes Alexios see his men burning down a Venetian ship to fully show that Venice is the enemy.
The film then returns to the main timeline and now in 1187, Alexios II now grown-up does not follow his father’s advice here and decides to reconcile with Venice again, thus it shows here that Alexios II invited the Doge of Venice Orio Mastropiero and the pope Urban III himself to Constantinople to mediate peace where the reconciliation ceremony would take place in the Hagia Sophia. Meanwhile, as Alexios planned this event he was to be present in, he had already planned the systematic elimination of his enemies in different parts of the empire thus Isaac who is now Alexios’ right-hand-man was sent to Asen’s stronghold of Tarnovo in Bulgaria, Kontostephanos to Andronikos’ place of exile in the East Black Sea region, and a task force of the loyalist troops from the capital including the Varangian Guard force led by Conrad de Montferrat to defend the city’s walls from the rebel army of Branas which was reported to attack while the ceremony was to take place.
As Pope Urban III successfully convinces Alexios II to return to Venice their trading rights in Byzantine waters and to make all Venetians Roman citizens and for Doge Mastropiero to give 50% of Venice’s earnings trading in Byzantine waters back to the empire, each of the empire’s enemies fall one by one. Andronikos who although old, blind, and weak is assassinated by Kontostephanos in one strike being cut in the throat, in Bulgaria Isaac when pretending to negotiate with Asen cuts Asen down with his sword while Isaac’s aide too throws a spear directly hitting Asen’s brother and ruling partner Theodor, and outside Constantinople Conrad knocks Branas out of his horse and decapitates Branas which then makes the rebel army surrender seeing Branas’ head on display. Back in the Hagia Sophia, both Alexios II and Doge Mastropiero fully make peace with each other and even bow to each other showing that Byzantium and Venice are again at peace, otherwise both rulers would face the threat of excommunication if either one broke any of the peace terms while back in the Black Sea area Kontostephanos after killing Andronikos burns the house down to make it look like nothing had happened, after which Kontostephanos completely disappears hinting that he possibly retired. Some weeks later, it appears that all of Byzantium’s problems have been solved, although through bloodshed whereas Alexios II and Isaac play football with Branas’ severed head. Alexios’ wife the empress Agnes of France enters the room seeing Branas’ head on the floor and also knows of all the enemies having been eliminated, however she doesn’t seem happy about her husband getting rid of them all by bloody means. Before Alexios could clarify all his doings to his wife, he asks her to leave as he names Isaac as his successor in case Alexios dies. The film then ends with Isaac leaving the room and with a shot of Alexios sitting on his throne with his desk in front of him and the Komnenos imperial dynasty’s flag behind.
Alexios II Komnenos- He is the main protagonist of the film who is only 11 when the film begins in 1180. He is first a young boy without any experience who suddenly comes to power due to his father’s death. Despite being a purple-born ruler (Porphyrogennetos), his lack of experience and general weakness leads to his mother’s execution and he almost getting killed if not for Isaac Angelos and his loyalists saving his life. His near-death experience shapes him to be a strong yet ruthless ruler at such a young age and by the time the film finishes in 1187, he is already 18 and proves to be someone that cannot be messed around with otherwise they would end up as dead meat. In real history, the young ruler Alexios II at only 14 was killed off in 1183 by Andronikos Komnenos who then took over the throne, but since this film was a work of alternate history, Alexios survived and lived on to be the effective emperor himself. His character is voiced by Mario Puyat (follow him on Instagram @mariopuyatrewreplays) who usually plays roles similar to this in No Budget Films media being young men destined to rule which included Andronikos Palaiologos in No Budget Films’ Lego film War of the Sicilian Vespers: A Byzantine Epic (2020). For Alexios II’s character, Mario likens him to the protagonist of Dune Paul Atreides.
Andronikos Komnenos- As the main antagonist of the film, Andronikos (born 1118) is portrayed as handsome despite already in his 60s yet deceptive as other than being the estranged cousin of the late emperor Manuel I, he was known to be a conman with a very complex life as back in the 1150s he was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for plotting against his cousin the emperor Manuel, however using some tricks Andronikos escaped prison but developed a lifelong grudge against Manuel for unjustly putting him in prison.
The escaped Andronikos found himself in the Rus Principality of Halych (in Ukraine) but was discovered by Manuel sometime later and brought back to Byzantium in 1165 as Halych was allied with the Byzantines, thus Andronikos was fully pardoned. Andronikos however refused to recognize Bela III of Hungary who was Manuel’s heir then as the imperial heir, and thus Andronikos was banished from the empire and in this point in time, he traveled across the courts of the Middle East such as the Crusader states of Antioch and Jerusalem, the court of the Sultan of Syria Nur ad-din Zengi, and the Kingdom of Georgia. Andronikos however kept fleeing from place to place after causing trouble by seducing princesses from each place. By the time Manuel died in 1180, Andronikos was allowed back into the empire again and when hearing of instability in the imperial family as the unpopular empress Maria of Antioch was now in charge, he seized the opportunity and entered the capital backed by the people.
The film faithfully portrays Andronikos as he was depicted in history as a charming and cunning man who would use his charm and intellect to get everything his way, however since the film was a work of alternate history, Andronikos fell from power before he killed Alexios II and became emperor. In the film, Andronikos’ plot is discovered and right when Alexios II is about to be strangled to death, Andronikos is arrested and blinded with his hair cut off as well to humiliate him as his hair was what he was really defined by, and afterwards he was sent to exile somewhere in the East Black Sea area – although not specified in the film- where at the end of the film he is killed off under Alexios II’s orders. In real history, Andronikos’ plot succeeded and he ruled as emperor for the next 2 years until the people that previously supported him in 1182 turned against him in 1185 and tortured him to death. In the film he is voiced by Andre Martin (follow him on Instagram @travelsaroundmyhome) who imitated the voice of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars to give the character a more villainous vibe, as true enough Andronikos is something like a 12th century Emperor Palpatine. To learn more about Andronikos Komnenos, please check out this video here.
Maria of Antioch- The empress-regent and mother of the young emperor Alexios II Komnenos who was the wife of the late emperor Manuel I as well. Manuel I after the death of his first wife Bertha of Sulzbach married Maria of Antioch (born 1145)- the daughter of the former prince of Antioch Raymond de Poitiers (r. 1136-1149) and Constance of Antioch- in 1161 after searching for the perfect new wife, and Maria was someone to his liking as she was described as a tall and blonde beauty, like a true Norman.
Although they married, the couple did not produce a child until 1169 which was their son the future emperor Alexios II. With Manuel I’s death in 1180 Maria took over as regent for her son, but she lacked knowledge in running an empire while she was hated by her people mainly because of her foreign blood being a Western Latin, and more particularly a Norman which were historical enemies of the Byzantines. The unpopularity and incompetence of Maria led to the people to choose to instead back Andronikos Komnenos as their champion, and just like in real history, this film shows Maria being imprisoned and later executed by Andronikos’ orders in which the death sentence was signed by her son Alexios II who was drugged by Andronikos in order to do it. The film almost entirely follows what exactly happened to Maria in real history after Manuel’s death in 1180 except for the fact that she became a nun despite having many suitors after her husband’s death, which was omitted from the film to simplify it. Like in real history, the film shows Maria executed in prison, however history does not say in what means was she executed by except that in real history she was killed by the commander of the imperial guard and a eunuch while in prison unlike in the film where she is killed by Andronikos’ top henchman Stephanos who killed Alexios II in real history. It is also said that Maria was not strangled to death but instead put inside a sack and drowned, though in the film she was strangled to death in prison. Her character is voiced by Gen Maramba (follow her on Instagram @genmaramba) who usually voices characters like these being tragic female characters in other No Budget Films media.
Andronikos Kontostephanos- As the nephew of Manuel I- the son of his older sister Anna Komnene and a powerful general- Andronikos Kontostephanos (born 1132) had been serving in the Byzantine army since a young age and had an impressive track record as a soldier, admiral, politician, and at one point even the commander of the emperor’s Varangian Guard which was at this time made up of mostly Anglo-Saxon exiles from distant England.
Kontostephanos first came in to the picture as a young soldier in 1149 where he helped expel the Norman invasion of Greece then, and in 1167 he made a name for himself as the victorious general of Manuel’s campaigns against Hungary where Kontostephanos defeated the Hungarian army and their Serbian allies at the Battle of Sirmium which then led to the Byzantines annexing some lands in today’s Serbia and Bosnia and making the Kingdom of Hungary itself a vassal. Kontostephanos although later took part in the failed Byzantine-Crusader joint operation to invade Fatimid Egypt in 1169 which failed due to mistrust between the Byzantines and the Crusader King of Jerusalem Amalric, but in 1171 Kontostephanos again led the Byzantines to victory, this time against Venice. Being Manuel’s top general or Megas Domestikos, he joined Manuel at the disastrous Battle of Myriokephalon against the Seljuks in 1176 and although the Byzantines were defeated, he escaped the battle alive. When the film opens in 1180, Kontostephanos as the top general defects to Andronikos Komnenos to save his position only to later learn he would be deceived and thus he turns against Andronikos before it is too late. In real history, Kontostephanos did defect to Andronikos but at the end would plot against Andronikos following Alexios II’s murder believing he was deceived by Andronikos, however his plot failed and Kontostephanos and his sons were blinded by Andronikos and never to be heard from again. In the film however, the veteran war hero general Kontostephanos turns against Andronikos right when Alexios II is about to be killed, thus Kontostephanos would continue to loyally serve the new emperor Alexios II. In the film he is voiced by the film’s co-producer Carlos Francisco (follow him on Instagram @thecarlosfrancisco) who portrays Kontostephanos as a seasoned yet foul-mouthed general who had seen so much in his lifetime, thus affecting his personality and outlook on life.
Andronikos Doukas Angelos- In the film, the storyline of the general Andronikos Angelos (born 1122) who was a first cousin of the late emperor Manuel I Komnenos was portrayed very much accurately as to how history describes him. Angelos in the film is seen as the older general as compared to his closest friend and nephew Kontostephanos who is 10 years younger. Angelos is seen as a high-ranking general not really because of his military feats but because he is a member of the imperial family being the late emperor’s first cousin, and therefore is not very much competent as a general but is more so a politician.
The film shows him fight beside Manuel at the disastrous Battle of Myriokephalon in 1176 and surviving it like he did in real history, however the film does not show his other failed attack on the Seljuks in 1179. Just like in real history, Angelos in the film defects to Andronikos following Manuel I’s death in 1180 but in the film, he realizes before Kontostephanos does that Andronikos has fooled them into making them submit to him or be destroyed, thus Angelos leaves the scene midway through the film by escaping Constantinople with his 5 sons to the Crusader states of Outremer where he is to retire. In real history though unlike in the film, it wasn’t as simple as Angelos and Kontostephanos defecting to Andronikos after losing one fight to Andronikos, rather in reality the forces of Angelos lost to Andronikos’ rebel army in a minor battle and following that Angelos and later Kontostephanos defected to Andronikos’ side. In real history too, Angelos flees the empire when Andronikos had already taken over the empire in order to not be executed or blinded by Andronikos and in real history too, all 6 sons including the youngest one Isaac fled with him to Outremer. Angelos died in Acre which was part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem sometime in 1185, but in the film, he is never mentioned again after he fled which hints that he could have also died in 1185. His character is voiced by Igi Rollan (follow him on Instagram @igianime15).
Isaac Angelos- The 6th and youngest son of the general Andronikos Angelos, and thus a second cousin of the emperor Alexios II.
In real history, Isaac Angelos (born 1156) only becomes prominent in 1185 when the people switch support to him against the emperor Andronikos I Komnenos, thus finishing off the Komnenos Dynasty and establishing the Angelos Dynasty. In the film however, Isaac’s story is told completely different from his story in reality, as rather than becoming emperor, in the film Isaac ends up becoming his second cousin the emperor Alexios II’s most trusted advisor and mentor who trains Alexios in fighting skills. At the end, it seems that Alexios II and Isaac have worked very well together in running the empire especially since Isaac loyally served Alexios in carrying out his dirty work, thus Isaac at the end is named as Alexios’ successor. In the film, Isaac is the character I voiced, and I chose to portray him with a modern-day sounding voice to make it appear that Isaac is more or less someone modern day people can relate to.
Manuel I Komnenos- The late and great Byzantine emperor (r. 1143-1180) who is already dead during the main timeline of the film, thus he only appears in 3 flashback scenes first being the disastrous Battle of Myriokephalon in 1176, then a scene in the 1150s where he sentences his cousin Andronikos to a lifetime imprisonment, and lastly in the 1170s where he reminds his young son Alexios that the Venetians are the enemy. Additionally, Manuel appears in the opening montage narrated by Alexios II as the main focus of it showing that he was proud and arrogant as emperor but his ultimate defeat to the Seljuks at Myriokephalon was his downfall and led him to a deep depression wherein he died just 4 years later at the age of 62. The Battle of Myriokephalon scene was the one that put the most emphasis to Manuel’s character in the film, however for the film this scene was made to look simpler compared to how it was in real history as in reality there were more generals assisting Manuel in this battle and not only Kontostephanos and Angelos. His character is voiced by Angelo Lacson (follow him on Instagram @angelolacson_).
Maria Komnene- Being the daughter of Emperor Manuel I with his first wife Bertha of Sulzbach, Maria (born 1152) too was a purple-born imperial princess (Porphyrogenita) the same way her younger half-brother Alexios was.
Because of being born first, Maria sees herself as the true heir to the empire and not her young half-brother as after all she was already set to inherit the empire due to being betrothed to Bela III of Hungary, however the marriage never happened as Bela came to rule Hungary in 1172 and Manuel by 1169 already had a son being Alexios, thus Maria ended up marrying the smalltime Italian noble Renier de Montferrat in 1179. In the film, Maria is constantly bitter about her stepmother Maria of Antioch and more so bitter about the existence of her half-brother Alexios II and thus she is seen always arguing with her stepmother to the point that Maria of Antioch almost killed her by drowning her in the bath only for young Alexios to intervene and stop the argument. In real history though, the rivalry between Maria Komnene and her stepmother Maria of Antioch was so much more intense that Maria Komnene had her own faction that violently fought the empress’ supporters while in real history Maria Komnene was the one who even invited the old foe, being Andronikos Komnenos to Constantinople to spite the empress, however all of this was omitted from the film to further simplify it as true enough it was already confusing to have two Marias in the film! Like in real history, Maria as well as her husband Renier meet their ends being poisoned by Andronikos, however in real history it is not said where the couple died but, in the film, both Maria Komnene and Renier die at a function in the palace where both immediately drop dead after drinking a glass of poisoned wine. In the film, Maria Komnene is voiced by Jen Tarnate (follow her on Instagram @jentarnate) which is her first ever voicing role for No Budget Films media, here she portrays Maria as bitter and sarcastic with a very modern voice.
Asen- The Bulgarian warlord who history remembers as one of the founders of the 2nd Bulgarian Empire better known also as Ivan Asen I, who makes quite an appearance in the film. Although Asen’s story is much more complicated considering that his family’s origins are still quite unclear and so is his age, in the film he is shown as a rather annoying side character at first when he first appears in Constantinople’s streets in 1180 asking for Bulgarian independence but is not minded and again asks for the same thing in 1185 from the emperor Alexios II himself but is not taken seriously and turned down.
Asen however is later shown to actually mean what he is saying when he raises an army in Tarnovo and declares Bulgaria independent from the empire by giving out such a charismatic speech that gives him so much support from the Bulgarian, Vlach, Slav, Cuman, and Pecheneg population of Byzantine Bulgaria who are tired of oppressive Byzantine taxes and want to rule a state of their own. In the film, Asen together with his rebellion is crushed in 1187 when Isaac Angelos assassinates him when pretending to negotiate with him, however in real history Asen together with his brothers really did lead a rebellion against Byzantine rule beginning 1185 which at the end succeeded as the Byzantines failed to crush it. In real history, Isaac Angelos is the Byzantine emperor when Asen’s rebellion expands and thus the 2nd Bulgarian Empire was born while Asen in real history was ironically assassinated too, not by the Byzantines but by a disgruntled Bulgarian boyar (aristocrat) in 1196. In the film, the Bulgarian warlord Asen is voiced by Jon Cabrera (follow him on Instagram @hangkeljon).
Alexios Branas- A seasoned Byzantine general who although may be skilled in battle while very aggressive towards his enemies too, he clearly lacks loyalty as his true intention really is to seize the throne for himself. In real history, Branas was known to be one of the only generals that remained loyal to Andronikos I Komnenos when Andronikos was emperor (1183-1185) and when Isaac Angelos became emperor from 1185 onwards, Branas did not really trust the new emperor who he saw as weak which led him to rebel after his decisive victory over the Normans in 1185 at the Battle of Demetritzes, though in real history Branas met his end in 1187 being beheaded when losing in a duel to Isaac’s lieutenant Conrad de Montferrat. In the case of the film, with Andronikos never becoming emperor, Branas’ purpose is to continue where Andronikos left off and do what Andronikos failed to do in ruling the empire which turned out to be his reason to put a claim on the throne, as true enough Branas was a strongman type of general who disliked “weak” rulers like Alexios II or Isaac Angelos. In the film, Branas is depicted as tough yet shady and untrustworthy which makes him take the place of Andronikos Komnenos as the main villain in the second half of the film. A lot of his story too is accurately depicted in the film such as him leading the Byzantine army to victory against the Normans in 1185 as well as his death in 1187 where he is killed off by loyalist troops outside Constantinople’s walls by Conrad de Montferrat as well who decapitated him. In real history, the severed head of Branas was kicked by Isaac Angelos like a football while in this case Isaac and Alexios II play football with his head at the end of the film. In the film, Branas is voiced by Manskee Nascimento (follow him on Instagram @manskeemusicmotoringmunchies) which is his first ever voicing role for No Budget Films media, here he portrays Branas with a sinister sounding voice making Branas one of the few characters in the film to have an old-fashioned accent as the rest of the characters sound very much modern.
Agnes of France- The daughter of King Louis VII of France (r. 1137-1180) who marries the young imperial heir Alexios, son of Manuel I Komnenos in 1180 shortly before the deaths of Manuel I and her father in which the latter died in the same year too.
Being only 9-years-old when arriving in Constantinople when marrying the 11-year-old Alexios in 1180, Agnes hardly knows anything about the world and not a single word in the Greek language the Byzantines spoke. With Manuel dead in 1180, Agnes already becomes the empress with her 11-year-old husband Alexios already the Byzantine emperor, although due to her young age Agnes does not do any duties required of her yet. In the film, Agnes first appears at the imperial function where Maria Komnene suddenly drops dead in 1182 where Agnes and Alexios flee the scene as Andronikos takes over the palace. The only time in the film Agnes speaks is after Alexios’ near-death experience in 1183 where she asks if he’s alright and at the ending scene of the movie where she wonders if her husband was behind all the recent murders. Agnes also appears in the scene at the Hagia Sophia attending the ceremony where Alexios makes peace with Venice, although she is only in the background without any speaking lines. In real history though, following Alexios II’s murder in 1183 she marries the usurper Andronikos who was already 65 while she was only 12 just as a way to secure Andronikos’ legitimacy since as part of Byzantine customs, he had to marry the wife of the former emperor to be the legitimate emperor. Agnes in real history remains to be Andronikos’ wife despite there being no chemistry or attraction between them due to the very large age gap, and following Andronikos’ fall in real history in 1185, Agnes survives and lives all the way up to some point in 1220. The Lego character of Agnes meanwhile appears to have hair with blue and red highlights which definitely did not exist in Byzantine times but was added just for a touch of fun. Her character is voiced by Justinianus Byzantinus (follow her on Instagram @justinianusthegreat) who is a Byzantine history enthusiast and it is her first time ever to voice for No Budget Films media, though she also happens to be the co-writer of the film.
Count Baldwin- The Norman general from Southern Italy who leads the 1185 Norman invasion of Byzantine Greece including the brutal Sack of Thessaloniki. Baldwin is present at the Battle of Demetritzes in Thrace where he leads the Normans against the Byzantine army that attacked them by surprise but at the end, he is defeated in a duel by Alexios Branas and decapitated with his head sent to the emperor Alexios II as a threat message from Branas. In real history though, Baldwin was only taken as a prisoner of war when the Byzantines defeated the Normans at Demetritzes and therefore not executed. He is voiced by Francis Ventura (follow him on Instagram @cisven).
Orio Mastropiero- During the events of the film, he is the Doge (leader) of the Republic of Venice which is at odds with Byzantium until Alexios II manages to reconcile with them by inviting Orio himself to Constantinople where peace is mediated between them by the pope Urban III.
Orio Mastropiero was Doge of Venice from 1178 until his death in 1192, and although history doesn’t say what his age was, in the film he appears to be old but not too old, while on the other hand his reign as Doge of Venice was very much unremarkable as he himself was not a very competent or strong-willed ruler unlike his successor Enrico Dandolo- who as an old and blind man had a lifelong desire to destroy the Byzantines- which definitely shows that Orio was willing to make peace with Byzantium in the film. In reality, Byzantium and Venice following the conflict between them that began with Manuel I declaring war on Venice in 1171 was never resolved and it only culminated in disaster in 1204 when the army of the 4th Crusade brought by Venice now under Doge Enrico Dandolo sacked and captured Constantinople. Thus, the appearance of Venice and their reconciliation with Byzantium in the film was done as a way to prevent the tragic 4th Crusade of 1204 from happening. Doge Orio Mastropiero is voiced by Emanuele Rizzardi (follow him on Instagram @ultimopaleologoemanuelerizz), author of 3 Byzantine era historical novels and someone I interviewed in my blogs before, while for the film he happens to be a guest voicer, though the only thing he says in the entire movie is “I do” in Italian when agreeing to the peace terms with Byzantium which the pope asks of him to comply with.
Pope Urban III- Just like the Doge of Venice Orio Mastropiero, Pope Urban III who was pope from 1185 up to his death later in 1187 makes an appearance in the film only at the scene where the Byzantine emperor and Doge of Venice reconcile at the Hagia Sophia wherein Urban III mediates the peace by asking both the emperor and doge to comply with certain terms otherwise face the threat of immediate excommunication if any of them break any of the terms just once. In the film only, Urban III makes the bold move of going to Constantinople being the first pope to set foot in Constantinople since the early 8th century, though in real history none of these events happened and Venice and Byzantium never made peace. The year Urban III comes to Constantinople in the film is 1187 which happens to also be the same year Urban III died from shock after hearing that the Crusaders were defeated by the new power of Saladin at the Battle of Hattin and that Jerusalem had also fallen to Saladin, though this does not appear in the film as Urban III died in October of that year while the film ended possibly in around July before both Hattin and the Fall of Jerusalem happened. His character is voiced by artist Achilies Khan (follow him on Instagram @alexander_the_great_325) who also happens to be a guest voicer in the film, and when playing the pope, he was also one of the only few characters to speak with an old-fashioned accent that he in fact even blended in some Italian and Latin words into his dialogue which he in fact requested to do.
At the same time, the film featured a couple more characters with their own voice actors such as the Italian knights in the service of Isaac Angelos which is Conrad de Montferrat who in the film was the one who restrained Andronikos in 1183 as Isaac cut his hair off and blinded him, fought with Branas against the Normans in 1185, and decapitated Branas in 1187. After his service to Byzantium, Conrad becomes the king of the exiled Kingdom of Jerusalem from 1190 until his death in 1192, but this no longer appears in the film, and in the film, he is voiced by artist Daniel de Cervantes (follow him on Instagram @amdanielito) in which this is his first ever voicing role for No Budget Films media. Another historical character who appears in the film is Isaac Angelos’ maternal uncle Theodore Kastamonites who in real history becomes Isaac’s top advisor in his time as emperor, though in the film it is never said that he is Theodore Kastamonites but instead viewers would only know him as a merchant in Constantinople’s market selling gems from India and later he is seen joining Isaac as his aide in Bulgaria to kill off Asen where Theodore was the one who threw a spear which struck and killed Asen’s brother Theodor; in the film Theodore Kastamonites is voiced by Twitch streamer Miguel Abarentos who also voiced the Varangian Guard in the flashback scene guarding Andronikos’ cell. In the market scene where Theodore is present, there are two other merchants with extra speaking lines; one selling silks who also appears in the earlier market scene voiced as well by Igi Rollan and the other merchant who appears in the second market scene selling spices who is voiced by Felipe Chuidian (follow him on Instagram @felipechui10). On the other hand, the other character I voiced was Andronikos’ main henchman Stephanos who strangled the empress to death and later tried strangling Alexios II to death but was killed by Isaac Angelos, and the only line he has is spoken as he is about to kill Alexios II. The other extra voice over lines in the film are the mob chants in Greek which were voiced by myself, Igi, Carlos, as well as Geno Roy (follow him on Instagram @roy_geno) during the scenes where the people cheer for Andronikos; the Italian screams shouted by the victims of the 1182 Massacre of the Latins which were voiced by myself, Mario, and Fabiana Mariosdottir (follow her on Instagram @aspassoperleuropa); and lastly the Bulgarian mob chants of Asen’s warriors during the scene where Asen proclaims Bulgarian independence which were voiced by myself, Carlos, and Igi. The Greek lines used for the mob chants included “Nika” meaning “conquer” as a reference to the famous and bloody 6th century Nika Riot of Constantinople, and the other one being a Greek phrase meaning “long live emperor Andronikos”, while the Italian screams were simply shouts crying out for help, and in Bulgarian the phrase was simply “long live Bulgaria”.
Additionally, a number of other historical figures appeared as Lego figures in the film, but had no speaking lines. These included Maria Komnene’s husband Renier de Montferrat who died seconds before she did when drinking poisoned wine at the function in the imperial palace, the King of Hungary Bela III and Grand Prince of Serbia Stefan Nemanja who appear at the montage scene being narrated by Isaac Angelos at the middle of the film who happen to be the famous cameos in the film, and Asen’s brother Theodor-Peter Asen who is killed off by Theodore Kastamonites at the climax scene. In real history, both Bela III and Stefan Nemanja cut ties with Byzantium after Manuel I’s death but returned their support for Byzantium by the time Isaac II Angelos was emperor (1185-1195), while Theodor-Peter Asen ruled Bulgaria alongside his brother Asen and was the sole ruler of the new Bulgaria from Asen’s death in 1196 to his own death in 1197. Another historical character too that made an appearance in the film but with no speaking lines was the Patriarch of Constantinople Niketas II who was patriarch in 1187, and in the film, he appears only in the scene at the Hagia Sophia where he joins Pope Urban III in mediating peace between Alexios II and Doge Orio Mastropiero of Venice but does not speak a single word. Originally, in the script, Niketas II was to say exactly every line the pope was saying but in Greek, but since this would make the film longer in running time, his lines were cut out when the script was put into action.
House Komnenos Filmmaking Process
Back in July of 2021, I published the 9th chapter of my Byzantine Alternate history series (read it here) which took place in the 12th century. Each of the 12 centuries in Byzantine history (4th-15 centuries) got their own chapter in the series with each having a twist to events in history in order to create a different outcome. Chapter IX of the series was thus the chapter for the 12th century story of the Byzantine Empire and the story’s purpose was to alter the events of the turbulent end of the 12th century in order to prevent the devastating 4th Crusade of 1204 that captured and sacked Constantinople. In order to prevent that tragedy from happening, in chapter IX the legitimate emperor Alexios II Komnenos survives an attempt on his life by the usurper Andronikos Komnenos, and thus he continued to rule the empire for a much longer time.
In real history, this was not the case as Alexios II was really killed off in 1183 and thus his uncle Andronikos seized the throne and turned the empire into a paranoid totalitarian state until his own downfall 2 years later (1185) when the people turned on him and lynched him to death while Isaac Angelos took over as emperor but was not entirely competent. In real history, the once stable Byzantine Empire further unraveled in the reign of Isaac II Angelos (1185-1195) as the Normans attempted to invade but were at least expelled, the Bulgarians broke free from the empire, and the Crusader state of Jerusalem fell to the new Islamic power of Saladin which led to the 3rd Crusade being launched that was not successful as well and Byzantium’s image was further stained especially with how they distrusted the armies of the 3rd Crusade. The reign of Isaac II further destabilized the empire with so many military rebellions left and right and the Bulgarian rebellion growing stronger, however right when Isaac was to put down the Bulgarian rebellion of the Asen brothers in 1195, he failed to do so as his own older brother Alexios being backed by the aristocrats betrayed and blinded him and as the new emperor, Alexios III cancelled Isaac’s expedition to crush the Bulgarian rebellion.
In the meantime, tensions between Byzantium and Venice were still at an all-time high and with Isaac II overthrown and imprisoned, his son Alexios was broken out of prison and later found himself in Venice where the 4th Crusade was launched, and although it was aimed to finish off what the 3rd Crusade failed to do which was to recapture Jerusalem, the intervention of Isaac’s son Alexios and his arrival in Venice led to the 4th Crusade being diverted to instead attack Constantinople. Long story short, at the end both Isaac II and his son Alexios died and Constantinople had fallen to the 4th Crusade’s army only to be recovered by the Byzantines 57 years later (1261). Now as part of my plan, one out of the 12 chapters of the series was to be made into a Lego film for my channel No Budget Films, and at the end this chapter was chapter IX. The reason to why it was chapter IX out of all the chapters that became a Lego film was because this one seemed the most practical to be made as a Lego film as the story seemed straightforward and battle scenes were especially not too ambitious while the climax of this chapter being the alternate take on history where Alexios II survives and continues ruling and thus the catastrophic turn of events at the end of the pretty much stable 12th century do not happen seemed to be the most perfect to be made into a Lego film. Since the climax part of chapter IX had a perfect amount of balance between epic battles, suspense, drama, and politics, these reasons too made it the best choice for the story that would be made into a Lego film as the rest of the chapters as well would either be too ambitious in battle scenes or had too much still moments and talking.
Of course, chapter IX was not the only chapter in the series taken into consideration to be made into a Lego film, the other one was chapter II which took place in the 5th century and its alternate twist in history was to prevent the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. However, when torn between turning the 5th or 12th century into a Lego film, I asked some people I knew which would be a better story, and at the end everyone said the 12th century was better; and this was when Carlos Francisco agreed to co-produce the film. I too thought the same as for one the 12th century was very much closer to the timeline of my other Lego Byzantine films which featured events in the 13th century that came after including the tragic 4th Crusade of 1204, the Byzantine Reconquest of Constantinople in 1261 which was the setting of my other film Summer of 1261 (2019), and the War of the Sicilian Vespers of 1282 that involved Byzantium in it which was the setting of my other film War of the Sicilian Vespers (2020). Since my previous films were set in the 13th century with a few others in the 10th century being The Rise of Phokas (2019) and its follow-up short clip Killing a Byzantine Emperor (2019), I thought it would be best to cover a period between the two eras my previous films were set in, therefore the 12th century would be the best as a film in that period would serve as a prequel to my 13th century set films. Although since this new film was to be based on one of my alternate history stories, it turned out it wouldn’t be related to any previous No Budget Films movies of the past and therefore it had to be standalone movie, as the ones I made before that were set in the 13th century really followed events of real history without changing the outcome of things, and since the film would be based on an alternate history story with a different outcome as to what happened in history, the film would end up becoming a standalone piece.
Additionally, I also thought the 12th century would be the best time period to make a Lego film out of because in the past, the imperial dynasty of the Byzantine Empire that I kept on covering was the Palaiologos Dynasty which was the main focus of my 13th century films and an entire 9-part audio-epic series I also made for my channel last year covering the entire story of this dynasty ending with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, however I wanted to experiment by trying something new, therefore I chose the 12th century in order to cover a different imperial dynasty being the Komnenos which came before the Palaiologos. Now once I decided on doing chapter IX and the 12th century as the subject matter for my new film, I wrote the script for it from November to December of 2021 and basically based the script on the climax part of chapter IX, while in January of this year 2022 I further revised the script before filming began later that month.
Basically, the script was almost entirely based on that particular alternate history chapter but since it was based on real historical events, the historian that served as a major primary source for the creation of the film’s script was Niketas Choniates (1155-1217) who basically wrote down almost all the events of 12th century Byzantium, although the scene of the Normans’ attack on Thessaloniki was based on the writings of the Bishop of Thessaloniki then Eustathios (1115-1195) who witnessed this particular event himself. Additionally, when I was putting together ideas before crafting the script, I had asked my fellow Byzantine history enthusiast friend Justinianus Byzantinus for ideas on particularly what locations in Constantinople should be used for the film and what activities should characters be doing, thus for doing her part in this she was credited in the film as a co-writer aside from being the voicer for Agnes of France. At the same time too, the story for this film “House Komnenos” was made to be as realistic as possible compared to the past No Budget Films movies, so therefore the story did not include fantasy elements like ghosts of past characters and characters entering parallel dimensions, thus the only fantasy element in the film’s story was the pope going himself to Constantinople to negotiate peace between Byzantium and Venice which was something that was very unlikely to happen especially in the 12th century.
As for the process of filming, before I even began, I assembled all the Lego characters and sets which took some time as I had to decide too on which Lego figures would fit best for their respective characters. Now basically, I haven’t done an actual Lego film with filming Lego characters and stop-motion sequences in 2 years, ever since filming “War of the Sicilian Vespers” in 2020 which was a very ambitious film in the process. However, the filming for this film “House Komnenos” had turned out to not be as ambitious as the process for filming the Sicilian Vespers film, however since I haven’t filmed a large-scale Lego film like this in 2 years, it turned out to be quite a difficult task to film this one, as true enough for the whole of 2021 I did not make any Lego film that required many sets and stop-motion sequences as for the entire year all I did for my channel were narrated audio-epics that only used images as visuals, thus it felt odd returning to filming large scale Lego films with different set designs and stop-motion again. As for the Lego sets that I used, I basically recycled character parts and sets from my previous films except tweaked them a bit, and as to make them look as if they came from the 12th century, I printed out Byzantine flags with the Komnenos imperial symbol- a yellow flag with an outline of a black eagle- together with print-outs of my own Byzantine themed art from the past months which were used as Easter eggs for the film. For the images that were to be used as images on display in the background, I carefully chose them, thus I made sure they depicted images of past Byzantine emperors before the 12th century and not those that came after like the Palaiologos emperors or more so things from beyond the Byzantine Empire’s time.
For some scenes that required more intricate backgrounds that could not be made using Lego pieces, namely the Hagia Sophia’s interiors I used a large printed out image of it to serve as the background for the scene, to particularly indicate it is set inside the Hagia Sophia, while cotton with red paint substituted as blood for when it was needed and strips of blue paper for water. As for the Lego characters and sets used, since Lego does not produce anything Byzantine, I simply went for using character parts that belong to medieval Lego characters such as pieces from the Lego Lord of the Rings sets for certain characters like Manuel I Komnenos, Andronikos Kontostephanos, and Andronikos Angelos as the Lego medieval sets including the LOTR sets are the closest Lego has to Byzantine sets. The rest of the pieces used for characters were simply recycled from the pieces used for characters from previous films such as the body and hair piece used for Empress Maria of Antioch which had already been used in past No Budget Films Byzantine media and the outfit of Manuel I which had already been used as the outfit of Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos (r. 1261-1282) before in the “Summer of 1261” and “War of the Sicilian Vespers” films whereas the signature hair piece of Andronikos Komnenos was already used in the past as the hair piece of Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas (r. 963-969) in previous No Budget Films media.
As for the Lego character of Alexios II he was simply made to look like a young person as true enough he was only in his teens when he was emperor while for Isaac Angelos, his appearance was made to resemble what the historian of his time Niketas Choniates describes him to look like by having reddish-brown hair, however the appearance of Isaac in the film got a bit of criticism mostly because the outfit he had in the film being something gray looked too drab for Byzantine clothes which were more lavish than that especially for people of high status like him, although the outfit Isaac was wearing in film happened to be a piece of hunting attire. The Lego figure of the general Alexios Branas on the other hand turns out to wear the armor piece of Din Djarin, the Mandalorian from Star Wars which was put in as a Star Wars Easter egg while for the Lego character of Maria Komnene, she appears to have the black and green outfit of the character Hella from Marvel’s Thor as again it looked quite similar to something in the Byzantine era but not quite because again there are no Lego Byzantine figures; however the second outfit Maria Komnene wears at the banquet scene where she drops dead from the poison being a gold backless dress is not at all accurate but was just for style purposes. The character of Agnes of France on the other hand was made to look young and edgy with highlighted hair despite it having not existed in Byzantine times, though the outfit she wears is the Lego piece used for medieval women from medieval sets consisting of a white shift shirt and a leather vest, whereas Asen on the other hand was made to look like a generic Lego medieval warrior and his Bulgarian warriors basically used Lego pieces used for generic ancient/ medieval warriors. The only Lego characters in the film with a custom appearance was Pope Urban III who had a custom-made paper cut-out papal miter while the Patriarch Niketas II was made to wear all black like what the Orthodox clergymen wear.
The pieces for the Byzantine soldiers in the film meanwhile were simply Lego medieval soldiers in black armor which were the ones used for the Varangian Guard troops while the Lego medieval soldiers with scale armor and the Lego figures with the bodies of the Ancient Greek soldiers’ body armor were used for the rest of the Byzantine army, however the famous Byzantine Cataphract cavalry unit never made an appearance in the film, while for the Norman soldiers all of them were the Lego medieval soldiers in blue uniforms. Basically, since there are no Lego sets that exactly depict the Byzantines, as a way to make the film more authentic in appearance, again the printed-out flags were used to make it seem like it is set in the 12th century Byzantine Empire while other flags seen in the film were those of the Principality of Antioch, Kingdom of Hungary, Principality of Serbia, Republic of Venice, and the Norman Kingdom of Italy.
As for the filming process meanwhile, this was the first ever No Budget Films movie to be filmed using the Nikon Z6 digital camera, and a lot of different types of lights too were used depending on the scenes, while the filming process took place from January to February of 2022. Since the film had so many locations which were supposedly locations within Constantinople or places around the empire at that time, the filming process was long and scenes too were not filmed every day. Overall, the movie was filmed over a course of 13 full days in total and it was a very tedious process especially with the constant shifting of sets as the movie featured so many scenes and more so tedious with the stop-motion sequences especially for battle scenes. The filming technique then that was used for filming the movie was in filming scenes per location and not according to the script as it was more convenient that way. All scenes were filmed indoors using Lego sets only with the exception of one scene depicting ocean waves which was true enough filmed in an actual beach, though this only appears as a vision the young Alexios II is experiencing. Additionally, the film also used the hand-drawn Constantinople background for establishing shots, which had been in use for No Budget Films media since its earliest days in 2015 and had been used for every Byzantine set film since then, however for this film the shots of this background were simply recycled shots from previous No Budget Films Byzantine media.
Filming for the movie was completed by February of 2022, however the editing did not immediately begin when the filming was completed as by early March of 2022 I completed and released another Byzantine audio-epic which was a 63-minute summary of the entire history of the Byzantine Empire (watch it here). The editing process for the film then began later on in March 2022 and was a process that lasted an entire 7 weeks. For the editing, the software I used was my usual one Adobe Premiere Pro which I used for all my Byzantine history audio epics and was first used for “War of the Sicilian Vespers” in 2020. For the editing process of the film, the first step was in organizing all the video clips and putting them into the editing timeline in accordance to the script and following that the recording of the voices. For this film, half of the voice cast were recorded directly using a Zoom H1N recorder while the other half sent their voice recordings through messenger. The longest part of the editing process though was putting in the voice recordings of the characters and the sound effects as the film contained a wide variety of them. Following the voices and sound effects, the soundtracks were added in as well as the color correction to further enhance the visuals of the film, and the last step was adding in the credits. For the editing of the film, the style that was used was one with fast cuts, so therefore there were very few scenes with long dialogues while cross-cutting was used a lot where one scene is simultaneously happening with another one and such scenes in the film that had this editing style was the 1182 Massacre of the Latins which showed that scene at the same time as the empress Maria of Antioch in her bath; then the Battle of Demetritzes between the Byzantines and the Normans which showed the scene cross-cutting to Asen declaring Bulgarian independence; and lastly the scene where Alexios II agrees to make peace with Venice in the Hagia Sophia and while he says yes to the terms said by the pope, every time he says yes an enemy of his is slain in a different part of the empire, thus this scene imitated the climax scene of the film The Godfather (1972) where the enemies are killed one-by-one, and true enough the climax of chapter IX of Byzantine Alternate History was written that way.
As for the soundtracks, this film basically recycled a lot of soundtracks used in previous No Budget Films media which were either from the Assassin’s Creed game series, Total War game series, Star Wars films, and so much more, though this film being No Budget Films’ first international collaboration project used 3 instrumental soundtracks from the Byzantine rock metal band Porphyra of fellow Byzantine content creator BillyChrissochos (follow him on Instagram @billy_chrissochos) who I also interviewed for another article before together with author Emanuele Rizzardi who had a guest voicing role in the film too as Doge Orio Mastropiero. On the other hand, with this film being an international collab project too, fellow Byzantine history Youtuber Byzansimp (follow on Instagram @byzansimp) and the creators of Byzantine Tales (follow on Instagram @byzantine_tales) who make Byzantine graphic novels, particularly artist Chrysa Sakel (follow her on Instagram @chrysasakel) helped in translating some lines into Greek, particularly the crowd noises cheering for Andronikos. One of the last steps of the filmmaking process then was creating the poster, and for the poster I chose to put a map of the Byzantine Empire during Manuel I’s reign in the 12th century to already point out it is set there while the characters used for the poster were the 6 leading characters Alexios II, Andronikos Komnenos, Maria of Antioch, Andronikos Kontostephanos, Andronikos Angelos, and Isaac Angelos while the Byzantine eagle and a faded finishing touch was added to give it a more authentic look. For the font used for the film’s title, I used the same one I used for my previous Byzantine Lego films which is the Morris Roman font while the slogan for the film Deus ex Machina was used as a hint to what the film is about as at the end it was this kind of situation for Alexios II who was miraculously saved by a twist of events as he was about to be killed.
Lastly, the title “House Komnenos” was only decided later on before the editing process began as I couldn’t think of the film’s title yet until I asked my followers on Instagram through a poll whether “Komnenos” or “House Komnenos” would be a better title, and at the end, everyone went for the latter one. The editing process was completed on May 5, 2022 and was uploaded first on Youtube for private viewing only and first shared on my Patreon page on May 7, then it was made available to the public on May 11. The reason to why the film was released to the public not right after it was completed was because the specific date of May 11 was a special occasion in the case of Byzantine history, being the anniversary of the founding of Constantinople as the imperial capital which was founded on May 11, 330 while it is also the day the most influential Byzantine emperor Justinian I the Great (r. 527-565) was born in 482.
Reception and Marketing for the Film
“House Komnenos: A Byzantine Epic” was undoubtedly a record breaker in No Budget Films’ 7-year history in the sense that it got the greatest number of views within just days after being released to the public. Now just over 3 weeks after its release, it has over 1,700 views thus making this the first time a No Budget Films movie had this number of views within just weeks after its release. This film too within just about 3 weeks has over 150 likes and has received mostly positive reviews in the comments. The only thing that was basically criticized about the film was that half of the voice cast did an excellent job voicing while the other half was either just mediocre or lousy while others say Mario Puyat who voiced the lead character Alexios II overacted his role while his narration in the introduction scene was not very comprehensible in terms of sound to viewers as his voice seemed too rushed while he happened to eat his words a lot, hence subtitles were added to the intro narration segment which he voiced. The other voicer whose voice was said to not be so clear was Justinianus Byzantinus who voiced Agnes of France; hence subtitles were also added for her lines. On the other hand, the voicers that got the most praise for their roles which they voiced very much perfectly were Andre Martin who voiced Andronikos Komnenos, Manskee Nascimento who voiced Alexios Branas, and Achilies Khan who voiced Pope Urban III who true enough voiced all their lines in just one take. This amount of success regarding the number of views had a lot to do with it being on our Facebook page Byzantine Time Traveler as the pinned post while the film has also been shared by high profile Byzantine history Facebook pages to their timelines namely Byzantine Tales and Scholae Palatinae Byzantine Hoplomachia as well as in the channel of Byzansimp and it too was once streamed in the Twitch channel HybridNinja run by Miguel Abarentos who had also voiced some roles in the film. However, despite all this success, the film did not entirely meet my expectations in terms of shares as I too expected more Byzantine related sites to share it but it was not entirely the case, and although a number of followers of mine seemed very interested in it, a lot also did not. Possibly, I could have turned off my followers on Instagram and Facebook through the Lego film which many of them may not really get the concept of it seeing it as too unusual for something Byzantine as after all, many of the fans of Byzantine history aren’t really that open to new ideas like Lego films but rather are more into the same old images of Byzantine era artifacts, coins, and frescos whereas others did get the concept of the film possibly because it was in English as some viewers may only like something in their native language. However, at the end, the best thing that happened was that the film was completed and all the hard work paid off as it was more or less a success.
When it came to how I wanted to create the film in terms of treatment and how I wanted to market it to viewers, I aimed to do it in a way that makes Byzantine history appear “modern” and “relatable” to viewers today despite the setting of the movie being all the way back in the 12th century. True enough, I still wanted to make sure things were historically accurate such as the sequencing of events in the historical timeline of the film before the events of history were altered at the middle of the film, the use of artworks for background images not portraying Byzantine emperors or things that came after the 12th century, and that no weapons that had not existed yet in that time like guns or cannons would be used for the movie, however despite this being a Byzantine film there was no use of their superweapon Greek Fire at all since there was no need for it considering the entire film had no siege battles. The only thing that was not exactly historically accurate for the film’s sets were the outfits worn by the characters, but I just let it happen that I would use any Lego outfit piece that looked medieval or historical for the characters to wear as there are no such Lego Byzantine pieces. As mentioned earlier as well, what I did to give the film a Byzantine era touch was the use of the printed-out flags with Byzantine imperial symbols such as the double-headed eagle. But really at the end of the day, I don’t really care much if what I do is 100% historically accurate, so long as it stays faithful to the time it is set in and the end result is entertaining. On the other hand, when it came to the treatment of the film itself, I chose to further enhance the color for all scenes by using the color corrector function in the editing software to differentiate whether some scenes took place during daytime or nighttime, if the weather was clear or not, or if it was in a dark room or outdoors as true enough all scenes were filmed indoors, thus only some tweaking in color could make scenes look different from each other. For the soundtracks meanwhile, I also chose to experiment in that part by using some different types of music whether modernized medieval soundtracks, epic music, and the metal rock music from Porphyra as usually a lot of creators I know that make Byzantine videos either use traditional Greek music or Byzantine era music, but in order to make the film appear more modern and relatable I chose not to use the usual traditional music. The other thing too I experimented in for the film was in having the cross-cutting technique for editing in some scenes where one scene simultaneously happens with another the way it is done in a lot of action-epic films whereas I also chose to focus on some of the smallest details by adding a sound effect to almost everything that would require a sound including background sounds like seagulls, ocean waves, dogs barking, crowd noises, and even the sound of church bells which were just put in to add a dramatic effect to the Massacre of the Latins scene. Other than that, as a way to make this movie with a Byzantine setting appear fun, I added some obvious references to modern pop culture such as Thor’s hammer being used by one of the Greek locals during the Massacre of the Latins scene as well as a Lego R2-D2 from Star Wars in that same scene with his signature beeping sound effect, while the climax part where Alexios II says “I do” many times while he orders the deaths of his enemies was as I said patterned exactly after the climax scene of The Godfather movie. Lastly, the way how I really wanted to show my film as something that seemed modern and can appeal to modern day people despite it having a Byzantine era setting was that I chose to not use an old-fashioned language for the characters in the script, hence the words the characters used were basically the words we people speak with today. As the dialogue was basically spoken in our modern-day English language- with exception of Pope Urban III- the rest of the voice cast spoke in the usual everyday voice they speak and not in any kind of accent. Usually, my past films in my channel usually had characters speaking with a distinct accent especially in the historically set pieces, however for this film as my aim was to make it appear like the Byzantine people are like us today, I not only made the dialogue in the script use words we use today but I asked the voice cast to voice their characters in the normal way they speak, and the same goes for me as well since I have always voiced characters for my film with a distinct accent, but this time when voicing Isaac Angelos this was the first time I spoke with my normal voice. Basically, this idea I had here of having historical figures speak using a modern-day casual language is quite experimental as surely a lot of historical films out there use an old-fashioned and formal language while others stay very authentic meaning Roman era films or series being spoken in Latin or if ever Byzantine era films or series being spoken in Greek. However, in my film there was just a few Greek words used but only for background sounds just to give it a taste of authenticity, yet a lot the Greek words used for the film are modern Greek words and not medieval ones. Additionally, this film “House Komnenos” has the record of being the No Budget Films movie with the greatest number of swear words in which many were said by Andronikos Kontostephanos while it also contained a lot of graphic violence especially with the decapitated heads, and violence against women and children as seen with Maria of Antioch and Alexios II being strangled. On the other hand, there was really no nudity or sex in the film and the most was Maria of Antioch in her bath, although here the paper strips that substituted for the water had to be above the level of her breasts while after that, she was at least seen with a piece of toilet paper which substituted as a towel wrapped around her in which the top of it was made to be above her breasts’ level. Other than that, another “mature” element the film had was the scene where Isaac Angelos had threatened to cut off the balls of Asen and turn him into a eunuch wherein Isaac is actually seen pointing his sword at Asen’s private part, though this did not end up happening. In the meantime, “House Komnenos” has 3 deleted scenes which were originally supposed to be in the main film but were removed from it, and you can watch these 3 deleted scenes to the film right here!
The Interviews and Conclusion
For the last part of this article, I will be doing interviews with 4 content creators on social media wherein this will be the first time I am interviewing them. Unlike the ones I interviewed before who specialize in Byzantine history, the ones that will be interviewed here have Byzantine history as one of their many topics of interest and somehow do something related to it. Now all 4 of them will be asked separate questions from each other but all will be asked 3 questions while everyone will be answering the same question for the 3rd one which is about the importance of unity especially when it comes to doing Byzantine related projects, such as the epic film I just made.
The first of the interviewees here will be no other than Achilies Khan, the voice actor of Pope Urban III who is also an artist and content creator going by the name Gaius Julius Caesar on Instagram. Here, I will be asking him about the same topic of marketing Byzantine history and the need for Byzantine history to appear on mainstream media. Now, this is what he has to say about it.
1) Is Byzantine history an era of history that needs more attention the way Ancient Greece, Rome, or Medieval Europe does?
Achilies: It definitely deserves more attention of course than medieval era history since movies you usually and typically get medieval style movies and it gets annoying, it’s time for a new change of style.
2) How do you think Byzantine history can be made more accessible and entertaining to a wider range of people?
Achilies: Video games, animated shows, Netflix shows, movies.
3) Do you think unity is important especially in the sense for content creators to work together on collab projects to promote certain topics of history?
Achilies: Oh of course it is, it gives other creators to learn more off each other and gives them more opportunities to spread information even better and gives people a chance to be more creative when doing projects together.
The second of the interviewees will be another great friend and fellow content creator Milica from Serbia (follow her on Instagram @cu_ltur.e), a global culture enthusiast who somehow has some interest in Byzantine history. On the other hand, she too had a role to play in the creation of my film by suggesting some soundtracks, primarily the medieval themed ones used in some certain scenes, and in total 4 soundtracks she suggested made it to the film! Here, I will be asking her about the need to introduce and market Byzantine history to a younger crowd and how to get them interested in it. Now, this is what she has to say about it.
1) Should Byzantine history be talked about more especially to younger people?
Milica: Of course, yes. Hell yeah!
2) In what way can you make Byzantine history and cultures related to it seem entertaining to people, especially younger ones who are learning about it for the first time?
Milica: To make people know how important it was for Europe, especially Eastern Europe. It helped to make root for Orthodoxy in Europe and the Middle East. Byzantium had influence in Anatolia too.
3) Do you think unity is important especially in the sense of content creators to work together on collab projects to promote certain topics of history?
Milica: Yes, when united we are stronger.
The third of the interviewees will be another great supporter and friend of mine, Slavic History and Mythology (follow on Instagram @slavic_history_mythology) a content creator which does a very excellent job in creating very well-made and visually appealing posts about anything to do with Slavic history, religion, mythology, tradition, and everyday life and at the same time is very adept in marketing and promotion. Additionally, I have already done a collab post with Slavic History Mythology (SHM) in the past not once but twice and he also highly praised my film “House Komnenos” describing it as “one word- perfection! So much attention is paid to details. Well done!” Here, I will be asking him about if Byzantine history should be presented in a more “modern” approach like how I am doing it and how to make the said subject seem fun. Now, this is what he has to say about it.
1) Should Byzantine history be presented in a more modern approach meaning not so much anymore through serious and scholarly lectures and papers but through fun means like fun animated videos or fan art?
SHM: Definitely! There is a lot of stuff from the everyday life and culture of the Byzantines, which can be an inspiration for some kind of modern art, such as fan art, anime, and of course, as in the case of your work- Lego film. We need to get out of those scientific-research frameworks!
2) How can Byzantine history or anything related to it appear fun and interesting to people from different parts of the world?
SHM: Simple- to show people’s daily lives through some stories, videos, workshops, lectures or of course, some series or movies. There are still many ways, which are not scientific-research, and which can be interesting to people in the world. That is why it is necessary to pay as much attention to it as possible, in a more modern and interesting way.
3) Do you think unity is important especially in the sense of content creators to work together on collab projects to promote certain topics of history?
SHM: Absolutely! As people here say- two pairs of hands are stronger than one pair of hands. Working together on projects related to this topic is extremely important. Just imagine- a 3D artist, who collaborates with a historian and animator, and then they all make a very good video about, say, a day at the Byzantine market… Yes, the unity and cooperation of more people is definitely important!
The fourth and last of the interviewees is a special guest for this article which is Greek artist and author Ioanna Athanasopoulou (follow her on Instagram @ioanna.athan.art) who at the same time is also a teacher. Interestingly, she wrote and illustrated a children’s novel set in the 11th century Byzantine Empire focusing on a game of chess which is “Chess, the Game of Kings”, which I should say is a very unique concept. For this article, I will be asking her what inspired her to do a children’s book with a Byzantine setting and how to teach the very complicated and bloody Byzantine history to young children. Now, this is what she has to say about it.
1) What inspired you to create children’s’ books with a Byzantine setting?
Ioanna: I believe that we are living in the continuity of the historical events that have preceded. As a teacher, I believe that giving children pictures from other eras helps them to understand the similarity of those times with the present and, also, to understand the linear course of history. It is a way to help students love history without being condescending and without the pressure that is being put in the teaching procedure, like, for example with exams. For all the reasons above, I wanted my book “Chess, the Game of Kings” to be set several centuries ago. I chose the Middle Ages of the Mediterranean, and specifically Byzantium, as I consider it to be a brilliant era, full of events, with which we have dealt little.
2) How can you teach kids about something so complicated and violent like Byzantine history?
Ioanna: Depending on the age of the child, we focus on the parts of the story that are most relevant. In every culture there are dark, violent aspects and bright moments where the arts flourish and citizens prosper. My studies focus on the education and general well-being of children aged from 4 to 7 years of age. Having this age group in mind, I focus more on the daily life of the inhabitants or the carefree moments of the palace and less on the intrigue and the plots that are involved in the struggle for succession to the throne. The battles were captured in a more fairytale-like tone, as is the case with all historical events when the audience is young, thus fueling the interest in the past and helping the child to memorize the events in a pleasant way. Having this contact with history from an early age will give children a better opportunity to develop their knowledge, as they grow older, by studying in depth the complexity of the thousand-year-old Byzantine Empire in terms of diplomacy as well as the darker and lighter aspects of each personality.
3) Do you think unity is important especially in the sense of content creators to work together on collab projects to promote certain topics of history?
Ioanna: Collaborations are very important and really help to highlight each historical period in vivid colors. They give “life” to stories that should not be forgotten. In projects where more participants are involved, it seems that a rounder, dare I say better, approach to the events is achieved to an astonishing degree, as well as the promotion of the respective work to a larger audience. Both of the factors above are crucial for communicating such issues.
Based on all the answers of the 4 interviewees here, again this surely shows that in one hand there are some that are actually willing to bring Byzantine history to a new level by creating new and unique content related to it from engaging posts, to artworks, films, and even children’s books which have a Byzantine setting.
Other than that, these answers show that Byzantium sure enough should deserve more attention in mainstream media as it has a very interesting story while it had such a significant impact in many parts of the world whether culturally, politically, or religiously, and at the same time too that there are so many more projects wherein Byzantine history can be applied to and not just in scholarly research papers. Out of all the 4 interviewees, I would say the one with the most unique concept and things to point out is Ioanna as first of all her idea of using Byzantium as a setting for a children’s book is very unique and something I’ve never heard of before as first of all Byzantine history is so complex and violent that it’s hard to imagine it being a setting for a children’s book, but at the same time she makes a point too as Byzantine history is so interesting and thus children should be introduced to it from a young age first by teaching it to them in a more “fairytale-like” way as she said or rather a censored version before proceeding to teaching them the actual history.
True enough, I totally agree with her here as by doing Lego films such as “House Komnenos” I would like to introduce people, especially younger ones to Byzantine history first in a more entertaining although highly fantasized way which is to first of all get them hooked into the topic which would then get them more curious to make them do some research on the actual truth about Byzantine history. Lastly, the one question I asked everyone here was about unity and how important it is especially in doing collab projects on the said historical topic, and certainly all 4 of them said it is very important as when people work together on something especially if all members have a particular skill, the end product is always of better quality. I also agree here on this point, as my overall mission in doing Byzantine history content is to work together with other content creators as each of us can inspire each other and at the end make a unique and high-quality output. The importance too of working united is that it will benefit not only one creator who would end up getting ahead of everyone else, but it will let everyone working together get ahead at the same time and pace, and this reason in which no one should be left behind is why I believe in unity for content creators especially when it comes to Byzantine history which is a topic still not yet so popular but is gaining ground.
And now this wraps up this article on my latest Byzantine Lego film “House Komnenos” and certainly the process of making this film was a very exciting roller-coaster of a journey full of successes and dull moments, unpredictability and certainty, and of course great moments when it came to interacting with other content creators from different parts of the world. For now, the success of my film would still continue to grow as it has just been a month since it was released, and since the film is on Youtube it is there to stay, therefore even years from now people will come across it and may find something interesting about it hopefully. Of course, I would like to thank everyone that took part in the creation of my latest Lego film from the voice cast to the crew and even to those who just helped in the least way possible such as by sharing it to their Facebook pages or Instagram stories, recommending it on their Youtube channels, or even by suggesting soundtracks that made it to the final cut of the film itself.
As of now, after spending months creating this masterpiece Lego film and having just released its deleted scenes video, I would rest for now, and if I would make videos, most for now will just be quick narrated videos with my art or other creators’ art in them- again to fulfill my goal of unity- since these videos do not require such effort to do. Of course, in the future I do plan to make another Lego Byzantine film again but still have no clear concept in mind, but if I am to do one again, it would again be of course a united international collaboration project like for this film. Truly, this film was the first time I’ve experienced working on something big that is an international united collaboration project, and at the most, I could say it was a good starting-point in doing projects like these, and at the end it really shows it was a united work with a large voice cast and music provided by other producers instead of a film where one person voices every character using different voices and all soundtracks from one artist. Overall, the main highlight when it came to working on this particular film “House Komnenos” was not so much producing something from my wildest dreams or working on a project I have wanted to create for such a long time, sure these were the highlights too, but the greatest one was that I was able to work on it as a united international collab project, and hopefully for my future No Budget Films projects I would work on them the same way as I did with this one. Now, after all these months of putting this epic piece together, I can say it’s all over and it has paid off, and of course No Budget Films will return! Now before I conclude this, I would again like to thank all those that participated in this interview as your answers were truly inspiring especially in the sense that Byzantine history should get more attention and that it can also be made into more entertaining means including Lego films, but more so you really inspired me a lot especially in believing that unity is very important. Anyway, this is all for this article, this is Powee Celdran the Byzantine Time Traveler and the creator of No Budget Films… Thank you for your time!