Emily Ashby and Jonathan Martin want to be clear that their new short film “Teela and the Masters of the Universe” isn’t just another fan film – it’s Ashby’s audition to play the woman warrior in the upcoming live action film Masters of the Universe. You can watch above.
Ashby and Martin are a couple who love collaborating — she’s an actress, and he’s a filmmaker. They also share a deep love of He-Man and his friends in the Masters of the Universe. Martin is the founder of the FilmQuest film festival in Provo, Utah, and the latest edition’s logo featured an homage to He-Man. Martin told MovieMaker that when he saw an animated image of Teela in Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe animated series on Netflix, he was immediately struck by how much Teela and Ashby resembled one another.
By the power of Grayskull, he and Ashby came up with an idea: They decided to make a film with hopes of getting Ashby cast in the new Masters of the Universe film to be directed by Aaron and Adam Nee, which will star West Side Story actor Kyle Allen as He-Man. Ashby, a winner of two Independent Shorts Awards, has a list of credits that include the Apple series Physical, the indie horror film They Live Inside Us, and the BYUtv series Dwight in Shining Armor.
“The wheels went into motion to make something epic that couldn’t be ignored. After all, Emily isn’t a household name who you can just cast with an offer and a term sheet, so we decided to be bold, a little bit brave, and even vulnerable, to create something that could turn a head or two and open some discussions,” says Martin, who wrote and directed the short.
So far, “Teela and the Masters of the Universe” has amassed 13,000 views in just a day.
“My ultimate goal was to embody and bring to life the cartoon action figure of Teela, while showcasing her as the fearless, headstrong warrior she was created and described to be,” says Ashby, who produced the short with Martin. “A character both women and men of any age can look up to and be inspired by. We really had a team filled with fierce warrior types who were totally on board with what we were trying to do with the piece, and I can’t thank them enough for all the support and belief they gave me in taking this shot. I’m really proud of what we created in only two days with minimal rehearsals.”
She adds: “I know it’s a risk, but by being bold and fearless I hope this can also inspire other performers that being vulnerable and putting yourself out there is where your true power lies. We’ll see what happens, but no matter what, I’m happy with what we were able to create together.”
The Teela team shot the film in the west desert of Utah, in the Knolls Recreation Area about 45 miles from Nevada and the Bonneville Salt Flats — a jaw-dropping locale that matches the treacherous, starkly terrain of He-Man and Teela’s mythical home, Eternia.
“Fun story, we legit hit a sandstorm the very first day of filming — like a real, honest-to-goodness sandstorm,” Martin recalls. “We had to cancel the shoot and come back two weeks later and we thought we were done for.”
The shoot involves a complex, surprising action scene, and because two stuntmen dropped out, much of the fight choreography had to be worked out at the last minute as the crew raced the sun. But as you’ll see in the video, everyone pulled it off.
“I think Emily being willing to put this out there so boldly deserves a heckuva lot of credit, as it’s so damn vulnerable for an actor to do. She’s literally saying ‘Here I am, here’s my shot, and I’m going to let ALL of you be the judge as I go for this.’ In today’s internet age, where toxic comments and trolls rule the roost, that takes some balls,” Martin adds.
“Personally, I actually kind of hate the idea of a ‘fan film.’ While I can absolutely appreciate why they are made, and can relate to a filmmaker’s desire to create something in the sandbox of a popular property, I do feel like it’s taking a piece of fruit off a low hanging branch.”
To make sure the film was focused on Teela, it deliberately left out the best-known Masters of the Universe characters, He-Man and his cackling nemesis, Skeletor.
“We did our own thing, our own way, and while yes, we hope fans and non-fans alike dig it and appreciate the story, we ultimately made this with a target audience of only a handful of people in mind.”
So, Masters of the Universe producers: What do you say?
Main image: Emily Ashby as Teela in the short film “Teela and the Masters of the Universe.”