Former Greenwich resident goes on a ‘Quest’ with new television series

The paladins of "The Quest" look upon their castle for the first time

The paladins of “The Quest” look upon their castle for the first time

A Greenwich High School alumna is working to bring a completely new television experience to viewers nationwide, one that combines the country’s love of competition shows with the appetite for fantasy universes.

Debuting tonight, July 31, at 8, on ABC The Quest looks to blend the competitive spirit of reality shows like The Amazing Race and Survivor with the fantasy narrative and world building of modern epics such as The Lord of the Rings series. In the show, 12 contestants are named the “paladin heroes” of the imaginary world Everealm, becoming fully immersed in the fantasy scenario. They spend their days completing a narrative filled with scripted quests and challenges, being eliminated one by one until a single paladin is dubbed “the one true hero.”

Executive producer Jane Fleming, a former town resident and a member of the GHS class of 1985, has strong family ties to the town. Both her parents were longtime Greenwich residents, and her mother, also named Jane, founded Neighbor to Neighbor, a local nonprofit food bank that also accepts clothing donations. Ms. Fleming studied history at Princeton but eventually found her calling in film with New Line Cinemas. She worked in New York City for some time before moving to Hollywood in 1999.

Ms. Fleming told the Post that the initial idea for The Quest came about during the production of The Lord of the Rings with the series’ executive producer Mark Ordesky.

“During pre-production [the actors] went to training camps and learned how to ride horses, shoot arrows and fight with swords and all that, and we would get VHS tapes showing New Line how well the actors were doing,” Ms. Fleming said. “During that process I looked at Mark and said ‘why should the actors get to have all the fun’ and that we should set up a situation where real people can do this.”

When she and Mr. Ordesky left New Line to form their current company, Court Five, it was an idea that stuck. The pair would eventually reach out to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy producer Rob Eric and The Amazing Race producer Elise Doganieri to see if their inspiration could be adapted into a reality format, discovering that the challenges inherent to fantasy stories were not too different from those seen in reality television.

However, the jump from major motion pictures to reality television and the unique mix of genres required some adaptation for Ms. Fleming and her fellow producers. She specifically mentioned the shift from the completely scripted and planned process of filmmaking, versus the more fluid and open nature of reality programming.

Jane Flemming (center) with "The Quest" cast members

Jane Fleming (center) with “The Quest” cast members

“We left these giant holes to really let the paladins do their thing,” Ms. Fleming said. “What was amazing about that was to watch the story happen in real time, because when you get down to it, it’s really about these 12 people and what their experiences are; the show is only as good as that.”

When asked about the casting process, Ms. Fleming said that each of the chosen contestants possessed the desire and capability to be a true hero.

“They all had a sense of adventure, they signed on to do this without knowing anything about the show, there was a lot of trust involved,” she said. “We went through thousands of people and these 12 really touched us as people who were going to go that extra mile.”

Award-winning studio Spectral Motion is responsible for the creature design in The Quest, having previously worked on Looper, X-Men: First Class and the films of Guillermo del Toro. Production company Haxan Film, most famous for horror classic The Blair Witch Project, developed the series’ backdrop and mythology. Together they helped turn an Austrian castle and the surrounding country side into a landscape befitting an epic adventure. The convincing kingdom of Everealm became the paladins’ adopted home for the full duration of the show.

Ms. Fleming mentioned that though the participants are sequestered, the production team chose not to utilize overnight cameras or invasive film techniques. Their goal was to make The Quest one of television’s more positive reality shows when compared to the popular but oft-mocked offerings of shows like Big Brother. As a result, the program’s focus lies on the quest itself and the way the paladins are transformed by the challenges they face.

“The really differentiating factor between a lot of the reality television that you see making fun of people or watching absurdity, this is a much more positive reality show,” Ms. Flemming said. “It’s more about people finding the hero within themselves.”

Though her current focus lies with The Quest, Flemming’s company, Court Five, also collaborated with Haxan and Spectral Motion on the upcoming horror film Exists, which debuted at South by Southwest earlier this year. Additionally, open casting has begun the next season of The Quest, pending an extension from ABC.

Tune in and watch as The Quest has its premiere tonight, July 31, at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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