Kristian Stenslie
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Kristian Stenslie Has Gone From Playtime to Amazon Prime

Local Filmmaker Kristian Stenslie’s Love of LEGOS is Becoming a Career

Earlier this year, local filmmaker Kristian Stenslie reached a major milestone— he got his movie “Void War: Grey Horizons” on a major streaming service, Amazon Prime.

What’s more impressive, he shot the entire stop-motion animated LEGO movie from his apartment bedroom… and it is fantastic!

I watched the movie and was blown away by the story arc, attention to detail, and special effects of this passion project… and, better yet, it’s the first movie in a planned trilogy.

“The Void War: Grey Horizons” is the viewer’s first look into humanity’s fight against an alien infection/monster called slag that turns humans into… well, more slag. In the movie, the viewer is thrust into a world where four main characters, Huxley the Soldier, Iris the Channeler, William Slade, and Comms Officer Dan fight for safety and survival on a ship that has been overrun with the infection. Along the way, we are given plenty of bread crumbs for future feature films and viewers should be excited!

About Kristian Stenslie

Stenslie has an extensive background in the performing arts. He started at a young age performing Norwegian folk dancing at heritage festivals. This early start in performing was just the beginning as Stenslie went on to perform in choirs, in middle school, high school, and college and he also played in the jazz guitar ensemble. 

Kristian Stenslie

Stenslie’s career as a filmmaker began at the age of 12 when he began experimenting with stop-motion animation and posting his short creations on YouTube (@TwistedBricks). His most viewed video “The LEGO Zombie Apocalypse,” which was released in 2019, has 6.7 million views.

I sat down with Stenslie to learn more about his path to creation, and the future for his expanding universe—check it out!

Q&A with Kristian Stenslies

You’ve been uploading YouTube videos for some time now. Was this a continuation of the universe you had previously created on your YouTube channel?

I’ve been doing stop motion since I was probably 12 years old. But when I was in high school, I started to animate this big LEGO zombie apocalypse movie that was going to be like my biggest animation. But then I lost a bunch of footage and went to college. And I kind of shelved it for a while. And then I rediscovered the footage my sophomore year of 2015. And I thought it’d be fun to get some friends together and just record some voice acting for it and publish. 

That was really what kickstarted this whole thing because it got some attention and people really liked it. I thought, “I could probably do another episode.’ So then I did nine more episodes and released that as a full movie called “The LEGO Zombie Apocalypse.” That exploded and went very viral and got millions of views. That showed me that people really liked this stuff, so I made an entire second season.

Kristian Stenslie Void War Grey Horizons Poster.jpg

Submitted By Renegade Photograpgy

That second season involved a whole time travel misadventure with a medieval fantasy story line. From there, the world I built just kept evolving organically.

I often involve fans in the creation as well. We had character contests, monster contests-stuff like that. It became this very collaborative effort within the Twisted Bricks YouTube community. By the time I had finished the second season, I realized the quality of my work was starting to level out in a kind of consistent way.

Did You Know?

It took Stenslie 3 years to complete the movie!

Kristian Stenslie Void War Grey Horizons 5.jpg
Huxley the Soldier

How deep do you want to go?

Stenslie and his loyal fans have built an entire community around Twisted Bricks. They have a WELL-built-out Wiki page, which you can find at twistedbricks.com. and a thriving Discord channel.

So, I decided to make something on a much grander scale that would maintain a consistent quality. That’s really where Grey Horizons came from: my desire to take all the skills I’ve learned from years of experimentation and learning, and make a really fantastic, final product. 

What does the process of creating this look like?

Once the script was entirely complete went line by line and scene-by-scene, basically, and I created shot lists for any time a camera would cut to a different angle. I would write those shots down in an Excel document and describe them. In most larger productions, you storyboard as well. But, this was a pretty small-scale thing. And my drawing is just not worth a dam. So I just stuck with the shot lists because I can understand my writing and I can visualize it in my mind. This process was really important because it not only allowed me to animate in a more streamlined way, but it also gave me a good understanding of exactly how many scenes involved cetain sets.

What was it like having that experience of going viral and developing this community of people who interact with your videos?

Seeing audiences respond to these videos and grow attached to the characters that had just come from my mind left a real impact on me and showed me that I can make something out of nothing and create an emotional response in other people. That was a big part of the fuel that has kept me going to create Grey Horizons.

How connected were the previous universes to the events in this movie? Would having watched earlier content have made the movie more understandable, particularly regarding the terminology and universe-building? Is the introduction of these elements intended as a slow reveal?

Honestly, watching the prequels would not have affected your viewing experience that much. The one thing that is consistent between them is the character Slade. The movies I made in the past kind of tell the story of Slade and they also kind of give an overview of the beginning of what we know as the Void War-when slag first started attacking Earth and corrupting humans.

 However, the movie was not written to spoon-feed information to the audience. You’re supposed to feel kind of thrust into this strange futuristic world where some of the terminology and the science isn’t entirely clear at first. And the god-like figure “Keo” himself is intended to be particularly mysterious. This series is planned as a trilogy and I have a vision for how these things will unfold and what truths will be revealed, but there is also a level of mystery that will remain kind of a part of the story.

Also, the first films I made back in high school and college evolved very organically, and they were very experimental. So there are parts of them that I hesitate to include officially in the canon. That’s why I say the connection between the prequels and Grey Horizons is really quite loose.

Have you ever done any film creation outside of animation?

Yes, I’ve done quite a bit of fun live- action work. A lot of that was done in school projects. I had a ton of fun in high school making nerf shooting videos and stuff like that. It was always a blast to do that with friends.

I would love to do more live-action, but it can be tricky trying to dedicate more resources to live-action projects. And in working with stop motion, I enjoy such creative freedom. I can tell really any story I want to tell. I can create a sci-fi epic out of an apartment bedroom and that is pretty intoxicating.

I also enjoy working with stop motion because it allows me to practice skills on a micro-scale. It has taught me a lot about lighting and cinematography and even working with voice actors and directing. But in the grand scope of my life, I do seek to work more with live action. I do think it’s a tremendous medium. But stop motion has served me well, in the interim.

How do you go about finding people to do the voice acting in the movie?

In past projects, it was kind of a word- of-mouth thing where I had friends from high school who I knew would be down to experiment with nerdy stuff like this. And, they had friends who were into things like theatre. That was the original way that we created our casts. But for this project, I wanted to elevate it to a different level. So, I actually created an audition poster and I published it on Facebook and in as many places as I could think of. I reached out to local theater departments in Bismarck and Mandan, which is where I was living at the time, and asked them to tell their students about this.

Want preview the movie?

You can watch the first half on Youtube before buying or renting on Amazon Prime!

I can tell really any story I want to tell. I can create a sci-fi epic out of an apartment bedroom and that is pretty intoxicating."

We ended up auditioning a little over 20 people for the seven or eight roles that we were looking to fill. We also held online auditions, which really helped to fill out all the minor roles, plus a couple major ones. On Discord, there’s a voice-acting community and you can post projects there. I believe our voice actor for the character Aakil actually lives in Singapore. 

I read in an article that you didn’t have TV growing up, how did you develop your love of sci-fi then? 

I think it was a combination of things. Although we didn’t have cable television, we did have DVDs. Watching DVDs with the family was a pretty big influence on me. I especially fell in love with monster movies. They really worked their way into my imagination and into my dreams. They’ve just become a thing that I love to express in my own stories now.

Kristian Stenslie Void War Grey Horizons 6.jpg
Here you can see 'slag' the alien infection/monster.

Did your parents have a love for sci-fi then?

I wouldn’t say my dad loves sci-fi more than other genres. But there were a good number of sci-fi films that he really enjoyed, and he kind of passed that on to me. My mom isn’t as big into creepy or scary things. So, I can’t give her credit for that part. But my dad certainly exposed us to a fair share of films of that nature.

How did you come across brickfilms? 

I loved building my own LEGOS since I was seven years old or so. I’d buy the sets and then recreate them into my own models. Official LEGO sets did not last very long in our house, they got recycled into the mix pretty quickly.

I also discovered there was a whole online world of LEGO builders who were building their own things and sharing them. So, I got integrated into that community at a very young age, maybe 9, 10 years old. I started kind of dipping my toes into that and sharing my own models. And around that fime, YouTube started to get pretty big. And it was through scrolling through YouTube, that I discovered these animations where people were manipulating LEGOS in stop animation and it just captivated me completely. 

What has the reception of Grey Horizons been like? 

It’s been really amazing the way the audience has responded since I premiered the first half on YouTube last March. People were posting comments in the live chat throughout the viewing and it was such a fun riot. Fans of the series almost couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Everybody was talking about how amazing the lore was because there were all these new characters, you know, the movie introduces you to basically a fictional religion and an entire military complex built around that. Longtime fans were so excited about it. 

All of that was really amazing to re- experience in June when we premiered the full film in the Fargo Theater. There, we got to show it to fresh eyes and then we had a Q&A afterwards. The exchange during the Q&A was so lovely and it ran quite long because people were very curious.

How to Support Stenslie’s Expanding Cinematic Universe

  • Watch on Amazon Prime
  • Donate at twistedbricks.com
  • Support on Patreon -Truly the best way for people to support us is on Patreon. Supporting us there gives subscribers access not just to the film, but depending on the option you choose, it could give you access to a ton of behind-the-scenes content. We have a documentary about how the film was made, tons of photos, a deleted scene, and even a comic book that is in the works that takes place in the same universe. We release a new page for that every couple of weeks or so.”

What was the budget for the film?

I wish I could give you a simple answer. To be totally honest, and I’m not too shy about this, the budget was whatever I could afford as the production went along. I own a lot of LEGOS from my childhood and that came in handy, but I did have to purchase tons of bricks and minifigures. And it wasn’t like I had this set budget amount and then I bought all the bricks and then I paid all the actors and then I did everything. It really happened as time went on. I would finish sets and then figure out what I would need for the next set and see what it costs. The project also required hundreds of hours of my fime and I didnt “pay” myself for that Essentially, you know, whatever money comes in through YouTube ad revenue, or Amazon or crowdfunding, goes directly into the film, but I don’t count my own work hours as part of any kind of budget.

If I had to give you an answer, I would say the cost of materials, commissions, services, and equipment ranged somewhere between $10,000, and $12,000.

How much time did you take off before you started working on the sequel? 

Probably three months or so. 

Do you anticipate a three-year timeline for this one as well? 

I think a three-year fimeline would be amazing. I would say a four-year timeline is optimistic. The vision for the sequel is significantly more grand in scope, scale, and budget-ifs going to be much more expensive. 

Grey Horizons mainly took place on a ship and barren battlefield. The Hunger of Slag, which is the name of the sequel, will take place in a large city, the capital city of Earth, and it’s going to require a really massive set. It’s going to require thousands and thousands of LEGO bricks, which are quite expensive.

So, the timeline of the production will, to a large degree, depend on how successful we are in crowdfunding. It’s going to depend on how successful Grey Horizons is on Amazon and how much funding we can we generate through that. I really do feel like money will be the limiting factor in this production. And of course, there are limits to how many man-hours can go into it as well. There are limits to how fast I can animate.

What is the best way for people reading to contribute funds for the sequel? 

If people want to support the film, there are actually plenty of ways. I would recommend just going to twistedbricks.com – there, you’ll find links to watch the film on Amazon. You can also make a one-time donation if you’d like-there’s a button for that. Truly the best way for people to support us is on Patreon. Supporting us there gives subscribers access not just to the film, but depending on the option you choose, it could give you access to a ton of behind-the-scenes content. We have a documentary about how the film was made, tons of photos, a deleted scene, and even a comic book that is in the works that takes place in the same universe. We release a new page for that every couple of weeks or so. 

How are you going about making the comic book? 

I reached out online to a Facebook group that connects comic artists and writers. So, I’m writing the comic, but I have an artist who I hire-we just communicate digitally. I give him descriptions of the pages and the dialog and he illustrates them.

What is the process like of getting the film on Amazon? 

There are some different hoops to jump through. All told, getting the film on Amazon was really the easy part. 

You need to provide a very high- quality file. You need to provide subtitles for them. You need to do a little writeup to have a promotional arc that they can use and you need to give a suggested age rating for the film. 

What was the most difficult part of making the film? 

The 3D scenes and 3D modeling were probably the most difficult aspects of the film. That held a steep learning curve for me.

What is your favorite part about filmmaking? 

The fact that something in my mind and in my heart is being expressed in a narrative form and shared with the world-that’s really a remarkable thing. Seeing people’s responses to it as it evolves and as its published is incredibly gratifying. However, the overarching process of creation is something that seems like it comes out of me more than I consciously do it myself. 

When do you feel most creative? 

Probably when I’m writing the script and the words are just flowing out of my fingers. That’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s very much like chipping away at a mountain. But sometimes, the scenes just make sense and the dialogue just comes so naturally and it really feels like the faucet has been turned wide open.

Go see the movie on Amazon Prime and be on the lookout for the sequel in the not-ytoo-distant future.

Kristian Stenslie 2

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Kristian Stenslie

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Written by Kessie Kessie

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