RTW Post #35: The Power. The Passion. The Dorks.

You may be asking yourself "How did this happen? WHY did this happen??" Well, let me give you some back story:

Ten Winters Ago... (Ehhh, it was more like 2.5 winters ago, but if you're a Xena fan you'll get the reference.)

3/3/14 3/8/14: Bethells Beach, New Zealand

Pretty much everyone who knows Katie and me knows that we love the show Xena: Warrior Princess. In fact, we met because of that show over 19 years ago. So when the opening narrator says “her courage will change the world” I can definitively say that it changed mine for the better.

Light and Shadow on Bethells Beach

Our love of Xena took us on a pilgrimage to Bethells Beach, a little known stretch of black sand and rocky outcrops along the west coast of New Zealand. We’d ventured here before back in 2011 and were determined to return, not only because it’s the location of several Xena episodes, but because it’s downright beautiful. Along the way to Bethells, Katie brainstormed what we could do during our 5 night stay. Specifically, what could we do that was Xena related. Somehow, Katie landed on the idea of us reenacting the opening credits of the show. We laughed at the very idea of it as we drove to our Airbnb.

Being One With Bethells

We were staying in the lower half of an occupied two-story house, a quick walk to sand dunes and gorgeous bays. It was stormy that day, forcing us to stay in and enjoy the view of rough seas against a grey sky.

The concept lingered… Could we do it?  We did, after all, have some of the locations Xena used on our very doorstep.

Being shut-in by the weather, we decided to give it a go. We put together a shot of Katie as the “king” in the opening, finding a yellow string in our pack to work as the crown and using duct tape to make a ring. Looking around the house we found a sheepskin rug and a decorated pillow – could these work as her cloak and tunic? And then there were candles in the bathroom, a blue blanket that could become a curtain…

With every item found the laughter grew until we finally had the shot set up.


Katie stood up from her seat.


We played it back. Two seconds of footage had us laughing so hard tears were streaming down our faces.

Yes. This could definitely work.

Location Scouting

We made two vows before diving into the project:

1.     Nothing could be purchased. We could only use what we owned or found objects. Metal flowerpots became helmets. Sticks were swords. A towel doubled as Katie’s blonde wig. Did it look good? Hell no! But it certainly made us laugh! (and laugh, and laugh, and laugh…)

2.     We couldn’t use any shots from the original opening. Everything had to be recreated. Katie even re-made the show’s title, animation and all, laying it over my galloping feet. (Sadly, no horses could be found for the making of this motion picture.)

Dorks Supreme!

Dorks Supreme!

With each passing day shots were checked off our list. Weather pushed us to get all our indoor shots completed first. When the sun broke on day 3 we scouted shooting locations, looking for any place that matched the original (some of which we absolutely nailed).

When the homeowners would leave we’d surreptitiously sneak about the exterior of their house using the wood shed, an open garage, and any other facades where we could quickly grab a shot. It was in that garage where I found an Aerobie hanging on the wall. Teeth marks puckered its sides from being a dog’s chew-toy. What luck! I’d found Xena’s chakram! It was destiny, I tell you. Destiny.

We even pulled off a forced perspective shot with myself playing the Cyclops pulling a “cage” off Gabrielle. We tried to act cool when day-hikers would walk past. I’m sure they were wondering why on earth Katie was wearing a towel on her head and I was standing 100 feet away holding a dish rack.

Yep. Nothing to see here. Just chillin’ with my dish rack.

Suffering For My Art

On day three, while scouring the seaside for the perfect locations, I was walking hunched over below a low-hanging sea cave. Life quickly imitated art as I rammed my head full-tilt into the jagged ceiling. Pain shot through my skull, which I grabbed in sudden reaction. Sticky moisture wet my hands and dripped onto the wet sand. Blood! (Yes, I actually got a head wound while portraying Xena, though Xena never would’ve been so clumsy.)

By day, I was the warrior princess and Katie was a scumbag getting trounced. By night, I was a lazy book reader and Katie was the master editor and special effects artist. She created a green screen and become Poseidon. She thrust us in front of a burning village without lighting a fire. She swapped day for night and doubled us up to create a larger cast. She was kicking some editorial ass and making me laugh so hard I was on the ground begging for mercy.

We spent five full days in Xena heaven at the very place Xena was filmed. We loved every second of it. We hope you enjoy the madness, the complete and utter ridiculousness of our beloved reenactment. Thank you Xena for still bringing us joy all these years later.

And for even MORE laughs, here's a behind the scenes look at the making of "The Worst Xena Opening In History":