“Teela and the Masters of the Universe” Audition Film Finds Filmmaking Couple Taking Bold Chances

When Emily Ashby and Jonathan Martin heard about the announced upcoming Masters of the Universe motion picture, the couple — she is an actress, and he is a filmmaker — leapt at the opportunity to show that Ashby would be an ideal candidate for the role of Teela. They produced a self-tape audition called Teela and the Masters of the Universe that has been getting a great deal of media notice and racking up a huge amount of views online.

Their approach is a bold one, but it is obviously generating attention. “I believe in taking risks and really putting yourself out there, and being vulnerable as an artist is the best thing you can do,” said Ashby. “If you don’t work hard for something, then how can you pride yourself in that?” 

“The idea for Teela and the Masters of the Universe first sprung to mind when I saw an animated image from Kevin Smith’s Teela from the new Masters of the Universe series,” said Martin. “When we realized that our manager whom we both share, Scott Carlson, had worked on a previous project with the attached casting director for the announced film, 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.”

Doing a self-tape audition to get attention like this is not without precedent, Martin explained. “There is now the famous story of Elijah Wood and his audition for Lord of the Rings. From what I understand, he just dressed up in a cloak and did his own scenes as Frodo in the woods of Griffiths Park, then sent in the tape to the casting director who sent it off to Peter Jackson. The rest is history. So we definitely took Elijah’s boldness as inspiration.”

Martin wants to emphasize that Teela and the Masters of the Universe is not a fan film, as some might think. “The film was made first and foremost as an ambitious, if not audacious, self-tape audition for actress Emily Ashby for the role of Teela in the announced Masters of the Universe film from Netflix,” he said. “In deciding to do something that has rarely been done, if ever, on such a scale for an audition, it was our hope that it would at least get some buzz and attention for Emily with the role and possibly further consideration from the powers that be — if not for Teela, than for something.”

He continued, “To that end, Teela and the Masters of the Universe isn’t a ‘fan film’ in the traditional sense, as its original purpose and story was more of a showcase of not just performance and screen presence but also action and physicality, rather than an unofficial attempt at expanding the MOTU canon. Of course, we absolutely hope fans of MOTU and beyond enjoy it and take it for what it is: a fun time watching a character from MOTU kicking butt and having some fun with the fabled Power Sword. If we approached Teela and the Masters of the Universe like a normal fan film, we would have included more characters, settings, and so on from the world of MOTU than we chose to, as well as making it a much longer film more true to the established canon. Instead, we created our own trio of original characters for her to do battle with as again, we were creating a showcase for Emily in the role of Teela and bringing such characters as He-Man or Skeletor would have distracted from this purpose — and been a lot more expensive!” 

Martin is by no means enamored with fan films, nor for Teela and the Masters of the Universe being mistaken as one. “I actually kind of hate the idea of a ‘fan film,’” he said. “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. So it was important that we really focused on this being a showcase for Emily first and foremost, as we knew when we set out to make this people would not initially understand what it was made for or why we released it, and just call it a ‘fan film’ or give some backhanded compliments. To that end, it’s part of why there’s no He-Man or Skeletor, and also why we didn’t really adhere to the canon of the He-Man universe. 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.”

The three original characters created for Teela and the Masters of the Universe — Cy-Am (Christian “Kang” Bachini), Bonan (Halem Medina), and Chain Male (Elwon Blakly) — are a tough trio, and provide plenty of physical challenges for Teela. “The film was inspired by and styled after Hong Kong and Jackie Chan action films,” said Martin. “We called in a lot of favors with some of our established friends within the industry. This includes Gerrit Wunder, who composed the original music for the film and who is the composer for DC’s Stargirl and Netflix’s Slumberland, along with a big upcoming series on Netflix to be announced soon. Our sound design was by 10-time Emmy-nominated sound editor Patrick Hogan of Cobra Kai and The Umbrella Academy. Hong Kong stunt actor Christian ‘Kang’ Bachini coordinated the stunts. The film was shot by DP Matt Devino, who shot the film on a RED Komodo with Atlas Anamorphic lenses.” Martin and his filmmaking team decided on a superb location for portraying the striking, bare landscape that is the land of Eternia, which He-Man and Teela call home: Utah’s west desert, specifically the Knolls Recreation Area.

“I do want to share a story that elaborates on how demanding this shoot was,” said Martin. “We lost two stuntmen literally days before shooting. As a result, the only fight we were able to keep was the initial beatdown at the beginning. Everything else was choreographed and staged on set the day of, shot to shot. As we were also doing this in more of Hong Kong style, that wasn’t the easiest of tasks! So I want to give a special shoutout to Emily and our actors for really pulling through and nailing this, learning the moves while still sticking to the script, as we only had two days to shoot what probably would be given at least a week to shoot on films with far bigger budgets. Christian ‘Kang’ Bachini deserves a huge shout out for coordinating the fights, and helping Emily and the team rock and roll and make her a physically convincing brawler.”

Martin praised his partner and star: “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.” 

Growing up a child of the eighties, Martin never thought he would “actually play in the MOTU sandbox as a filmmaker, officially or unofficially. It would be an incredible pleasure and opportunity to properly dive into the world of MOTU in the future, with a lot more money to boot, but if Teela and the Masters of the Universe is all I’m able to ever do with it, then I’m cool with it. We hope you have as good a time watching the film as we did in taking this big swing out in the middle of nowhere, with limited resources, a tiny yet talented crew, and a lot of gumption. If anyone is asking, 1000% yes! I would love to do something official with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I’d have that discussion all day, every day!” 

“The real message behind Teela is that there is always more than meets the eye,” said Ashby. “We all have an inner strength to push beyond what we think we are capable of. We can push beyond our limits. I don’t want to fit a mold. I want to do things that are beyond what people think I’m capable of. And that is what I want the audience to feel. I want them to be inspired by what we’ve done. 

You can get more information about the project and the talent involved via www.bohemianindustries.com “and you can follow us on social media @emilayanneashby and @bohemianindustries,” said Martin. “Feel free to reach out any time and we hope you enjoy!”

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.