When 'Game of Thrones' Meets A Renaissance Faire

Apr 7, 2017


Knights of New Jersey writer/director Michael Hadley and executive producer Debbie Villarreal took home the Home Grown Comedy Short award at the Garden State Film Festival.
Credit Ang Santos / WBGO

Knights of New Jersey explores four essential parts of the Renaissance Faire.  Honor, Courage, Loyalty, and Turkey Legs.  Lots of Turkey Legs.  It does so through the comedic life of fictional Renaissance Faire performers Sir Robert of Arden Dale and his mostly trusty squire Tom.  Director Michael Hadley says Knights of New Jersey started with a visit to Medieval Times in East Rutherford.

“I thought, what would it be like to have that as your day job?  To actually punch a clock, swing a sword, and that got me thinking about that lifestyle,” said Hadley.

Being an independent film project, Hadley says filming in a Medieval Times would have proven costly and technically difficult.  Hadley’s next natural choice was a Renaissance Faire.

“Plus the advantages with a Renaissance fair is that I think everyone is familiar with that concept.  It also allows other types of characters to come in.  Cosplay is a huge thing right now.  People that are into cosplay love Renaissance Faires’ and vice versa so it allowed us to bring in theme’s like ‘Game of Thrones.’

Film actors were cast into most of the main roles in Knights of New Jersey.  But as director Michael Hadley explains, he did seek approval from the subjects of his comedy.

“When I took the script that I had worked on and started to hand it out to professional Renaissance folks and asked ‘OK, let me have it.  What’s right, what’s wrong?’ There were some word things here or there, they would never do that, or ‘well, it’s actually rare that they would use live swords’, but overall the nice thing was that they really liked it.”

One of those Renaissance faire actors carved out a nice role for himself.

“The county clerk Jason Burfur, he’s worried about losing his position in the Renaissance faire, he’s a hardcore Rennie, as they call themselves.  The folks that were guarding the Mother of Dragons, they were all Rennies and all of the extras were Renaissance faire folks.” 

Hadley’s other half, Debbie Villarreal is the executive producer of Knights of New Jersey.

“We said that next time we shot a Renaissance faire we would all come in costume ourselves,” Villarreal said.  “It’s just a great time and who wouldn’t want to do that on a daily basis.  It certainly made the production day go really quickly and we had a blast even though we were working.”

Hadley and Villarreal’s work on Knights of New Jersey is beginning to pay off.  It just won the Home Grown Comedy Short award at the Garden State Film Festival.

“We have tons of Facebook followers and YouTube subscribers,” Hadley said.  “People that like Renaissance faire generally, like Knights of New Jersey.”