By Ajnos Gamgee
We were delighted by the news announced on 1 October last year (2013) that the CS Lewis Company had entered into an agreement with the Mark Gordon Company to develop and produce the next instalment in the Narnia film series – The Silver Chair. The press release informed us that Mark Gordon would be working on developing the script along with co-producers Douglas Gresham (Lewis’ step-son) and Vincent Sieber (one of the directors of the CS Lewis Company, who was also involved in production for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). So exactly who are Mark Gordon and his company? And what can we expect from their involvement in producing the new film?
Firstly, we should establish exactly what the role of a producer is in a film. Mark Gordon himself is quoted on IMDb as defining the role of a producer as follows:
Most people think, ‘Oh, the producer’s the guy who gets the money.’ And that’s part of it. But the producer also develops the script, brings in the director, works as an editor, is involved in the marketing. It’s really hard to define. (source: IMDb – Mark Gordon)
The producer essentially gets first say and last say in what happens in the film. They are involved in bringing together all the aspects of what makes a film filmable by establishing the initial plan of the script, who will work on the film and how it will be funded. Gordon will not be doing all this on his own, of course, but has Douglas Gresham and Vincent Sieber as co-producers. From what we know about these two, this is good news for fans of Narnia. Gresham has in the past revealed a desire to see future films adapted much more closely to the book than in the past (source: personal communication) and Sieber has been quoted in the initial press release as saying:
[Working in this partnership with Gordon from the beginning] gives us the opportunity to develop a script and then produce a film with some of the most talented industry professionals whilst remaining completely faithful to this much loved book. (source: narniafans)
Mark Gordon has been involved in production work since 1980. He and his company have been producers for numerous television shows and films throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Among these are some well-known, highly praised and award-winning works including the graphic World War II drama Saving Private Ryan (1998) (R) which was nominated for an Oscar (best picture), a BAFTA  (best film) and a Satellite award (best motion picture – drama). It also won the award for “outstanding producer of theatrical motion pictures” from the Producers Guild of America.
Other award-winning films Gordon has produced (in co-production with other producers) include a television film Warm Springs (2005) (PG), about President Roosevelt’s struggles with Polio, and The Messenger (2009) (R), the romantic tale of an American soldier who falls in love with the widow of another soldier whose death he is assigned to report on. He has also produced numerous episodes of the popular thriller crime drama Criminal Minds (TV-PG/14) and the award-winning medical drama Grey’s Anatomy (TV-14). While the popular success of these works and recognition by the entertainment industry (by means of nominations and awards) points to the high quality Gordon’s work, it should be noted that many of these mentioned are rated between PG and R for scenes of extreme violence, gore, horror and sexual content.
This could be worrying to fans of Narnia, especially those in Christian circles. At the same time, it should be remembered, however, that The Silver Chair is meant to be a children’s story with a Christian ethos. As such it is unlikely, and almost unthinkable, that we would expect the same treatment of the material that we see in the war films and police and medical dramas he has produced in the past. The one area in which I would genuinely be concerned is in representations of violence, which have the potential for being exaggerated in The Silver Chair. Having said that, The Silver Chair does not contain a large-scale battle like some of the other Narnia stories, so even the possibility of extreme violence is reduced.
One of Mark Gordon’s first awards, in fact, was the BAFTA  Children’s Award for Best Children’s Feature Film for Paulie (1998) (PG). This covers the story of a talking parrot and his adventures from living with a young girl with a stutter to being found in a laboratory by a janitor who takes pity on him and listens to his adventures (source: Wikipedia, IMDb). Both the inclusion of talking animals and children and adults, and the apparent episodic nature of this film are encouraging signs for Gordon’s ability to work with the Narnia stories. Besides the BAFTA, Paulie received a number of other nominations for awards.
Gordon has also worked in children’s television producing episodes for the CBS Schoolbreak Specials. These programmes (which ran in the 80s and 90s) were targeted at teenagers and dealt with social issues and problems relevant to these age groups. Gordon produced an episode on Children remembering the Holocaust which received a Daytime Emmy nomination and another on class/race warfare which won the Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Children’s Special”. He also produced episodes for ABC’s Afterschool Special which ran along similar lines.
Gordon was involved in the production of the apocalyptic sci-fi films The Day After Tomorrow (2004) (PG-13) and 2012 (2009) (PG-13). These films might give us a hint as to how Gordon would deal with the collapse of Underland and Bism in The Silver Chair. 2012, in particular, made use of large-scale special effects, exaggerating the destructive power of earthquakes and floods.
It is impossible to tell from a producer’s past filmography what The Silver Chair will look like, but it would seem that in Mark Gordon we have someone who is able to make good quality, popular works, has experience in working with children’s material and has won awards in both areas. If, in working with Gresham and Sieber, they create something that adheres to the storyline in the book, we have the potential for a good quality film, appropriate for a children’s audience, with effective and well thought-out special effects.
 The BAFTAs are the highest awards awarded to the film industry in Britain generally considered to be the British equivalent of the Academy Awards/Oscars.
All information regarding film titles, awards and ratings in this article is from IMDb