Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
My anxiety for the future tends to take over in my creative endeavors, and so I end up imagining worlds that are probably best left uninhabited. If I had to choose someone else's sci-fi world to live in, it would be Gene Roddenbery's initial vision for Star Trek (pre Abrams). In spite of the dangers in traveling the galaxy, it presented a wholly optimistic view of the future.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Sci-fi spirit animal is definitely Ripley’s cat in Alien. I’ll just hide away safely while the shit hits the fan, and then stow away with whoever’s got the next escape pod.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
My next short tackles some of this subject matter! While I believe AI has its place, I probably won’t love the day it takes my job. That said, AI has a long way to go before it can come up with a story that’s better than the equivalent of a Big Mac.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
The Iron Giant, of course! I don’t think I need anyone else on my team.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
In the past, I tended to spend a lot of time writing many drafts and letting a story evolve. Usually I'd have a creative spark about something-- it might be from the news or something I'd read-- and then I would start to build a story around it. Through the rewrite process, that initial spark often morphed into something else completely. Nowadays, I try to hold onto the core spark even as the idea evolves-- it’s what got me interested in the first place! If my story starts to drift from that core premise, I'll go back to basics or pull back. On the other hand, a bad idea is hard to pinpoint. I often believe that any idea can be good, but it’s the execution that counts.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I love blending genres, and making stories that don’t fit entirely into a specific box, so I’ve never really considered myself as part of a sci-fi or specific genre community. A lot of what I write is strictly based in the present, and extrapolated and twisted in a way that could be a cautionary future, or even an alternative present.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
Analog, through and through. Most of the shorts I've made have held onto the notion of an analog world. It’s so tangible, and there’s something cinematic-- even romantic about the world of analog. Would you rather see a character sitting in a dark room and listening to old audio on a reel-to-reel player, or would you rather watch them scrolling through a media playlist on their phone? I’ll always default to the reel-to-reel. While I don’t necessarily try to strike a balance between analog and digital, I do realize there’s an irony to preferring one (analog), and using the other (digital) to fully capture it. My own work tends to revolve around retrofitted ideas that infuse old technology with new. For instance, in 'They Watch', I tried to design a future world as if imagined by someone living in the late 70s or early 80s. But to bring the world to life always requires some new technology and digital techniques!
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I go to APEX Electronics in North Hollywood. This is like a giant junkyard of retro tech (and some modern stuff too). At APEX, you can find interesting going back every decade to the 1940s.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Star Trek, William S Burroughs, Practical AND CG. The best results are achieved when people can use both, Utopia (only because I rarely see it), Pre Apocalypse.