David Parrella is a filmmaker from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania currently based in Austin, Texas. With a focus in cinematography and visual effects, his work has been screened at numerous festivals around the world, in Times Square, and on MTV. He is currently working on a documentary series with CollegeMarching.com which follows six elite collegiate marching bands as they take on some of the most high profile games of the season.
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?
Hahah. No way, but I would definitely take one to the TNG Star Trek universe--if my dog could get a ticket too.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
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?
I definitely share Elon Musk’s hesitation to advanced AI, but I’d love to see what sci-fi ideas robots could come up with! They’d have to train the AI from tons of material, so I think we’d see the usual tropes with some crazy twists and nonsensical plot points at first. I’ll always support artists!
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?
Oh wow, ok so we never saw Data from TNG play Basketball, but I have no doubt he could outshoot Michael Jordan. Then I think I’ll take Bender from Futurama to balance out the personality.
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?
The best feeling is when you finally figure out that missing piece or element of the story that you were looking for. As a cinematographer and Steadicam Op I sometimes have the problem of thinking visually and conceptually rather than about the specifics of the story first, so I often find myself working backwards. Surrounding yourself with other creatives and being able to bounce ideas off of friends whose opinions you trust is an immense help.
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 think one of the cool parts about sci-fi, and just fandom in general, is that you can make connections and relate with complete strangers over the very specific and thought provoking narratives great sci-fi’s have to offer. People from completely different cultures or societies can view the same things that force us to take new perspectives. I don’t personally find it isolating, I feel like we’re living in the future more and more and I love seeing the ways modern technology has even surpassed the capabilities of devices that sci-fi writers in the 20th century came up with when imagining the future.
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?
The geek in me is all about digital, and of course it's far more reliable, practical, and affordable. However, my appreciation for film history and the evolution of technology in general leaves me constantly fascinated by analog technology and understanding how it works. In my work I personally operate with an all digital setup, but as a hobby or when given the opportunity to use it for a project I love to shoot analog.
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 really like minimalist, sleek designs. The astronaut helmet is based off of the Ridley Scott helmets (Martian, Prometheus) and the suit is partly inspired by SpaceX’s new spacesuits. When I’m brainstorming I’ll gather tons of pictures and reference photos for inspiration and look at what elements I think would exist in the world we’re creating, which in this instance was hard sci-fi, so we really wanted to go for a near-future look that looked and felt like something that was possible.
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, Philip K. Dick, CGI, Utopia, Post Apocalypse.