Zach Rubin is a filmmaker and visual artist focused on revealing social issues affecting people’s ability to connect empathetically in the backlash of transformative developments in technology and societal norms. Zach’s creative practice took shape as a union Focus Puller for feature film and television shows in 2010. In that time he has worked under such visionary directors as Hal Hartley, David Gordon Green, Amy Heckerling, Derek Cianfrance, and Baz Luhrmann. Being a part of their visions evolved his interest into creating his own narratives within fiction filmmaking.
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?
I think the world in the film is already here. We rely a lot on the comforts of technology to escape our psychological pain. But given the chance, I think I’d stay in this world. It’s plenty Sci-Fi for me as is!
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
Wish I could say Marty McFly, but I’m a total Doc Brown. I’m pretty connected to the Rat Things in the book Snow Crash. They’re physically incapable of standing still without their internal power core melting down. I can relate to that feeling.
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?
Oh, we’d be BFF’s 100%. And I’d absolutely support an AI produced Sci-Fi film. But then wouldn’t it just be a “Sci-” film? These are the questions we need robot directors to answer!
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?
I would recruit 4 Baby Yoda’s to distract the other team with their cuteness while I just sink buckets all day. (In this Sci-Fi world I’m also good at basketball).
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?
Oh yeah, they’re mostly bad. I had an idea to make a Sci-Fi movie about a pig on a future farm. It’s not good. I think finding an idea is all about failing. Just fail over and over and over. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Enjoy the process and keep at it. Don’t overthink. Learn to trust yourself. If people don’t get it, that’s okay. If you love doing it, you’re all good.
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 never thought of myself as being in the Sci-Fi community until recently. When I was developing this last movie, I thought it was a thriller! But as I work on more ideas, I’ve found I’m really interested in the future and alternate realities, and naturally that fits into Sci-Fi. I think everyone’s brains are in the future or the past. It’s really hard to get those dang things in the present! But it actually makes me feel more connected to people. Even if I know nothing about someone, I at least know that both of our thoughts go back and forth repeatedly between the past we can’t undo and the future we don’t know. So it’s not really isolating, it’s just exhausting.
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?
I think I’m pretty 50/50 between analog and digital. I’ll take a book over a tablet, but you can’t beat an electric tooth brush. I really like to use filming techniques that directly clash with the story. I think it can heighten someone’s awareness while they watch a movie. So, if the movie takes place in the future and has some flashy technology, let’s maybe not move the camera so much, or let’s make the aspect ratio an older format like 4:3. If the camera doesn’t start do all these impressive and modern moves, I think it makes the future we’re showing more grounded and relatable.
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?
Low budget indie sci-fi movies are the absolute best inspiration for props. Seeing how much people can accomplish with a small amount of resources is always encouraging. I think it’s just important not to fixate on making something “new”. Most things people create derive from something we already know. Look at the past, not the future. How have the props in your own life changed and advanced? Some of those styles are bound to come back around. But life imitates art after all! Just making a strong creative decision will convince people it could exist.
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?
I’m going off the grid for this! Space Balls. George Saunders. Practical, then fix it in post. Dinotopia. Apocalypse Now!