Your new movie Shockwave
Darkside - in a few words, what is it about?
soldiers, on their way to battle, are shot down behind enemy lines on the dark
side of the moon. They have no choice but to try and walk back to their side of
the war with limited oxygen. Along theyway they make a discovery that can
save their lives & get them rescued, but also lose the war for their side.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Shockwave
Darkside, and did any current political events influence your storyat
Shockwave Darkside is deeply rooted in the morality
plays found in classic science-fiction television shows like The Twilight
Zone or the original Star
always been a fan of this type of storytelling, so when it came time to
plan out my first feature, I thought that this was pretty fertile ground
for an update. Most science
fiction is of the spectacle variety these days, so I wanted to try and do
something a bit more plot and character-driven - which also made sense
from what I could do from a budget perspective as well.
I wanted to use this type of storytelling - simple, stark
narratives that shed light on larger issues of the day, but also give it
an updated 21st century visual spin.
Once I had a sense as to the overall take, it was pretty easy to look around
and find real-world inspiration as jumping-off points for the story.
I think that's part of why The Twilight
Zone and Star
lasted so long, their stories can be both timely and timeless, so it
wasn't too difficult to look at the newspaper and extrapolate how this
very desperate world that we portray in the movie came to be.
With Shockwave Darkside
being set on the moon, where was it actually filmed, and
what kind of a challenge was it to set up moon-like sets?
We shot at night in a huge industrial sand pit on
Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The
sand crews would leave for the day and we'd set up in the evening and film
throughout the night. It
actually worked out because they could pretty much bulldoze the pit to our
liking, so we literally could have a different location each day if we
wanted to - so that was a
We also studied NASA photographs from the moon
landings as reference and tried to approximate how the sun would hit and
affect the landscape. Our
directors of photography Bob Fiske and Joe Gabriel did an amazing job of
replicating the environment - so by the time the sun went down, it
literally felt like we were on the moon.
We had this big coffee table book of lunar photographs on set so
any time we were in a lighting jam, we'd go 'let's see what Buzz Aldrin
has to say' and huddle around it.
We shot the movie in 3D, so the play of textures
with the sand and harder-edged space suits also did a great job of helping
carry the illusion, as did the color correction from our VFX supervisors
Wayne Johnson and Adam Natrop. There
they had quite a job of removing the beige-color of the sand so it looked
more like the original lunar photographs.
As things were coming together in post-production, we also added a
slight blue tint to give it an overall colder vibe.
also have to talk about the wonderful costumes and production design of Shockwave
Darkside for a bit, and to what extent were you involved in that
aspect of your movie?
I was pretty involved.
I had a mood board of designs from concept artist Ron Cobb for the
original Alien movie that I constantly looked at for reference for the
aesthetic of the moon base where our heroes live.
Once Chris Plummer (our production designer, not the actor), came
on board, we realized that he was independently looking at the same
images, so I knew we were in good hands.
I really wanted to get the idea across that our
characters - who live in a dilapidated base in a crater on the moon - were
essentially the underdogs of the story.
They're on the losing side of the war - so their living conditions
are crumbling and everything is retrofitted and barely working.
Their technology, years out of date, is outmatched by the enemy, so
they really are behind eight-ball at every turn in the story.
This notion pretty much influenced everything we
did with them, from the design of the sets, to the suits and the CG model
of the moon base.
When talking to Robert Westerfield, our armourer,
he saw the suits as the equivalent of a WWI tank - pounded metal, that,
when someone is killed inside it, is hosed off and then put on someone
else. I thought that not only
was this a perfect approach for this world, but also gave additional
tension in that our characters will be trapped in these leaking and
taped-up suits without any hope for repair.
Conversely, the 'bad guys' of our story has a
much sleeker and sophisticated feel. Everything
is polished and graceful. Their
suits have defensive shielding and they use orbital drones instead of
ground personnel - so even on a limited budget we wanted to find ways to
differentiate the various factions and keep the odds stacked against our
Do talk about the effects work in Shockwave
Darkside for a bit, and having an special effects background
yourself, how deeply were you involved with this?
Yep - I was pretty involved with that too.
I was one of the producers as well, so I saw this as an amazing
opportunity to help optimize the process as much as possible.
There was so much going on between the 3D as well as the research
and development to figure out how to pull off our 1,000+ cg shots, partical effects and Heads Up Display animations - I figured, it would be
better for Director Jay to understand all the various trade-offs and
production considerations as noted by Producer Jay.
A pretty schizophrenic existence, I know - but ultimately one that
worked better for the movie because I knew what we could pull off.
That said, the story of the visual effects work
Darkside could literally be a movie in and of itself.
Wayne Johnson of Into the Void
FX is such a big part of Shockwave
we couldn't have done it without him.
He's really a guy who doesn't know the word 'impossible', so he and
supervisors Adam Natrop, Keith Mc Gregor and Jeremy Wanek literally
figured how to handle the above VFX needs as well as building all the CG
models, creating a rendering pipeline, managing all the data as well as 3D
alignment, color correction and final output - it was truly a herculean
task. We also couldn't
just go out and buy another piece of software or more computers if we ran
into any issues - so these guys had to get very creative with the
resources they had.
My producers Dan De Filippo and Dave Marken run a
management company - so they have a great knack for putting people
together. They introduced me
to Wayne as well as a motion graphics company in Buenos Aires called
Bambula - who designed all of our Heads Up Displays .
HUDS play an important part of our story - so while Wayne & Co
were off figuring out the ins and outs of their pipeline, we were
designing and building our HUD files and getting them ready for animation.
John De Mayo, who I met during the production,
volunteered to do all of our partical effects - so he was kinda a third
track of the VFX team. He
literally spent years building a library of dust, smoke, lasers, muzzle
flashes and missiles and then animating them against files that Wayne
would dropbox to him. All of
those elements would go back to Adam and Wayne to be dropped into the
movie and then aligned.
It was crazy. We would literally
do tests and figure out how to do one sequence, and then kick those shots
into production while we were approving or concepting others.
Then rinse and repeat all down the line.
Nutty, but so much fun!
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
I think the most important thing that I realized
about being a director is that you have to speak to everybody somewhat
differently. Everybody to an
extent is performing - be it from our amazing caterer, to the actors, to
the guy who is animating our spaceships -, so you have to figure out what
interests them, what they want out of the experience creatively, and then
figure out how to get it for them while still serving the needs of the
story. You need to be somewhat
of a social chameleon, so to an extent it was like hosting a party and
then making sure that everybody is having a good time.
At the same time, you're there to serve the story - so you have to keep
everything on the rails. That means protecting it from bad ideas,
recognizing good surprises and fielding bumps in the road.
I try to stay flexible and positive - and hopefully it rubs off!
Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these
Our awesome casting directors Sig De Miguel and
Steven Vincent lined up a mixture of interviews and auditions in both LA
and New York.
The first person we cast was Rich Ceraulo, who
plays Corporal Kim in the movie. I
was just bowled over by his intelligence and personality that I treated
him as the lynch pin to build the rest of the troupe around.
I always saw Shockwave
Darkside as an ensemble piece, so I
was not only casting with en eye toward the performer fitting the
character, but also how they might play off each other.
We didn't really have time to do a group rehearsal beforehand, so
it was a bit of a leap of faith going in, but once we actually had the
first table read right before shooting, it got very exciting.
Alex Cendese (Private Schorr) and Sonequa
Martin-Green (Private Lang) did these incredible auditions.
They were funny, intelligent and very versatile - I just had so
much fun working with them and really felt like we could give those
characters depth far beyond what I had written.
Bill Sage (Sergeant Dalton) came in with every much of the gravitas as you
might expect. Mei Melançon
was the last addition to the cast. We
spoke on the phone and I actually didn't meet her until she arrived on
set, but one of the things that I remember from our initial call was she
had this way of sizing up the situation very quickly and efficiently.
I thought it would be amazing if that attitude somehow translated
to the character. It did, of
course, and she - like the rest of the cast give tremendous performances
in the movie. In fact, the
acting is usually the first thing that people cite after they see the
What can you tell us about the shoot as such,
and the on-set atmosphere?
The atmosphere was by and large a happy one as
far as I can remember. It was
very difficult shooting at night in the sandpit - and we ran into a
variety of weather. So it was
very physically demanding - but I think spirits were pretty high.
We had a large monitor that we rigged to show 3D,
so cast and crew could gather around and see what we were shooting - which
I think went a long way for morale. Because
it was a small cast and crew, it was a pretty tight group.
I also think the quality of the acting really kept everybody
engaged and proud to be on the film - which goes a long way when it's 4am
and you're being rained on!
There were a few personalities of course, but that's the nature of production.
One of the nicest things that was said to me was at the wrap party when
Joe Gabriel, one of our DPs, mentioned that the whole experience made him
feel like he was nine years old and playing The Empire Strikes Back in
his backyard - which was exactly the kind of on-set vibe that I was going
for. I wanted everybody to
embrace and unleash their inner geek - and by and large, I think that's
what everybody kinda left with.
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
From the get-go, we wanted Shockwave Darkside to be
different, so it's been really interesting to check out the reactions.
Some people get it and love it, and other's just don't - which is
totally fine and expected. One of the great things about independent film is that you can take risks and
try and make something as unique as possible - in fact, I think that's
probably one of the reasons why indie cinema is still around.
It's a place where you can be a little more off-the-beaten-track
future projects you'd like to share?
been writing away - but nothing definite to announce just yet.
I did do some writing work on my friend Alfred Padilla's terrific
Best Man in the Dark, starring Alex Cendese who also played Private Schorr
in Shockwave Darkside.
When it comes to
filmmaking, you've worn many hats over the years - so how did you intially
enter the filmworld, and which position(s) do you enjoy the most, which
could you do without?
I started out as a production assistant like
pretty much everybody else - getting coffee and whatnot.
The craziest thing I had to do was drive across the state of
Michigan to pick up a Northern Pike that somebody spent all night fishing
for for a commercial. Along
the way I started producing visual effects and then alternated between
writing and producing commercials and industrials.
Overall, I have spent more time on the producing side of things - but to me, that's
also the most stressful because the whole apparatus is on your shoulders.
That said, I do enjoy putting things together and working with -
and learning from - talented people, so each of the jobs I've had,
writing, producing and directing really appeals to various sides of my
personality. Each has their
plusses and minuses, rushes and frustrations.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Shockwave
I've been bopping between advertising,
television, film and interactive for some time now.
I wrote, produced and directed the short film Surveillances -
which was a WWII spy tale, and was lucky enough to travel the world with
it. I directed a few episodes
of 1,000 Ways to Die for Spike and did some work for the
How would you describe yourself as a
I try to do my homework and be as prepared as
possible - but also be willing
to throw it all out the window should somebody have a better idea or
something radically change.
I also try to keep it light. I
feel life is a lot easier in general if you have a sense of humor, so I
want to keep everything as loose and collaborative as possible.
I just find that everybody can perform better if they are relaxed -
so that's really my mantra. I
want people to enjoy working with me and on the project, but at the same
time the director is the protector of the project so I also have to be
able to dig in my heels if need be.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Oh man, that's such a long list.
Let's see... Howard Hawks who pretty much tackled every
conceivable genre. George
Lucas, of course for well, being George Lucas!... And of course Spielberg
for being Spielberg... Ridley Scott's eye, Stanley Kubrick for just
seeing the world in such a unique way, David Lean's command of the epic
and the sublime, James Cameron's chutzpah, Terry Gilliam's
mischievousness, along with the new kids like Joss Whedon, JJ Abrams, Matt
Reeves, Chris Nolan and Neil Blomkamp.
I'm sure there's about a thousand others that I'm forgetting!
Star Wars, Superman (1978 baby!), Dr. Strangelove,
Lawrence of Arabia, Forbidden Planet, 2001, The Producers
(1967), Young Frankenstein, Frankenstein,
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner, Aliens, The Day the Earth Stood Still and, of course,
in Little China!
... and of course, films you really
there's a bunch of 'em as well - but one thing I realized after making
Shockwave Darkside is that movies -
even the bad ones - can start out as labors
of love, so in empathy to the filmmakers, I'd like to keep that list
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Sure, the website is: www.shockwavedarkside.com
You can find us on Facebook at:
Anything else you're dying to mention and I've
merely forgotten to ask?
Nope - I think you pretty much covered it all...
Thanks for the interview!
You're welcome! This was really a lot of fun, so thanks for the interest in