Promotional: Behind the scenes with Skyline

Talking to the men and women behind November’s sci-fi spectacle.

Editor’s note: This article was neither commissioned by SciFiNow, nor written by one of its staff or freelance journalists. It was provided to us by the studio for the purposes of promotion and should not be regarded as an article from the magazine.

Moments before my interview with the actors from Skyline – the sci-fi broiler by the Brothers Strause – a veteran Russian film critic grabbed me by the elbow and pulled me aside.

“I’ve interviewed big stars,” she whispered. “Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt. You name it. But I’ve never been star struck like today. I can’t stop smiling at that lead actor, Eric Balfour!”

This exchange oddly summed up much about the forthcoming alien invasion thriller Skyline. We’ve seen bigger budget blockbusters, with famous directors behind the camera and mega-celebrities on the screen. Nevertheless, we can’t help but be entranced.

Directed by the brothers Greg and Collin Strause, the filmmaking and special effects powerhouse behind Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem, Avatar, 2012, and Iron Man 2,  their newest offering Skyline boasts the assets of an instant classic: Roiling suspense, meaty characters, a snappy storyline and frighteningly real CGI.

A night into what is supposed to be Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and girlfriend Elaine’s (Scotti Thompson) visit to friends Terry (Donald Faison) and Candice (Brittany Daniel), they awake to discover mysterious lights shooting down from the sky. The lights lock humans in a siren-like trance, only to then suck them into the horrid aliens blotting out the Los Angeles sky. In a matter of hours, everyone could disappear.

Though the contours are familiar, the Brothers Strause, along with co-writers Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, breath fresh life into the invasion genre. All the aliens are organic, gruesome giants with no need for spaceships or weapons. And rather than generals or scientists battling the extraterrestrials, Skyline examines how everyday people cope with extreme situations.

Much of this inventiveness grows from the team’s filmmaking process.

As Colin Strause, the younger of the two brothers, led a tour of Hydraulx, the brothers’ headquarters in Santa Monica, California, he explained the inception of Skyline.

“I had just seen Paranormal Activity,” he remembered as we strolled past a massive RED camera, the same one, in fact, used to shoot Skyline. “I thought, if they can make a movie in their house, why can’t I?”

Making an independent movie – especially one that looks like it cost $100 million – is no dinner party. Yet with such a tight knit group of friends steering production, Skyline traveled from idea to theatrical release in less than a year.

“One of the things that made it so efficient was our ‘power structure,’ as we call it,” Greg Strause said. “The committee, the multiheaded dragon, only had five heads: Liam, Josh, Kristian, Colin and myself. We all speak the same language.”

Shot in 42 days, almost entirely at Greg Strause’s apartment overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Marina del Rey, the film’s crew members wore many hats. In addition to co-writing the script, Joshua Cordes doubled as Second Unit Director and Camera Operator. Liam O’Donnell, the other co-writer, helped produce. The Brothers Strause, with their extensive special effects experience, planned the effects, directed and produced.

The filmmaking process, needless to say, was intense.

“Sometimes I felt like putting a shotgun to my head,” joked Colin Strause.

Yet back at Hydraulx, which just a week before was crammed with editors locking the final picture, the stress and anxiety had evaporated. Indeed, everyone – from the Brothers Strause to the cast to assistants milling about – seemed cheery and confident.

And like the lights shooting down from the sky in the movie, it was a mesmerizing site to see.

Skyline is in cinemas now.