With a handful of big name exceptions, sci-fi has steered well clear of the stars since the Eighties and Nineties, but one indie movie is battling to bring that golden age of silver screen space adventure back.
We caught up with Shane Abbess, director of sci-fi thriller Infini to find out more…
You’ve mentioned that Infini is a response to the type of sci-fi you haven’t been seeing lately. Can you elaborate on that?
Infini was designed to feel like it came from an era of science fiction, which in my opinion, was really the benchmark for all that came afterward, being 1979-82. You had Alien, Blade Runner, ET, The Thing, Empire Strikes Back, Wrath of Khan, and even outside of that genre you had The Shining, Apocalypse Now, Raiders… it was just a frontier of cinema that was exploding into its potential for what genre could be on a wider platform.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of great science fiction out there and perhaps more content than ever before, but I just really missed the magic of that ’79-’82 era, which is why we went back there. It was a deranged love letter of sorts.
The story for Infini came via Brian Cachia, your composer on Gabriel.
Can you tell me how long he’d been working on this story, and why you were attracted to it?
Brian and I have been very close since the beginning of our combined creative journey, often spending a lot of time working on ideas outside of just the normal director/composer relationship, so it was always a natural evolution to work together on stories in a more official capacity since we’d done it unofficially for so long. We’d always liked the idea of doing a darker, edgier space thriller and coupled with a period in our lives where we’d become very confident in our individual creative voices while hungry for some anarchy,Infini was born. We both bought our own unique ideas to the project, and combined the best ones to form the beast that is today. The result was a narrative that was unpredictable and highly risky, which taunted us enough to want to make it straight away.
You’ve also said this is a throwback to late-Seventies sci-fi, but with a twist to its tale. Which films specifically are you harking back to?
Infini is kind of its own beast. Yu think you know what this is going to be, but couldn’t possibly.
It isn’t really a horror film in any way, since it wasn’t designed around instilling fear in the audience, just in the characters, which creates more of an intense experience for the viewer than a scary one.
Our distributors worldwide have often put it in the family of films like Requiem For A Dream and Cube in terms of the energy, and test audiences were all pretty shell-shocked by the end, since it wasn’t what anyone was expecting, and we’re really excited by the overwhelmingly positive response.
What experiences did you learn from Gabriel that you want to take forward for Infini?
With the budget of Gabriel being so small, I was always proud of what we were able to achieve aesthetically, but felt I didn’t have the kind of arena to really push my main passion, which is unique character study.
Working with actors and living the truth of the journey at hand is by far the most intense but rewarding part of the process for me, and over the years I’ve worked very hard to make that the backbone of my films moving forward. It’s resulted in what many consider a highly unorthodox way of doing things on set, but I feel it’s the best environment to find the most interesting outcome – which is what we’re ultimately there to do.
It was a style myself and several of the actors on Gabriel, including Andy Whitfield, were able to play with, but it was really cemented on Infini thanks to a wonderfully committed cast and us being willing to take things as far as we possibly could.
I’m much more willing to take massive risks these days, knowing full well the line between success and failure gets closer the further you push, which is why it’s the best place to be.
Why so many years between gigs? I understand you spent time in the US, but become somewhat disillusioned by it all? Can you elaborate?
Not so much disillusioned, just gained a healthy understanding of the type of films the town was making and the process by which they were made. That takes quite a while, because you have to live in the jungle long enough to understand its rules of survival. The choices become very clear though at a point as to what type of artist you want to be, and I’m really happy with where I am right now, because it suits the type of movie I’m excited about.
I still get to work with Hollywood daily – just in a way that gives me more creative freedom. It’s all just about the choices at the time and what they mean to you. For example, in terms of the more well-known development projects I’ve worked on, I loved the script of Source Code, and worked hard to make it fresh and exciting, but couldn’t stand behind an external creative push, which I felt was making it too bland/passive. I wanted mind bending and gut wrenching. Not safe and secure. At a point, the choice became clear for all involved.
I adored the Dark Crystal sequel, and worked tirelessly on a vision that I felt served Jim Henson and the company’s legacy, but new producing partners had the control to push it somewhere completely different, and again my choices became very clear.
I worked on bringing a movie version of Contra to the big screen with Konami/Paramount, and even tried to get Creepshow back into our lives each and every Halloween but they all got bogged down with endless contractual issues which didn’t even give us a choice in the end – it was just too damn hard to keep it moving.
Infini will be released in the UK later this year. For more on the best sci-fi, grab the latest issue of SciFiNow.