AURORAS - Aurora-Lab & Marauder Film (2014)

This film was shot in my living room with a 3-person crew and cost $12,000 US to create. However, it would ultimately be a three year long side project. Out of the good/fast/cheap only pick two rule, we definitely jettisoned the fast. It's a bit of a flagship test for the type of narrative filmmaker I am, although my future film projects will likely have less computer graphics. The problem with CG is it takes incredibly long to do well and hardly anyone, even people in other areas of the film industry, don't fully understand the process and therefore underestimate the intense time which is required to produce high-end imagery. Attempting to create a short with lots of CG outside a paradigm of large professional teams is a bit like climbing ten Mt. Everest's by yourself. All the post was primarily done by yours truly, with some help by the film's two Art Directors - Bastiaan Koch & Marco Iozzi. Bastiaan helped me design & build the environments in 3D on the front end while Marco helped me design & polish the environments in 2D on the back end.  

This sci-fi short is a concept test for a larger feature storyline, similar to the Tron Legacy test to see how audiences would react prior to green lighting the actual film. A story centered around a north-pole based Japanese space elevator rising up through the aurora borealis popped into my head years ago when I was living in New Zealand. After writing the 5-page script, I started collecting assets and previsualizing, a technique which is basically moving storyboards. A extremely valuable tool for the next generation filmmaker. I boiled the narrative down to two people in a 50's style suburban living room having to separate at the worst possible time, as the wife is just days from giving birth while the husband is called on a mandatory mission. They have a heartfelt kiss and he walks out the door, gets in the car, pulls out the driveway, and drives off to the train station on the other side of town while the wife is left alone in tears. This idea was catalyzed from my own personal experience of having to say goodbye to my wife for extended periods to travel to film sets. That last moment at an airport terminal or train station is not fun and the heart of the short is really about that.

The film has two timelines, the back story of the two people together, while the other is the current story of where the female occupant character is going. The narrative is structured into these two timelines in order to hold off on revealing the two major plot points until the last possible moment. One being where the person is going - on a space elevator ride up to Space Gate Auroras. The other timeline revealing who the other person is - another woman who is just days from delivering their child. I decided to set it about two women after I saw the iconic picture of Naval Officers Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell kissing after Gatea had returned from extended military service. This was a total synchronicity because it couldn't have been more perfect timing during the writing, and because I have multiple members of my extended family who are gay. This then gave the film so much more substance and meaning. It also brought a whole deeper dynamic to the story then if it were about a male and a female because it was a more politically relevant story about the time it was being made in. Perfect for science fiction since most sci-fi is not about the future, it's about the period in which it's created.

The quite feminine storyline has a very Japanese influence. It's rumored in Japan that a child conceived under the northern lights is considered to be extremely good luck and Japanese tourists will visit Alaska in the winter for just that reason. This was the motivation for the loved one's pregnany and ties in with much of the symbolism of the film as well.

The film has quite a bit of encoded symbolism in it, all of which is much more greatly expanded on in the feature storyline. To give away secret keys, the alarm clock represents machine culture and the negative aspects of it running our lives. It's also circular and looks similar to the massive country size space gate at the tether end of the elevator which it's telling her she needs to go to. It telling her to "wake up" has a much larger Gnostic themed cultural message to not  just rise and shine but also to wake up and unplug from the control system false reality she's living in. The term "Sociocyberneering" on the clock is an old Jaque Fresco term which implies the gate is utopian and engaged in a resource based economy. So the tower base and below Neo-Tokyo like city, which is stylistically influenced by Akira, is gritty and industrial with straight lines and right angels. While the gate is clean and mostly curved. The aurora borealis, which is almost in every shot in the film, represents concept and rebirth. The fact that there are two mothers is a representation of the devine feminine and one having a fatherless child represents parthenogenesis. The "womb pod" she fly's away in and docks at the elevator tower base in is representative of the pregnant womb. The space elevator track is called the "umbilical" in the voice over poem and thus symbolizes the umbilical cord. The elevator base tower symbolizes their separation, and its very intentional that it divides the two characters in frame in the interior shots in the living unit. The space gate represents ascension, since the loved one is ascending up to the gate to stay for an extended period and undergo great change during that time. Thus essentially being reborn as a new person. 

Tremendous thanks to everyone who helped make this project happen. Actor Jess Dela Merced who played duel roles, Gaffer Marc-Antoine Serou who made the lighting twice as good, Vanessa Mi-Kyung Lee who designed the costumes, Davee Troublefield who did the makeup, Andrew Duncan who did all the sound design from his little garage studio, as well as Dan Haigh & Alex Westaway who are a London-based composing duo called Gunship. A neon soaked, late night, sonic getaway drive, dripping with luscious analog synthesizers, cinematic vocals and cyberpunk values. Cellist Audrey Riley who really made the score memorable and special. Last but not least. Big love to our wonderful & amazing Kickstarter backers.