Get a glimpse of the alien worlds SingularDTV is helping bring to life in this interview with visionary science fiction director Ruari Robinson
The groundbreaking New Frontiers project will see five exciting science fiction directors from around the world coming together to create an anthology of films that, weaved together, depict an at-once inspiring and horrifying vision of the future as a space-bound humanity scrambles to save itself from the bleakness of the void. Even more remarkably, the entire anthology is to be funded and distributed on the blockchain via a partnership between XYZ Films, Ground Control, and SingularDTV, and production is getting underway.
Taking the helm of the project is Ruari Robinson, director of Last Days on Mars, and a deft hand at creating haunting, otherworldly planets in which extreme human dramas play out and monsters reign supreme. The project sees Robinson euniting with friends and collaborators Stephan Zlotescu (True Skin), Zac&Mac (Law Zero), and Tyson Johnston (Lunar) in directorial roles, and screenwriter Philip Gelatt.
As the New Frontiers project gears up into production, we sat down with Ruari Robinson to get a deeper look at the big vision of the project, what it’s like for independent filmmakers in Hollywood today, and to find out what we might be able to expect from the worlds these talented filmmakers are creating…
A clip from Robinson’s 2013 feature film ‘Last Days on Mars’
Describe the environment and situation in which the New Frontiers project takes place…
New Frontiers is a story of mankind’s tenuous grasp in the stars in the not too distant future. We’ve come to 13 or 14 worlds, there are couple hundred thousand people off-world on colonies, trade routes, and ships sending supplies back and forth from Earth. It’s about this horrifying moment when all of the off-world humans realize that they may be the only ones left out there. They’ve lost all contact with Earth. Any ships that head home disappear too. The story tells the consequences, the aftermath of this moment, showing the best and worst in humanity. It’s a terrifying future, but some of the stories have an optimistic note. The others are just fucking horrifying!
What’s it like approaching this project in collaboration with other directors, and how did you workshop the idea together?
It makes it a lot easier that we’re all friends and have been for quite some time. I think it could have been a lot more difficult if we were just four random filmmakers, but we go back quite a while and some of us have collaborated before. We realized that we could be a mutual support network and have each other’s backs. I came up with the original idea, but we all worked on it together. The first thing that we did was come up with rules for what technology was available in this world, what the realistic limits of that tech might be, what the political landscape would look like. With all that ironed out. Then, we set about figuring out a series of stories that could take place in this world.
What does each director bring to the table that you’re particularly excited about?
Tyson Johnston’s story is really emotional. It’s on a smaller personal scale, less about world-building and landscapes and alien species and more about family stuff. Zac & Mac’s one is going to be amazing. It’s got some violent, nasty ideas, but it will look amazing. Stephan’s is really strange and has an unusual aesthetic sense of color, light, and design, and I think it’ll look like nothing else we’ve ever seen.
In terms of the worlds you’re building in space — is it more 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Wars?
It’s the anti-Star Wars! It’s not a sci-fi fantasy, it’s not a space opera. It’s grounded in relatively plausible technology, that was the limit we placed on ourselves. There are no pew-pew lasers!
How is it being an independent science fiction director in the film industry at the moment?
The whole industry is going through this weird upheaval right now. The middle has kind of fallen out. A lot of great directors who would have stepped up to doing big movies gradually over time — that’s really hard to do now. I think Denis Villenueve is the only director who has been able to do that in last few years, because there is almost no middle. So that’s been the hardest change. There are $5–10 million dollar movies, and then there are $120 million dollar movies. There’s really not much else in the middle.
The change has been that the tech has gotten cheaper. So the fact that there isn’t this huge system in place making tons of medium-budget movies means that people have to get smarter and use technology. People are using cheaper cameras, even their phones. My first short film ever was short on 35mm. Half the budget of the film was to get the film processed and graded. That cost is gone now. You can just borrow a Red from a friend or borrow one and get into making movies much cheaper now, which is great.
Are you now a converted blockchain nerd?
This is my introduction to blockchain. I had read a lot about it in the press, but for someone who so well versed in technology, I’m something of a luddite. But it’s really interesting and strange and unusual and we’re all really excited about getting involved.