Directed by: Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell
Written by: Chris Caldwell
Cinematography by: Zeek Earl
Starring: Callie Harlow & Tony Doupe
Prospect is the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl on a toxic alien planet. She and her father hunt for precious materials, aiming to strike it rich. When the father is attacked by a roving bandit, the daughter must take control.
Should I watch this?: Goddamn it yes, Prospect the perfect example of smart, accessible Sci-Fi. Don’t expect aliens, tacky special effects, or “hyper-turbo-injection-projection-fluxuation-capacitors.” Prospect will show you that humans can be the most interesting thing in Sci-Fi’s and that great short films don’t necessarily need a twist.
Directed by: Adam Newacheck
Written by: Adam Newacheck
Art direction by: Haley Newacheck
Starring: Radek Antczak, Henry Koplan, Adam Newacheck
Ethan, who is the last human on the planet, is searching for the truth to an alien invasion that wiped out everything he knew.
Should I watch this?: Fans of more ‘mainstream’ Sci-Fi films will definitely want to check this short out. That being said, this film is definitely smarter than your Independence Day/Cowboys Vs. Aliens style Sci-Fi. This is a great example of what you can get out of a short film budget whilst not being overly ambitious. Ethos could be picked up as a full length feature.
The Far-Handers (2014)
Directed by: Rey Janjua
Written by: S.Last
Starring: Samantha Schnitzler, Illona Bou-Habib, Lara Lemon, Jeet Thacker
A mystical order of psychic peace keepers called ‘The Far-Handers’ protect the people that the police and emergency services cannot get to in time.
Should I watch this?: The Far-Handers is by no means ‘classic Sci-Fi’ but it is nevertheless plenty entertaining with a solid plot and quite an original idea. Think 30% Minority Report and 70% superhero movies. The Far-Handers is ambitious with its budget but the core ideas and style could easily translate into a full TV series.
“The best of 3 worlds”
Prospect and Ethos are perfect examples of how to fully utilise your budget to create alien worlds and alternative futures that really feel as if they are possible.
Prospect certainly looks the best of the 3 films, I cannot commend enough how well thought out the costumes, design, atmosphere, and special effects are. In just under 14 minutes the Prospect team have created a rich and fully believable universe. One of the smartest things in Prospect is the way it wraps its special effects nicely within a real location, real props. The focus is on practical effects and physical props, they create the universe – the special effects are the sprinkles. A special mention should be made for the build up to and execution of the tracking shot scene. It was perfection.
Ethos takes a fairly generic and simple idea – the story of the last human after an alien invasion – and performs alchemy. I recently watched the Tom Cruise Sci-Fi Oblivion, a film that has a very similar premise, and what separates the two is the fact that Ethos creates a grittier, realistic post-war existence for humanity. There’s no big action sequence in Ethos, however, there is a looming sense of danger and desperation against the inevitably overwhelming number of enemies – a mood Oblivion failed to create despite its considerably larger budget and running time.
The Far-Handers kept me interested throughout. A girl is trapped in her room by invaders and here emergency responder patches her through to a ‘Far-Hander’… We know is going to save her. But how? He’s miles away and he’s not rushing to the scene of the crime. Why is he sitting in a chair? What are they pumping into his arm? Why is he so calm? OH MY GOD THIS IS COOL. I will admit to being caught by surprise by this short film. The Far-Handers suffers slightly from budget restrictions – the audio isnt the best quality and some of the special effects seem a little dated compared to the bigger budget projects. Personally, the special effects don’t ruin this film, its ballsy and ambitious. The whole film has a sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer feel to it, which is exactly why I like it so much. It definitely wants to be cool, but it kind-of is. It’s the underdog of the three films due to its budget but its extremely watchable. The Far-Handers shows that a big idea goes far even on a small budget.
“You may dispense with the pleasantries, Commander. I am here to put you back on schedule.” (I don’t know shit though, so dont take it personally, you’re the ones making the movies and putting yourselves out there.)
– We don’t need to see aliens. Aliens are fine to include in your universe, but we don’t need to see them. Big budgets disappoint on aliens so sometimes its better to keep them as an unseen threat. OR just to mess with the whole system, why not make your main character an alien? Most big budget movies are afraid to do so, people find it hard to identify with aliens so films like District 9 (woo) and Avatar (boo) have a human character that “links” audience sympathy quite directly to the aliens. Independent shorts are a great place to show that maybe you can make great films where the main characters are alien.
– Not all people in the future have to be serious all the time. Firefly was realistic, emotional, thrilling, and smart, but, Firefly is remembered for the times it made us laugh.
Oh captain, my captain.
– The Far-Handers nearly pulled this next bit of advice off perfectly: if you have a short time and small budget to work with, dont set your Sci-Fi hundreds or thousands of years in the future. Set your short film in the near future – keep a room/house/location as it is today – distribute your special effects budget wisely on a couple of realistic, potential, and futuristic gadgets. This also fits in with the way Prospect nestled their CGI stuff within physical realism.
– Silence, atmospheric noise, and digital ‘bleep bleep bloops’ are sometimes better then having an Inception style soundtrack in your Sci-Fi (especially if you’re doing a horror/Sci-Fi). 2001: A Space Odyssey was basically silent for lots of scenes.
– If you can’t afford to put a spaceship or alien in well, don’t put it in. If you can, don’t overly focus on it. There’s always a big budget movie that will make your stuff look dated.
O J Morgan