pre-pro Making a Low Budget Sci-Fi Film

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Hello everyone!

Thanks for stopping by. Can I offer you a drink? Coffee? Sure, I'm going to need some coffee too for this thread. It's gonna be a long one.

I am posting because I wanted to bring you all along with me on my journey to making a Science Fiction film called "Infinitus".

My plan is to make something with practical FX, while retaining the moody/artsy atmosphere I like so much. Science fiction is one of my favorite genres. I grew up watching the Alien films, Bladerunner, 2001, Terminator, etc. It seems like lately, SciFi might be coming back strong again. I am ready for it! Interstellar was great, The Martian too, and I'm hoping Ad-Astra can pull it off.

For my film, I want to create a vibe similar to Stalker (1979) directed by Tarkovsky mixed with Sunshine (2006) by Boyle.

Our plot begins deep underground in bunkers near the Earth's core. A species similar to us has invented a technology to harness the power of a dying star and use it for themselves. Called the "Infinitus" program, it was designed to go inside of a star and control the reactions at the core. Instead, it causes the star to collapse and leaves a small black hole at the center of the system. (Don't worry, I've researched the heck out of this. Contrary to popular opinion, a black hole in place of the sun wouldn't change orbits of planets). Our main character, Rachel... Goes through the film plotting to eradicate the singularity and restore the star.

It sounds very high concept, I know. That plot was created after 6 revisions to the original idea, and there are still bits that I want to fine tune before filming begins in November-December.

Ultimately, I just want a piece about a female character taking action, a black hole as an antagonist, and the backdrop to work in practical FX.

For the set, I've locked down a warehouse and we will style it as a bunker. That won't be too hard, we are going to use scrap and cardboard/wood to build prop pieces in order to create a rusty/grungy vibe.

For the ship, I will be kit-bashing plastic bits and what not in order to make a studio scale miniature. (That seems to be the biggest challenge).
ship+design.jpg

For the suit, we've already pretty much finished it. Rob and Ray's homemade FX talent is quickly moving along.67821117_346581479565317_7627216530140299264_n.jpg 67870241_2505006162889261_4127552322660204544_n.jpg

Filming will be done over a 4 day period, mostly indoor/cockpit scenes. The outdoor shot, we have to wait for the snow to settle in and the lakes to freeze over.

And for the rest, I will keep posting up here. I hope to continue sharing the progress of the film with you all. If you love scifi films, or have done some in the past, I would love to hear your stories too!

Until the next post.
-Cam
 
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How long will the movie's run time be? 4 day's will give you...... perhaps....... a 20 minute movie. If you want to learn about kit-bashing and painting scale models. There are some good groups on Facebook that do amazing conversion work with 40k models. I also know some channels on pro painting and whetering effects if your interested....
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
How long will the movie's run time be? 4 day's will give you...... perhaps....... a 20 minute movie. If you want to learn about kit-bashing and painting scale models. There are some good groups on Facebook that do amazing conversion work with 40k models. I also know some channels on pro painting and whetering effects if your interested....
Always interested in resources! Thank you.

The film is going to be short, with a runtime planned of 10-14 minutes.
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Director's Journal, Day 278 of Pre-Production for Infinitus:

I have realized I bit off more than I can chew for a certain part in the script. (The part in which the main character modifies a spaceship to allow her to "hack" and pilot it, and then launches on a sled from the bunker to the frozen surface of the planet).

I am no builder, and I feel like I wont get the people required to design a semi-life size replica of the space ship. I have thought of several ways around this over the course of a month, but I keep coming back to the thought of cutting it in a way to avoid the scene.

I have thought of green screening the actress into a miniature version of the hangar w/ the ship model in it. I have thought of building a true to life size replica for the actress (with the downside of needing to also build the hangar into our set), I have even thought of doing forced perspective (only good for one establishing shot, and still need to build a hangar set to place her in as she works on the ship.) Or maybe even shrinking the ship down to only the size of a car.

All of these are technically challenging, and not free.

So, in a last ditch effort to save the film from disaster, I am thinking of completely cutting the hangar and launch sequence of the ship, and creatively writing a moment where she looks at the schematics of the ship design on a white board. A slow push into the board, fading into the ship floating along in space. This will reduce the need of a launch sequence, and give me focus on the bunker set, instead of worrying about building a whole hangar and launch tube.

The whole point of that ship building and launch scene was to really push the idea that this going to be a last ditch effort/suicide mission for the main character. The struggle is going to be finding a way to keep this theme or feeling, while reducing the amount of actual materials needed.
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
A couple of the space suit add on pieces. Shoulder/Knee pads, helmet design, and boots. Most of these materials were made with a combination of gym mat foam, hot glue, bondo, and paint. The suit is coming along very well.
 

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I am thinking of completely cutting the hangar and launch sequence of the ship, and creatively writing a moment where she looks at the schematics of the ship design on a white board. A slow push into the board, fading into the ship floating along in space. This will reduce the need of a launch sequence, and give me focus on the bunker set, instead of worrying about building a whole hangar and launch tube.
Before you abandon the sequence completely, how about compressing that into a montage of close-ups against something like a matte background? Push into the board, towards one specific structural element as a line drawing, then dissolve into the "real life" version of that, with Rachel working on the piece (welding/cutting/hammering/something with light and noise) followed by close-up shots of her working on a succession of other parts (extreme close-up of her soldering a circuit board, over-the-shoulder shot of her dragging cables or pipes across the floor, shots with little background ...) maybe a sequence of her closing hatches, snapping clips, flicking switches.

If she constantly refers back to the design drawings, could you use the white-board as a visual substitute for the hangar? And then (depending on what level of CGI you've got) have the line-art ship launch off the whiteboard, at which point you "catch up" with it floating in space.
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
If she constantly refers back to the design drawings, could you use the white-board as a visual substitute for the hangar? And then (depending on what level of CGI you've got) have the line-art ship launch off the whiteboard, at which point you "catch up" with it floating in space.
Ohhh, very interesting idea. I could try this method out, and see how it looks. With low budget productions, I've learned that staying locked down on one scripted scene is NOT a good idea. Especially if it ends up costing time and money.

I got nothing to loose except those things with this film, so we will see how it goes. My casting agent told me she thinks I should write 2 versions of a script. A low-budget version, and a full budget version.
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
Project is slowly and surely coming together every day!

The suit is looking great, minus the helmet which we decided was a little too large. We have to go back to the drawing board for it, but the rest is beautiful.
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I was able to speak with an actual ship modeler willing to create our design. Looks like it will be very cool from the concept art. I wanted to go with a russian satallite style for the ship, which I feel is different and will look really cool with a black hole as a backdrop.

received_2384481261814267.jpeg

Tomorrow, we will be looking at the set and gathering supplies to build. Very busy weekend ahead! I will post before and after pics of the set once we finish.
 

onebaldman

Pro Member
indiePRO
That looks fabulous!
Looks great! And your young audience certainly looks appreciative :)
Thank you so much for the compliments! It makes us really grateful and glad to work so hard on this stuff. The costumer is a wonderful artist, and I have worked with him on my last project. His name is Robert Wagner. This suit was built in Kodiak, so the cost of shipping is very high, but I definitely enjoy working with him again. I feel like we are family at this point. So much passion goes into these creations, it's hard not to feel that way when you are done.

In other news, went to the set the other day. We are working on the sci-fi bunker look. Built the computer rack frames and I'm attempting a cardboard "master thermal generator". I really don't know how these things I make will look until I start piecing them together. I'm not good at pre-visualized art, so I tend to go with the flow.

I also met with a pro Cinematographer and we discussed the overall look of the bunker. He suggested to use wild walls and props instead of fixed location pieces. Since it is not an incredibly large space, he thinks we could just simulate that feeling of cramped isolation, rather than building it into the set.

That got me thinking, maybe I can use a couple of "stands" with wires/tarp/air ducts attached to them and stretch them across or swing them around to create a makeshift ceiling? I only need to fool the camera's eye, not my eye. Maybe have this "ceiling" element be over the camera to give some depth to the shots.

No pics at this time, but soon.
 
Project is slowly and surely coming together every day!

The suit is looking great, minus the helmet which we decided was a little too large. We have to go back to the drawing board for it, but the rest is beautiful.
View attachment 1123
View attachment 1124

I was able to speak with an actual ship modeler willing to create our design. Looks like it will be very cool from the concept art. I wanted to go with a russian satallite style for the ship, which I feel is different and will look really cool with a black hole as a backdrop.

View attachment 1125

Tomorrow, we will be looking at the set and gathering supplies to build. Very busy weekend ahead! I will post before and after pics of the set once we finish.
This is looking great!!!
 

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