Making a Low Budget Sci-Fi Film

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).
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For the suit, we've already pretty much finished it. Rob and Ray's homemade FX talent is quickly moving along.
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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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Posted the teaser in the promotion category for those who have been following this thread. Unable to post it here due to double posting rules.

Thank you for following our project, and let me know what you think of the teaser if you have time!
 
A technical query: Rachel's reading of the poem is very clear, but John's and Aurora's lines sound rather ... "muttered". Were they recorded using significantly different technology?

Perhaps exaggerated by whatever I'm (not) hearing there, I found the different voice registers to be a bit distracting in such a short piece. John's delivery is fine, but his voice is so far into the bass range that it almost disappears into the background music. Aurora's delivery is (to my ear) very flat, almost tired-sounding. If that's not intentional, it distracts from the words; and in any case, it makes for a very weak start to a teaser-trailer.

Full disclosure: I grew up in a world of spoken poetry (or what the elders called recitation) so have an ingrained set of expectations that may not be shared by the wider audience! And also, I read up about the poem and its author when you first posted the script, so I've had a pre-conceived voice in my head reading it ever since. That said, Rachel's voice is pretty close to what I had imagined for Aurora.
 
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A technical query: Rachel's reading of the poem is very clear, but John's and Aurora's lines sound rather ... "muttered". Were they recorded using significantly different technology?

Perhaps exaggerated by whatever I'm (not) hearing there, I found the different voice registers to be a bit distracting in such a short piece. John's delivery is fine, but his voice is so far into the bass range that it almost disappears into the background music. Aurora's delivery is (to my ear) very flat, almost tired-sounding. If that's not intentional, it distracts from the words; and in any case, it makes for a very weak start to a teaser-trailer.

Yeah, the voices have been tough to do on a low budget, especially with actors living in different areas. We did have to use different recording equipment to streamline the process and save cost. Each recorded piece is using different equipment. Funny you say Rachel's voice is the better one. because that was recorded on a phone.

Aurora was read by a young actress, so there is a gap between Rachel and Aurora as far as acting experience.

I made a call on doing the different voices (maybe not a good call at that), but in my head the meaning is each different voice represents the pattern of loss in the film.

Spoiler for the plot:
We start with Aurora who is already deceased, John who dies at the beginning of the film, and then Rachel who dies at the end.

In the end, maybe I should have just used one voice reading the poem. Either way, I'm still happy with what we got.
 
We did have to use different recording equipment to streamline the process and save cost. Each recorded piece is using different equipment. Funny you say Rachel's voice is the better one. because that was recorded on a phone.

That's useful to know. That would suggest that for other low-budget productions needing voice-over, it would be well worth getting the actor to record a dozen-or-so takes using the best phone they have access to first, and only moving up to higher spec equipment if those initial recordings are really not usable.

I've been impressed by the quality of phone recordings I've made using even entry-level devices (with or without an external mic) - at least when the output isn't going to be subject to rigorous criticism!
 
That's useful to know. That would suggest that for other low-budget productions needing voice-over, it would be well worth getting the actor to record a dozen-or-so takes using the best phone they have access to first, and only moving up to higher spec equipment if those initial recordings are really not usable.

I've been impressed by the quality of phone recordings I've made using even entry-level devices (with or without an external mic) - at least when the output isn't going to be subject to rigorous criticism!

I'm definitely fine with your criticism. I used to get so offended by critics, but now I realize, everyone usually means well. I am still learning, so I don't expect to knock everything out of the park. All I have is my guts, and my feelings.

I edit, write, and create based on my feelings... So I need critique to get better, otherwise I would never improve.

Once this film is done, I think it will be better than the last effort. On and on, until I can't go on.

People like you who are willing to take time and tell me where my weak points are are good to have around.
 
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tip: for voice overs for low budget films record inside of a car, especially narration. There is literally no sound escape possibility and the audio quality will be superb. All the padding of the car makes it sound real good. So that’s a cool idea for Ya if u r on a tight budget and wanna make ur narration better.
 
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It's been a while. I was taking a break after last Sunday's film session. We got some gorgeous footage, and are almost complete with the live action segment of the film. Only one more wintry day, and I can call that segment done!

Then it will be time to move full force into the practical/scale model FX side of the house. I'm looking forward to that, because it takes less crew, and I don't have to manage so many moving parts!

I snapped some shots of the film to share with everyone. Hope you enjoy!

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:thumbsup: Love that retro style keyboard at the side of the airlock!

That was all the set designer. Joel Hartlaub. He is a maverick with electronics and gizmos. He was the fella who got the airlock door to function on a drill motor.

Without him, this set wouldn't be nearly as cool.

I really, really hope I can find some festivals that award best set design awards. I think he would win hands down.
 
Screenshots look really cool. Little tidbits you are showing are doing a great job of hyping the product.

I wish I could do more for everyone. I wanted to do "making of" documentary episodes, similar to the guys over at SLICE OF LIFE. I just never have the time. But, the screenshots at least show the progress we are making.
 
Been a while since I posted, but we just got done filming the outdoor shots yesterday. It was a great time, although very very cold.

Even my snacks I got for people froze solid. Frozen donuts are not very comforting...

My wife was on set, helping people stay warm with hot chocolate either way, and kept the propane heater running.

This was one of the more difficult days by far. People got lost, we forgot things like camera batteries, so we had to use our car to power the lighting and camera. The space suit would fog up and then freeze, the bunker was literally hanging by threads (fishing line) otherwise it would face plant.

But through all of it, we got the shots completed, and they really add another layer to the film.

 
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