As anyone who has seen the film will tell you, few directorial debuts match the level of ambition of Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell’s blockbuster indie, Prospect. Starring Jay Duplass, Sophie Thatcher and Narcos star Pedro Pascal, and based on the directors’ short of the same name, the sci-fi feature is as grand as it gets in terms of feature worldbuilding, following a teenage girl (Thatcher) and her father (Duplass) as they travel to a remote moon on the hunt for a rare substance, coming into collision with hidden dangers within the moon’s toxic forest.
For the film’s directors, the kind of from-the-bottom-up worldbuilding on display was of interest from an early age. “We grew up on stuff like the Star Wars Visual Encyclopedias, and really, it was about building a completely immersive world, creating something that felt really rich and alive and has a sense of history and culture,” Caldwell told Deadline yesterday, appearing at SXSW with Earl, Duplass and Thatcher. “When you’re dealing with an entirely imagined world, you don’t get the benefit of all the detail that exists in reality. So our approach was just to try to get as close as we could to the level of density of detail that you experience in the real world.”
Judging by the actors’ reflection of their experience on set, the directors certainly pulled off the job. While Duplass never dreamed about starring in a sci-fi film in any specific sense, the actor felt that the world the directors had crafted for their actors was undeniable. “My brother and I do jump genres every once in a while, but we normally do it within a very human context. What was really different and interesting about these guys is they clearly are the masters of building a fully immersive world, and that world comes into play very greatly,” he said. “There are human relationships, but throughout the process, we were working in a pod, we were in a rainforest, we were in these full-on costumes where our breath was fogging up the masks. We were truly living and acting in another world.”
To execute the film properly, the directing duo pitched their producers on an expansive production design workshop out of Seattle, where the crew would spend seven months building the film, brick by brick. “It was just this one big box that this family of people in Seattle came together [in]. Seattle particularly, not a lot of big movies happen up there, so we had people who were carpenters and bike builders, people who were so excited to enter into this fictional world,” Earl told Deadline. “We all just lived in this clubhouse together for seven months, just making stuff.”
To view Deadline’s conversation with the Prospect team, click above.
The Deadline Studio at SXSW 2018 is presented by MoviePass.