My name is Jay Weisman and I’m an independent filmmaker. Currently, I’m the writer, one of the producers, and director of Shockwave, Darkside - a sci-fi feature film that is going to transform Harwich, Massachusetts into the dark side of the moon.
How the heck are we going to do this, you ask?
This blog is going to serve as an online diary that chronicles the making of the film – as well as introduce all the talented folks who will be involved along the way.
I’ve been tinkering with the story of Shockwave, Darkside for a while now. It started life as a script for a short film, but frankly, I had so much fun writing it that I decided to turn it into a feature.
Shockwave, like my short film Surveillances, started out as a simple writing exercise: I wanted to do something with a few characters making a discovery on the dark side of the moon. For whatever reason, I always thought the section of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where scientists discover the monolith buried on the moon for the first time, always stood out as seminal sci-fi movie making.
Okay – allow me to geek out for a moment.
Up until then, moon walks, space walks and everything low/no-gravity was always treated like a slow-motion ballet that had actors either miming that they were floating or had them hung from wires ON TOP of them miming the floatieness to sell the illusion.
Enter Mr. Kubrick. Who, for the first time to my knowledge, treated man walking on the moon with the immediacy of a documentary or news report. Now keep in mind that this was also done at the height of the space race, where images of astronauts hovering gracefully above the earth filled the TV sets of the time – so this interpretation was almost a direct counter to that. It not only sold the idea that by 2001, trudging on the moon was as commonplace as walking down the street – and at the same time, generating an interesting visual tension that really had an impact on me.
I also think our Moon has been a little slighted as of late. Sure, the Clementine probe looked for (and found) water. Now China wants to go there, and NASA wants to go BACK there, blah blah blah. But lately, our celestial yearnings have been focused (for good reason) on the stuff beyond. Water on Mars. The Cassini/Huygens probe to Saturn, etc…. So I thought that it might be interesting for us to re-visit our nearest celestial neighbor and show it in a way that people might find new, interesting and unique.
So I began to do a little research. Andrew Chaikin’s Man in the Moon (the basis for the excellent Tom Hanks/HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon) and the really amazing collection of Apollo lunar photographs from Michael Light called, Full Moon dramatically illustrated two contrasting things. One, how difficult it is to not only get there, but to stay alive there. And two, how both alien and familiar the moon can be.
The moon was made by a planet the size of Mars crashing into the Earth – and was formed after all that liquid rock and debris from that collision fused and cooled. So, in reality, the moon is essentially made up of the same stuff that makes up the Earth – it’s just been battered by millions of years of meteor bombardment and baked by intense radiation from the sun...
One photograph of the lunar landscape looks like a rocky desert – something you might find out west. In others, when the sun shifts and the shadows deepen, it looks as strange and foreboding as LV-426 (the happy little planet where Sigourney and Company picked up their Alien hitchhiker). In truth, I was fascinated by all these contradictions and the story started to take shape.
It wasn’t until I saw a documentary narrated by Patrick Stewart called What if We Had No Moon, did things really start clicking. Because, as Mr. Stewart so authoritatively narrates – if it wasn’t for the moon, simply, we wouldn’t be here.
The moon is the right size and the right distance to create tides that gently stirred the oceans to make life – and at the same time shield that life from meteor bombardment so common in the first few billion years after the solar system was formed. If the moon was smaller or larger or closer or more distant the chances of early life being taken out by hurricanes or dinosaur-like extinctions would have increased and most likely organisms, let alone us, wouldn’t have survived. That’s crazy, right?
Okay – science lesson over.
So, needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about this story that I’m cookin’ up. I now have this really great background – so then I start developing the premise. I love how Kurbrick handled the Moon as an actual location – so I start thinking of my story as a jarring, ‘you’re in the middle of the action’ type of experience.
Convinced that this kind of narrative device on the Moon can be revisited and updated - especially in a fast-moving video game culture such as today, I start fleshing out the premise. To add further complications, I thought it would be great to plop our hapless characters smack dab in the middle of a war. A morally ambiguous war in an arid desert seemed sadly appropriate and apt for the times and catapulted the storytelling into a whole new direction.
I’m not an overtly political guy – I don’t gobble up the op-ed sections of newspapers, or have CNN as my home page (its actually space.com). But, for some reason, as a filmmaker, I’m endlessly fascinated by how alternately we are both wonderful and horrible to one another – and somehow that finds its way into how I tell a story. My short film Surveillances, a World War II spy film, had a similar sense of ethical head-scratching. I think I get this from my paternal grandfather, David, who was a Holocaust survivor, who indirectly helped shape the story, but that’s for another blog…
So I have this war-movie scenario set on the moon and I’m happily writing away. I’m having a ball. I love old war movies from the 50’s (The Steel Helmet, Pork Chop Hill, etc…) and I just think the juxtaposition of a character driven ‘lost patrol’ movie with all the other stuff that I mentioned above is working really, really well.
So much so, I’m now thinking:
Wow. I should actually make this…
And that’s when things really get interesting!
Coming Up Next: Blame it on the Septic Guy