Making a film can be a very challenging process, perhaps even more so when you’re creating an independent film.
At Supanova in Brisbane, the team behind Aussie sci-fi Quanta – director Nathan Dalton, production designer Sasha Dalton, producer Jesse O’Brien and cinematographer Samuel Baulch – talked all things film, genre and even gave some tips for prospective filmmakers.
Nathan Dalton: “The story is about two scientists who detected an intelligent signal from outer space, and it’s really about the tension between the two of them about what to do with that knowledge. So, you get a glimpse of that, as the older character is trying to be more responsible and go through the proper methods with it. Whereas the younger guy is trying to use it to make a splash and get his 15 minutes of fame. It’s a slow, brooding drama with a bit of a sci-fi element, and it all unravels from there.”
Nathan Dalton: “I loved movies as a kid, and as a four-year-old you think to yourself, ‘I love movies, so I want to be the person in that movie, so I want to be an actor.’ Then when I got to about grade five or six, someone told me that movies are made by people, which had never really crossed my mind. So, I thought, ‘I want to be the person making the movie.’ I was told that person was a film director and it stayed with me ever since. However, at the end of high school, my parents told me I should do something sensible with my life, so I studied science at university, hence [the] science in the film. I did a bit of film while doing science and teaching, then four years ago, I moved into film full time.”
MAKING THE FILM
Nathan Dalton: “This is my first feature. I’ve made a handful of short films that are hopefully not very public on the internet. But that’s how you get better. It’s the second script that I’ve written, but the first film that I’ve actually made.”
Jesse O’Brien: “The job of the producer for this one was to say to Nathan, ‘If we don’t make this movie now, we’ll never make it. So, let’s just pick a start date and just get whatever crew we can find and make the thing.’ The only way to make a film is to just do it. Then it was like, ‘How are we going to do this with zero money?'”
Sasha Dalton: “Production design is the look of the film as far as what is in the frame, so the sets and the props. What people are touching or sitting on and where they are.”
Samuel Baulch: “Sasha’s job is half the work. Then it’s my job to capture as much of it on screen as I can.”
Nathan Dalton: “Contact was one of the influences. I watched it a few times in the making of the film and in the writing process. Primer was a big one. I love Primer because it’s probably the most believable time travel movie. It’s done in such a small film and is very personal, and it’s got that dramatic feel. So that kind of tone and that big story is being told in a very intimate way. The Social Network is a big one too, in terms of the visuals.”
SCIENCE VS SCI-FI
Nathan Dalton: “I wanted to implant a bit of a sci-fi element. I come from a science and physics background, so I was writing what I knew. We kind of push the envelope. There’s a lot of actual science and physics in there, and just pushing that a bit into the theoretical. If we were actually to receive something from an intelligent life, I was trying to imagine what that might look like.”
Jesse O’Brien: “That was one of the key challenges, because it’s realistic science as opposed to science fiction. We were saying to make it more dramatic and to up the sci-fi stuff, and Nathan would say no, and that it had to be science-based. So, it was hard to find the balance of the real-world stuff while still making it dynamic.”
TIPS FOR PERSPECTIVE FILMMAKERS
Jesse O’Brien: “Just pick a date. If you want to make your film, whether it’s a short or a feature, just say that you’re going to do it in January, and then tell your friends that you’re going to shoot in January, and they will show up. It’s better to do it and not wait for when you’re ready, because you’ll never be ready.”
Nathan Dalton: “Go make stuff. Make mistakes and do it cheap. Don’t put all your eggs in the basket first go. Another thing to be successful is to be nice and be good at what you do.”
Lead image: Behind the Scenes of ‘Quanta’ at Supanova 2019 – Adelaide. Photo by Steven Yee.