“It’s been… interesting,” Luke Sparke, director of Occupation: Rainfall, the sequel to 2018 Aus sci-fi/action flick Occupation, tells Supanova in the lead up to the film’s release.
Despite the Australian alien invasion movie wrapping filming in December 2019, before COVID-19 had a huge image on the industry, the road to its release has been a challenge, with editors and visual effects artists working remotely during post-production.
“I’m flat out,” Sparke notes. “It’s such a small team working on such a massive film, and I’m doing more than what the usual director would do. I’ve got my fingers in every pie – editing and producing and publicity and cutting trailers and cutting TV ads, and doing, like, the whole thing myself.”
It appears all the hard work is paying off, as evident via the screenings that have taken place so far, some of which featured Sparke in the audience, “waiting with bated breath.”
“I think every filmmaker goes through the same situation – sitting there, sweating, wondering what everyone’s thinking while you’re sitting there watching the movie,” he says. “The feedback from all those event screenings have been, as far as I’m concerned, absolutely 100% positive, which is really good to see.”
Following Occupation: Rainfall‘s full trailer being premiered by Supanova in December, some commenters have been describing it as an “Australian Star Wars” – a very fitting comparison, as Sparke elaborates.
“‘The Australian Star Wars’ is how I pitched it when I first started working on it,” he says.
“People ask, ‘Can you just make it Americans?’ And I always say, ‘No,’ because, growing up, these sort of movies that I love – Star Wars, and that stuff – were never set in my own country.
“I think it’s important for the next generation of people to know that Australians do have a voice. We make great dramas, we make great comedies, but I think it’s also good to have an action sci-fi film like this where someone dresses up as one of the characters and goes to a Supanova as an Australian character.”
If you haven’t seen 2018’s Occupation yet, it’s not a problem.
“I made this movie accessible for anyone, even if you haven’t seen the first movie, because this movie’s got a wider release and I always knew it was going to be bigger and better… but at the end of the first movie [where aliens come to invade Earth], one of our lead heroes reaches out and offers a handshake to one of the aliens, because there are families and kids that belong to this species brought to our planet for a reason. So they offer a hand as a gesture of goodwill. And, at the end of the movie, some aliens have joined the human side.
“So, at the beginning of this movie, which is set two years later, straightaway we learn that some of the aliens have decided that ‘this war is kind of ridiculous’ and ‘we want to join the human side.’”
Sparke was not forthcoming on what the titular “Rainfall” meant, saying the twist is tantamount to viewers’ experiences and the trailer did not include anything from the third act for that reason. Even whether there would be another film was off the table for discussion.
“Once you see the film’s ending, I think that will answer that question for you,” he teases.
Scaling up for Rainfall meant Sparke was able to enlist a massive cast, with stars including Ken Jeong, along with Supa-Star alumni Jason Isaacs, Daniel Gillies and more signing on.
“That’s been what’s really exciting about this film,” Sparke says. “To work with some actors that we’ve been able to bring in from overseas and that just know their craft so well. It’s just a pleasure to watch them and direct them.
“I think they all came over and gave it their 100% and injected their own sense of self into their characters.”
One important task the cast had was to inspire empathy for both sides of the alien invasion in Occupation: Rainfall.
“Walking out of the cinema, some people might choose [to be] for the aliens, some people might choose against, some people might choose at different plot points as they go through the film. But it’s a huge part of the film,” Sparke says.
“It starts to break down the alien threat, rather than just being the standard invasion movie, where everyone is bad… It starts creating much more of a grey area.
“I’ve had some people come up to me, who have their own political agendas, and say ‘I agree, we should kill all the aliens! Just, kill ‘em all!’ They didn’t care about them… And I’ve had other people say that they absolutely love some of the aliens.
“That’s why we went with the tagline ‘Choose A Side’, because I think people definitely will.”
Australian audiences can ‘Choose A Side’ when Occupation: Rainfall opens in cinemas on January 28. 2018’s Occupation is currently streaming on Netflix.
Lead image: Luke Sparke on the set of ‘Occupation: Rainfall’