Writer-director Neill Blomkamp, who is behind films such as District 9, Elysium, and Chappie, is in the process of releasing a series of incredible short films, Rakka, Firebase, Zygote and the yet to be released Lima, together they are known as The Oats Studios Volume 1. After the series is complete, one or more are likely to become a feature film.
Ahead of today’s release of the next film, Zygote, Mr. Blomkamp was kind enough to answer a few my questions in regards to his short film series and more, including the status of his highly-anticipated Alien feature film.
Starring Dakota Fanning and Jose Cantillo, Zygote finds two surviving members of a mining operation fighting to escape a monster.
Horror Fuel: “How would you describe ‘Zygote’?”
Blomkamp: “How would you describe it?”
Horror Fuel: “Two employees of a mining operation fight to survive a monster.”
Blombkamp: “I’ll go with your description.”
Horror Fuel: “If you will, tell us about the monster in ‘Zygote’. It is really creepy.”
Blomkamp: “Essentially, it is about 46 people that have been restitched together. Yeah, it is definitely creepy. The idea was that we wanted to build a film around the idea of some kind of mad man chopping up and re-configuring humans into a creature of some kind. And what would 46 people look like reconfigured into a bipedal look like. That’s what we ended up with.”
Horror Fuel: “It is definitely disturbing, but in a good way.”
Horror Fuel: “In the first scene of ‘Zygote’, Dakota Fanning and Jose Cantillo’s characters mention rank, will we learn more about that in part 2?”
Blomkamp: “The idea is that it is about 60 years from now and the cast that she comes from, the working cast. And the fact that they are synthetic. She’s meant to be a synthetic human that is used for labor inside of this mine. But as things turn out for her, that isn’t the case. If you made a feature film out of it it would be about how the labor mining group that is non-human interacts with the humans that oversee them.
Horror Fuel: “Speaking of a feature film, when all parts are completed will the short film series be put together and released as a feature?”
Blomkamp: “These are ideas. They are sort of vignettes into the world of ‘Zygote’, or the world of ‘Firebase’, or the world of ‘Rakka’. Once we make them and see how they look and how they feel and how the online audience responds to them, we can choose which one we feel like turning into a feature film. At this point, I don’t think that any footage or pieces that we have already shot would be used in the feature film. They are more like informative, tonal, references for writing new scripts and new stories.”
Horror Fuel: “That makes a lot of sense.”
Blomkamp: “The whole studio is kind of like an incubator for this kind of nursery for ideas. Instead of the ideas living just as scripts or a few pieces of concept art they exist as entire films, just shorter. It really gives you the opportunity to view them and think about them and decide if you like it or not or if you want more of it. It’s a like a testing ground for films.”
Horror Fuel: “So far all of the series of short films are great. ”
Blomkamp: “Thank you.”
Horror Fuel: “Did all of the aliens in the film series come from the same place or are they from different worlds?”
Blomkamp: “Each piece is completely independent of the other ones. The worlds are totally separate. They are not connected in any way. They are within each world that short displays. The villains are completely unique to that world.”
Horror Fuel: “In Rakka what inspired the look of the creatures? They look a bit like they are part honey badger, half lizard.”
Blomkamp: “Well, one of my favorite animals is the snapping turtle. I love snapping turtles. If you look at the jaw of the creature the jawline is actually a lot like snapping turtle. I like the cowl that cobras have, so their neck is sort of have this cobra-esqe feel to it. We wanted them to be bipedal. All of those elements of what that creature is.”
Horror Fuel: “They look nasty, of course in a good way.”
Horror Fuel: “What is the next installment that you will be releasing?”
Blomkamp: “We have one more piece that is the same scale as ‘Zygote’ and ‘Firebase’ and ‘Rakka’. It’s called ‘Lima’. ‘Lima’ is more like a thriller, sort of a conspiracy thriller. It’s a slightly different genre, unlike the three that are out. I’m not sure when it will be out. That one is a little slower burn. That is the final piece coming out from this first batch.”
Horror Fuel: “Do you have a favorite out of the three so far?”
Blomkamp: “I think my favorite is probably ‘Firebase’. I really love ‘Firebase’. I like the claustrophobic, personal feeling of ‘Zygote’. But the world of ‘Firebase’ is very interesting.”
Horror Fuel: “I have to agree, ‘Firebase’ is so intriguing.”
Blomkamp: “I love the tone of it. It’s kind of surreal. It is a strange piece which is what I like.”
Horror Fuel: “It’s very unique and that’s very important. But they all are.”
Horror Fuel: “How long does it usually take for one of the pieces to be made?”
Blomkamp: “It is hard to know exactly. We made all of them at the same time. If we worked on just one of them, they would probably take, I think, six to eight months per piece from start to end.”
Horror Fuel: “So you were film ‘Rakka’ at the same time as ‘Zygote’, is that right?”
Blomkamp: “Yes, well, we filmed ‘Rakka’ ahead. That was connected to a different shoot for different pieces we haven’t released yet. ‘Zygote’, ‘Firebase’, and ‘Lima’ were all shot together at the same time.”
Horror Fuel: “What is it about the sci-fi genre that keeps pulling you back?”
Blomkamp: “These pieces to me, they verge more on horror than sci-fi. I know for a horror fan they seem more like sci-fi, but I feel like I a slowly moving from science fiction into horror. If you look at the three features that I have done, these pieces that I have done with Oats, they have much more of a horror slant to them. That feels like new ground for me. Admittedly, there is still a lot of science fiction influence in each of the pieces. I think that just comes from that it’s an aesthetic choice I suppose where the thing that I love about sci-fi and horror is that you can hold the lens up to any issue or topic or a way to look at the world and you can kind of flip the lens and see it from a different point of view. I love that. I love the ability that genre films give you to do that and it’s been science fiction for me so far, but I feel like I can do that in horror as well.
When I was younger, it used to be just about design, and tone, and atmosphere. It’s the same way with fantasy and how awesome fantasy is. Just look at what Peter Jackson did with ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It can be viewed in two ways. It can be viewed on the surface level where it is about design, what the Orcs look like and what the Elves look like. And that’s cool, that’s why I got into it for when I was younger. Then you can look at it a deeper level, like what Tolkien was saying about the ring actually being a representation of industrialization. Fantasy works that way, horror works that way, sci-fi works that way. That’s what it serves now for me I think.”
Horror Fuel: “I have to ask, is there an update on your ‘Alien’ feature?”
Bolmkamp: “No. I think that that is almost certainly not happening. Nothing has happened for months, and months, and months. It’s just dead.”
Horror Fuel: “That really is a shame. But I would love to see any of the short films become a feature.”
Blomkamp: “That is definitely a goal to take which ones feel like they are really working and turn those into feature films.”
From the Press Release for Zygote:
LOS ANGELES, CA (July 10, 2017) Oats Studios and filmmaker Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, and Chappie) are pleased to announce the latest short film in the Oats Studios Volume I anthology, ZYGOTE.
Exclusively on the Steam platform, fans of ZYGOTE will be able to access a wealth of specialty behind-the scenes content including dailies, an HQ stereo version, concept art, sound stems, 3D models, the musical score, and more for just $4.99. This contribution will go towards Oats Studios and their mission of creating cutting edge, compelling films for their dedicated audience.
Rakka is set in a distopian future where aliens have taken over the earth. Humans have become little more than slaves, little more than pests. But the resistance will not give up without a fight.
Genre icon Sigourney Weaver, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Robert Hobbs, Carly Pope and Brandon Auret star.
Firebase, set during the Vietnam war. Both sides face a new kind of threat that neither of them are prepared for known as the “River God”. This brutal film stars Steve Boyle, Robert Hobbs, Tyler Johnston, Nic Plamer and Carlo Yu.
As soon as a release date is announced for Lima we will let you know. Which film is your favorite so far?