Feminist Science Fiction...
...are three words you don't normally hear together. If you Google them, you'll find some Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin novels, but very few films.
If you're like me, then you desperately want movies to be more universal, more accessible and more relevant to modern audiences. While it's always fun to watch 3D superheroes incur billions of dollars in damage to iconic cities, it's easy to forget that film has the potential to be smart, culturally relevant and down to Earth without sacrificing entertainment value. That's why We Can Speak to the Dead is very close to my heart.
Built upon foundations set by feminist film critique, gender studies, sociology, and many other aspects of feminism, We Can Speak to the Dead will ask tough questions about society, cinema and our perceptions of gender while still being a frightening and excitingly good time.
A Story About Art and Technology
We Can Speak to the Dead follows Joyce, a subversive artist in Portland who stumbles onto a technological conspiracy that threatens her life and conscious autonomy. Imagine if Stepford Wives had a child with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and then raised it on a steady diet of Total Recall.
Tiny Budget, Big Ideas
You might think that $5,000 is a lot of money, but in terms of film, it's actually not very much. Not even for a short. Since I already have a camera and field recorder, the entire budget is going where it should: towards hiring a great lead actor and cinematographer, acquiring a lens kit, commissioning some fantastic music and renting a steady-cam once or twice for smooth motion shots. The money earned here will be to acquire some equipment and pay those generous enough to be on my team.
We Can Speak to the Dead is going to be shot on a bare-bones budget, but that's actually great because having fewer resources means needing bigger and more innovative ideas. We'll focus on natural lighting, in-lens effects and building suspense by mood and subtext, not a bunch of expensive crane shots. Since I am an experienced writer, director and editor, I can consolidate a substantial part of the budget by taking on many roles.
Strong Female Characters
It seems like forever since Ripley first battled the Alien, subverting horror standards that still stand today. Even in the 21st century, it's hard to find sci-fi or horror films with female protagonists who don't play Lead Victim. Too often they spend the bulk of 90 minutes running away from something and shrieking,
Wouldn't it be awesome for a dark science-fiction film, a la early Cronenberg, to have a lead female character as complex and interesting as those in a Kelly Reichart movie? Or as independent as Ripley in Alien?
My main character, Joyce, doesn't comfortably fit into the mold traditionally set by Hollywood for female leads or gender stereotypes. Neither does she exist to be victimized or objectified. She's her own person with her own agenda, and while she faces some extremely onerous hurdles, she never resigns to be somebody's victim, and that's what makes We Can Speak to the Dead such a deep, personal project for me.
A Short Film to Pave the Way
While We Can Speak to the Dead is only a small short film, it could be a big step for me as a filmmaker, and for showing that socially conscious sci-fi can still be challenging, intense and entertaining without a huge effects budget.
We Can Speak to the Dead won't be an easy short film to forget. It's going to stick with you and linger. And while I've gone to great lengths to highlight the political subtext of the film, there's going to be plenty for newcomers and sci-fi/horror connoisseurs alike to enjoy. You won't have to be a sociology grad to appreciate its message or groove to its rhythm.
Sara Copeland -- Lead Actor
Sara is an actor living in Portland, Oregon. She has a passion for all theatre arts including acting, playwriting, directing, performance art, improv, and dramaturgy. She received her B.A. in Theatre & Performance Studies from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA in 2012 and has performed in a variety of venues from Atlanta, New York City, Portland, and Shanghai. She loves creating new works with other theatre artists and looks forward to any opportunity to work with the arts in her community. You can find out more about Sara at saraecopeland.weebly.com.
Richard Herbert -- Writer/Director/Editor
Richard Herbert is a writer, director, editor and photographer living in Portland, Oregon. He's an alumni of Spy Hop Productions and directed the winning short of Salt Lake City's 2012 48 Hour Film Festival, Tic. His films have been shown at international film festivals, including the Tribeca Youth Film Festival, and he has worked as a videographer for the past seven years. In college, he was one of 12 young filmmakers chosen nationwide to participate in Adobe's Youth Voices program at the Sundance Film Festival.
As a writer, he's a recurring contributor to OverThinkingIt.com, using continental and feminist philosophy to analyze pop culture, and runs his own art and technology blog.
Josh Miller -- Composer
Josh Miller is a composer and computer science wiz living in San Antonio, Texas. His work focuses on setting and harmony, about the experience of being in familiar and foreign places. When he's not listening to and composing music, Josh is writing code or reading contemporary philosophy. You can find his work at joshmiller.bandcamp.com.
Risks and challenges
A good movie needs three things: the right equipment, the right story and the right actors. Everything else is just frosting on the proverbial cake.
Producing a film can be tricky, for a multitude of reasons. Primarily, cinema is massively collaborative at the high levels, meaning you have to corral a sea of people at specific times and dates, and everyone needs to be committed and flexible. Paying people is a good way to keep them interested and involved, but passion is far superior and much more consistent.
We Can Speak to the Dead won't suffer from any drawbacks of a big set because it won't have one. The bulk of the scenes will be carried by a single actor and the cinematography is going to be built around beautiful minimalism. The biggest challenge we will face producing the film is finding innovative ways to get around our small budget, but luckily, as a filmmakers who have been working on small budgets for years, we are ideally suited to the task.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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