SDCC 2010: SKYLINE Panel

     July 23, 2010


Los Angeles is having a bad Comic-Con. Thursday, the Marines were sent in to Battle: Los Angeles and Friday, a bunch more came back to the City of Angels, sucking them up like a vacuum in the sky. This latter film, Skyline, is the brain child of the Brothers Strause (Alien vs. Predator: Requiem), who decided to make a movie in their home when they saw the success of Paranormal Activity. The difference, however, is that these brothers also own the special effects house Hydraulx, so the film looks just a tad bigger, even if it was produce with the same dogma.

Friday’s panel was the first time anyone one has seen any footage from this humongous independent production and it certainly got people talking. Read all about it after the jump.

donald_faisonFirst up was a trailer. It starts simple enough, a bunch of friends partying in L.A. Then, these mysterious blue lights start coming down from the sky. When you look at the blue light, you are immediately sucked up into a giant space ship. The ships looks like huge bugs and the aliens, which are the size of Transformers, look equally as naturalistic. From the trailer, it looks like the couples not only try and survive, but try not to look into the light. A simple concept to be sure, but the action looks huge — like something out of a $200 million blockbuster. There’s a lot of running around, explosions, and tension.

On the panel were both Strause brothers, Greg and Colin, along with the stars of the film Donald Faison, Eric Balfour, David Zayas, Scottie Thompson and Brittany Daniel. Here are the bullet points from their discussion.

The idea for the film came from when the brothers were talking about how hard it was to make a movie in Hollywood and decided to make a movie with their own resources and money. They came up with the concept and when they cast actors,  they showed a whole bunch of pre-visualization as well a clip reel of films that were made by their company, including Avatar, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 300, and Battle: Los Angeles.

The entire movie was made with only a crew of about 20 people, which made for a very rewarding and intimate situation.

Skyline was shot with the new Red camera and, because you don’t need to light as much, it made the production much smaller and let everyone take more risks.

Even the actors took risks. Because there were only 5 people in charge (the directors, a producer and 2 writers) there was no one to report to or to say “no” when they rigged up the leads to hang over a building.

The small scale also meant that the composer might be a producer, the writer a camera man, and made the whole process run smoother because everyone knew so much about the movie.

Brett-Ratner-imageAfter the film was done shooting, the brothers talked to Brett Ratner, and after one minute of the climactic scene, he pitched it to Relativity, who then brought it to Universal. Though it was great to make the film independently, if you want to get people to see it, you have to go through a studio, they said.

Next up was a second clip they called “First Contact.” It showed Faison and Balfour going onto the roof of the apartment building, and they see blue lights on the horizon. Through the zoom lense of their camera, they see literally hundreds of human bodies just getting sucked into the sky. A scout then drops from one of the many spaceships and runs after them, so they have to run away and narrowly escape.

Questions from the audience were next. They said if they had a bigger budget, they wouldn’t have done everything different because this was such a great experience.

The most challenging parts of the film were a few of the action scenes because it got so loud the neighbors would complain. Also, getting people to buy into the concept was difficult at the beginning because no one believed they could pull off something so massive in such a small way.

The difference between Skyline and other huge monster movies like Cloverfield or King Kong is that these aliens are totally organic and were designed under the concept of, “What ideas do you generally bring to producers that they shoot down immediately?” That was what they wanted to showcase.

Plus, these monsters don’t use any kind of real weapons. They use human instinct – the instinct to rubberneck and look at something bad – against us. “Like a moth to a flame,” they said. That was the concept behind the monsters.

They shot in L.A. not for any reason in particular, that’s just because that’s where Greg lived.

They cheaply rented helicopter to get a lot of the epic establishing shots and came back with 4 hours of footage because of the Red camera. On a normal movie shooting film, they would only get 16 minutes of footage.

I was very impressed with Skyline, both at the footage we saw, but more so the process it took to make that footage. If this was a huge Hollywood blockbuster, I’d be excited to check it out. Since it’s an independent movie? I think it’s going to rock.

And we’ll find out either way soon. Skyline will be released November 12.

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