Sundance goes sci-fi with ‘Moon’
January 16, 2009
Director Duncan Jones admits the term "indie special effects" seems like a contradiction in terms in today’s bang-for-buck movie market saturated with pricy special effects.
How can an independently made movie compete?
going retro. Jones’ film, "Moon," uses miniature models and old-school techniques from the 1980s and ’90s to tell the story of a man named Sam, played by Sam Rockwell, who lives on a lunar mining base. The man, days away from returning to Earth, begins to unravel after he suffers from a hallucination and crashes his lunar rover.
The production has an old-fashioned but believable look and harkens back to science fiction, popular in the United Kingdom, Jones said. The film’s story is based more on contemplation than action. In the film, Sam receives transmissions from his wife and daughter and must grapple with the paranoia inherent to long-distance relationships. "It’s very much a human film," said Jones, who hopes to evoke self-probing questions from audiences. "Are you a good person?" Jones asks. "If you ever met yourself, would you like yourself?"
"Moon" is Jones’ first feature film. He began his career in the film shooting effects-based commercials. Making commercials for clients demands a can-do attitude and perfectionism. On the other hand, a 90-minute independent film takes a big-picture approach. "You really are trying to make something you can be proud of," he said, but added, "You’re not going to get every shot just the way you want it. You really have to pick your spots."
Working on a tight schedule, and an even tighter budget, Jones decided to shoot everything in controlled environment. He picked a studio in London, his hometown, and hired effects specialists who had worked on 1972’s "Silent Running." A set designer from 1979’s "Alien" helped design the lunar rover used in the film.
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While shooting the film, Jones fell off scaffolding attached to the rover and sliced open his face. "I have a nice, juicy scar," he said. No special effects required.