A neon-soaked future of violent street gangs, robot bosses, and a really sassy A.I. That’s director Matthew Lucas’ vision of the future. His latest short film, Moonshot, was completed as part of the American University School of Communication’s graduate film program. The film follows Nova, a homeless woman living on Earth who takes engineer Alan up on an offer to get on the Moon in an effort to escape her violent past. The film isn’t even out yet and Lucas has already won Outstanding Thesis Film at the AU Visions Awards. I recently got a chance to talk all things science fiction with Lucas and about how he made the film, working with the Museum of Science Fiction, and future space travel.
Stereo Champions: Moonshot is a retro-futuristic, sci-fi, comedy, action film, did I get that right?
Matthew Lucas: Yeah, it’s everything.
SC: Why don’t you take us back to the beginning. Where did the idea for Moonshot come from?
ML: I started work on this film in the fall of 2014. I was writing a feature script for my thesis film at the time. My thought process was, “I’m going to write a feature script, a proof of concept short film that will be a distillation of some of these ideas, maybe a theme or two from the feature so that I can sell it.” That’s how we ended up where we are but when I started writing the shorter script it actually took on a life of its own. It ended up being a completely different film that really only shared some character names, some of the humor and the genre of course, but it ended up being a completely different film. From the fall of 2014 to the fall of 2015 was the scripting and pre-production process. And then we had a six-day production in November last year, and did post after that. We’re just finishing it up now.
SC: You filmed the entire film in six days?
ML: Yeah well it’s only a 20-minute film. We had cast Luvia Petersen and some high profile actors that we only had access to for a short time, and we had to fly her out from Vancouver, and we had actors from Atlanta and New York. The longer they were here the more we were paying out of pocket. So it was very important to get it all done in a short period of time.
SC: So it takes place in the near future, but it’s a near future with a retro 1980s vibe. What influenced you? Was it more films from that time or the idea of what the future would be like to people in the 1980s?
ML: The whole aesthetic is filled from my own take on the films I watched growing up. Specifically, we used Blade Runner a lot as part of the look. The 5th Element was a huge stylistic influence, and movies like that. My DP and I talked a lot about the work of John Carpenter. So yeah, we just used lots of kitschy films, movies from the 80s, high contrast, lots of color to invoke the sci-fi of yesteryear, which had a more colorful palate. Modern sci-fi, for better or worse, often has that dystopian view: the world has gone to shit, basically. I don’t know if that’s us as humans being naturally bleak, or exactly what that is, but we’re still doing it today. Now, you watch these sci-fi movies and they’re all kind of gray. The color palate is limited and it feels depressing. And they feel very serious. Rarely do you get wider color palates that feel fun, and that’s what we were going for. All the aesthetic choices were to lead back into the idea that we were having fun. We’re taking this future seriously, but we’re still having fun.
SC – The character of Nova is trying to escape her violent life and she comes across Alan who has an opportunity to get her on the Moon. Is there anything in the movie that we don’t see that would be cool to know?
ML – Well there’s stuff that doesn’t appear in the movie that would be cool for me. I’ve been thinking a little about this. We never see what life is like on the Moon. It’s suggested that there are people living up there. But the idea is that astronauts or highly trained scientists are really the only people up there, and that Nova could theoretically be the only homeless person up there. I’m curious to know what life must be like on a colony on another world that is only filled with really smart people. I think in a feature it’d be neat to explore and to know what life is like on the Moon.
Really also, what’s life like on the street? I think that’s another area in a longer version -we’d want to know about Nova and her nemesis, 3D- the villain of the film, another homeless person. So the two of them have this violent history. There is a relationship there, but we don’t know exactly what happened before the film starts.
SC – Is 3D in any way related to ThreeDee from Back to the Future?
ML – (Laughs) It’s so great that you picked up on that because very few people do even when they’ve seen Back To The Future and we never actually call him 3D in the film, that’s just his name and how we refer to him. But yeah, he wears those paper 3D glasses and it’s a direct rip from BTTF. So few people pick up on that.
On Page 2, Lucas describes filming in the Dupont Underground and working with the Museum of Science Fiction.