Ryan Daly Asks Mike Cahill
Ryan Daly Ask Mike Cahill director of Another Earth
Q. American author Pamela Sargent described science fiction as “the literature of ideas.” Does Another Earth relate to this statement?
A. I agree with her description, completely. Science fiction to me, in its purest artistic sense, is about the creation of the fantastical metaphor in order to explore what it means to be human. Ideas abound from such freedom.
Q. Does one need to know a lot about science in order to make a science fiction movie?
A. I definitely think it helps to have a strong curiosity about science. But if you start from a place of complete “knowing,” it is possible that your work can become didactic or worse, have a limited entry point for the average viewer. For me it is more important to start from a place of “questioning,” fueled by an intense passion and curiosity. Science, as the great astrophysicist Dr. Richard Berendzen said, is not about the answers, it is about the questions.
Q. I read that you began making this film with nothing more than a camera. What format did you shoot on and how did the format influence your narrative decisions?
A. I shot on a basic HD camera – the Sony EX3. I actually chose to shoot in 720p mode instead of the larger 1080p because I wanted to gritty it up a bit. I really wanted to ground the visual fx elements and the fantastical backdrop into an aesthetic of verite. For me it is stronger to catch a glimpse of another earth from a handheld camera then to see it in a sweeping pristine image. You also have to be careful with the high quality digital format because sometimes it can be too clean. Tonal control is vital and it has to serve the narrative, and for this story, I felt there was a vibrant emotionality in the texture of real life.
Q. How did William Mapother become involved with the project?
A. Luck. Fate. Both? Our casting team, James Calleri and Paul Davis, had met William around the same time I was seeking the male lead. In fact, I had already shot half of the film with Brit and many of the supporting characters. But the character of John needed an actor with very specific qualities of intelligence, gravitas, a rough exterior with a hidden tenderness. Such a strong actor with these qualities is difficult to find, and I was holding out until the right person came along. When Paul and James suggested William, I knew immediately (I was a big admirer of his previous work) that he would be perfect for the part. They sent him the script, he connected with the material, we met, and we connected on such an immediate creative and emotional vibe, and the rest was history. Luck… yes, probably more luck than anything – working with William was an incredible gift.
Q. Is watching a movie in a community environment still important?
A. Yes. Yes. Yes. Cinema, concerts, religious gatherings – all the things that are meant to move the spirit gain power in a collective experience. We humans are in this grand experiment of life together.