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RevolutionSF Interview: White Lily Film Creators Oldfeld, Reynolds
© Joe Crowe
August 25, 2013

White Lily is a sci-fi short film about an ex-couple that go into space, inspired by Moon and RevolutionSF talked to its creators, writer Adrian Reynolds and director Tristan Oldfeld. Check out the Kickstarter page right here.

1. Adrian, you talked about your influences in your video on the Kickstarter page, from Doctor Who to 2000 AD. Tristan, what are some of your influences, from comics, TV, movies, books, or other geeky stuff?

Tristan Oldfeld: For White Lily influence no. 1 is Red Dwarf. I know that might come as a surprise, but in series 7 when they swapped comedy for looks, they lost the audience and shot single camera which meant they could light better. The look of the show went through the roof and still on a relatively small budget.

Neill Blomkamp's take on dirty and familiar tech too. Its the African perspective he's brought to sci-fi technology that makes it unique. I spent a long time in Africa when I was a boy and there's a feel of utilitarianism in everything there from cars to drainage. Everything is broken, retrofitted, or bound together with whatever is available. Blomkamp is reinventing sci-fi right now.

2. Talk a little about what the movie's setting and characters. Unless you're going to let viewers discover that when they see it. In that case, don't tell me anything!

Tristan: I'll let Adrian answer this because I'm so excited I'll just give the game away.

Adrian: Our characters are Leon and Isobel. They're former lovers, and that provides a particular tension to a relationship that would be difficult in any circumstances, confined as they are to the walkways and engine rooms of a spaceship that's very much utilitarian in design. That said, someone -- probably a corporate psychologist looking to maximize their working capabilities -- has thought fit to provide them with an area where they can relax, and we're having fun with the look of that space to take it in directions you don't normally see in sf on screen. I have a particular loathing of the kind of trashy space art that's on the walls of the ships in Star Trek. With an infinity of real beautiful cosmos out there, why have a bad airbrush paining of a ringed planet on your cabin wall?

3. On your Kickstarter, you compared White Lily to awesome 1970s sci-fi flicks such as Silent Running and Dark Star. I've noticed that sci-fi movies in the 1970s all had a unifying kind of weirdness. What, to you guys, is the appeal of those movies? What did you take from those flicks and use in White Lily?

Tristan: It's the fact that those films were totally unlimited by structure, expectation or concept. They were free to be experimental. The films were directors weird little children that were just thrown out there. Once the studios were taken over by corporations in the 90's all that changed. Everything has become more marketable. However there is a tonne more scifi now so I'm not sure if it was necessarily a bad thing. Every so often a Ronald D. Moore comes along to shake things up.

Adrian: The weirdness reflects the counterculture of the time. And I'm a big believer that genre storytelling can be used to explore issues of all sorts. We'll be heading in that direction if we get to do the feature version of White Lily we have in mind. The script has similarities inasmuch as the characters aren't just sitting in front of instrument panels exchanging techno-talk. These are people who have a history. Imagine going to space with an ex and you can understand where that might lead.

4. What from your previous work prepared you for White Lily? By that, I mean, think of something you learned on another project that you put to use on this one.

Tristan: You learn from every film you make. I always make sure the atmosphere on set is relaxed. Making it a fun experience is high on my list of priorities. I'm pretty good at hiring people who will get along together. All these people are professionals in the real world. If you're gonna ask the to give up their time -- often for a great deal less pay than they are used to, then there has to be something in it for them. I know it sounds wanky but its true. People know they're gonna have a good time so they come along. It helps everyone, and actors need to feel it's safe to fail. That's when you get the best work.

Adrian: I learned in the filming of Making Sparks, which I co-created and wrote, that I was fortunate in meeting an extraordinary actress, Siddhii Lagrutta. She was the female lead in that serial -- a supernatural thriller that's going out as a free app shortly. And I already knew that David McCaffrey, our male lead, who has a minor role in Making Sparks, is great because of the work he did in the London run of my play Breaking In.

5. If you were a backer of White Lily, which of your rewards would you like to grab for yourself?

Tristan: I'm a film hound, so the Making Ofs. It was my main reason for buying DVDs when they first came out. I wasn't overly fussed about the improvements in picture and sound. I wanted to know how they did everything! DVD Making Ofs have really been my film school. If a disc only had featurettes I'd be so annoyed.

Adrian: There's a show called Supermarket Sweep where you get 60 seconds to dash through a pretend supermarket with a trolley that you fill. I want to take the same approach, and pick up the EP that has different interpretations of the song "My Funny Valentine," as sung by Siddhii and remixed by electronica acts odD and Sounds of Gladness. And a tutorial in film editing from Tristan because it's something he excels at. Most of all, I'd love a unique picture inspired by White Lily, one of a series by Carol Robertson, whose work you can find in the Tate and the Queen's Collection.

6. Is it a difficult process to name a movie? How many names did you go through before you decided on White Lily?

Tristan: Luckily Adrian came up with the name White Lily. I find naming stuff utterly impossible! If he hadn't come up with it I'd still be trying to think of one now.

Adrian: The name was pretty easy, and was inspired by a Laurie Anderson piece of that name.

7. Most creators get asked about challenges of of production. What has been the easiest or the most fun part of creating White Lily so far?

Tristan: Not to blow smoke up his arse, but working with Adrian has been easily the most fun part of production so far. He's like a mad scientist. Many writers are precious about their work, and rightly so. Where Adrian differs is he sees the script as a blue print, something that can always be improved upon. You make a creative decision and he'll think, how will that affect the story? If you throw in this ingredient, let's see what happens.

I've also loved working with the actors in rehearsal. The first read-throughs brought up so much to explore. I hope we get to do more.

Adrian: The delight when we do rehearsals and the actors bring the script to life in ways we hadn't anticipated. The buzz of seeing spaceship designs from an artist who worked on Arkham City. The ease with which designer Andy Tudor absorbed what we were telling him that resulted in two knock-out logos a few hour ago. Every day brings new rewards, and that includes the opportunity to connect with people like those reading this article: hello out there! Come and say hi over at White Lily Kickstarter page, and consider which of our rewards suits you best.

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