Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video A conversation with writer/director/editor Jason Hallows, part of Filmmaking Forum: Scene Analysis.
- Jason, thank you so much for screening that scene from Singularity. Again, you wrote and directed and edited this film, so I'm curious to know where the idea for this came from. - I had this idea of a love story that took place in outer space cause it's just really a love story. But I really wanted to do a love story in outer space, and I wanted it to be a goodbye because somebody was leaving and they weren't coming home and I wanted to explore that idea, this goodbye, and what would happen if you got sucked through time and space and ended up somewhere in the future and you found out the person that you wanted to see the most was now dead.
- I want to talk to my wife! - [Future Captain] Martha Lucero is dead. She died of natural causes over 400 years ago. I'm sorry. - She's dead? - And even though you changed the future by traveling through space and time and people were able to study that and you made so many things possible and made the world bigger and better, it wouldn't really mean anything if you didn't have that special person still there.
Once I kind of thought about that and wrote out the story, I thought I have to make this. You know, with no money, to make it look real, and make it look like, you know, touchable and all that kind of stuff. So that was the idea. - So you had this idea of, you know, love and space and loss, and, you know, you pulled it off, and that's pretty incredible to do without a lot of money. So talk about how you actually were able to achieve the look that is actually very believable.
- It was very important for me to make an actual ship. If I were to do it again, I might just CG all of that stuff, but I'd really had it in my head that I wanted it to, I really wanted to make the ship, and I wanted to have it something that he was able to sit in and touch and the computers, but we didn't have any money, and I'm not a set designer or anything, so I basically drew out, I looked at a ton of space ships, and I'm a space film fan, so I looked at a bunch of space ships and space ship designs, and I kind of sketched out something that I knew I could make with some two by fours and some drywall and stuff.
So I went ahead and my cousin and I started assembling this space ship in the living room of our house, and I didn't want to do green screen and all that, so I bought a bunch of black back drops. So I blacked out the whole room with black fabric, and then built the space ship in the center of the room, and it's only the front end. So when you see the longer shots, the rear end of it is actually computer generated, but the front end and where Craig is sitting is all real.
The computer consoles that he's looking at, they're all real. He can touch them and all that kind of stuff. And what we did for that was we used After Effects. We went and created all the read outs and displays in After Effects, and we had about four laptops on the screen and we just were playing these videos back and forth on each of the laptops and then we kind of created a little facade around all of em so you wouldn't see the laptops and it would just look like computer screens on a dashboard of a space ship.
But once we saw that, you know, we brought in the lights and everything, we lit it all up, and we had Craig sitting in there, and I found that space helmet on eBay. It was a stratospheric cosmonaut helmet from 1968 or something like that and it was definitely my most expensive prop. It cost me almost $400 at the time to get that helmet, but I wanted a real looking helmet. So we got that, and once we had all those elements together and we saw what we had in the living room and how we could shoot it, the angles that we had to work with and I just knew more and more and more and more it was something we could do.
I knew that it had to be something more than that though, and that's when I remembered watching Trainspotting forever ago and there was a scene where the actors are under a bed sheet and he's having a drug trip flashback thing and he's falling in and out of, characters are popping in underneath the sheets and stuff and I thought, what an awesome, cool way to show something strange and I thought when I started writing Singularity, I thought about the relationship between Martha and the Space Captain, but I wanted to see them together in his flashbacks and in his memories.
So we just went into the bedroom. I bought these fresh, big, giant white sheets, and we got the cameraman in there with the actors and rolled around and shot all these really pretty shots. We had lights around them so that we could illuminate the sheets in a way to sort of erase them and make it seem as if we were kind of in this light bubble of some kind. A space and time kind of thing. But we pulled it off. And when it played at film festivals, you know, people didn't know what to think about it first of all, and second of all, people were just blown away that somebody made a space film for, you know, probably about $600 and had a space ship in it and stuff.
- Another part of why the film is so believable is the soundscape that you created. And so, you know, can you talk about that? Was that something that you had planned at the script phase? Was it mostly post-production? Talk about the audio. - The audio for Singularity and the soundscape that we created for it, it was planned ahead of time. I knew that in order to add the urgency of the story, there had to be some believability as far as the technology in some way.
- [Tom] Way off course. (radio crackle) These guys tell me that uh... - [Frank] Tom? - [Tom] They think you're in line with Sagittarius A-Star. - [Frank] What?! (radio crackle) - I really liked the sound of the walkie talkie's and the voices comin on talking to him, and it makes it feel real and gritty and as they get closer to the time warp, the people's voices start to slow down and they get more stretched out.
- [Martha] I'm here. (radio crackle) - Just know no matter what... - [Martha] Oh God, Frank! - So I started kind of playing with the people's voices that were in the short and looping them and making them repeat and echo. (voices echoing) So that was all put together in post and that's actually one of my favorite sections, just because it worked really well.
And there's that scream that Craig does through that section as well. I didn't have that. We didn't capture that, so I called him, and he was down in LA, and luckily he was able to get to a sound booth. I called him and asked him, I said, I need some screams from you. Just email them to me or send them up to me. And he was like just screams? I was like just bloody screams. Give me big ones and give me small ones. Just give me all kinds of screaming. And about three hours later I got a file sent to me, and it was just all these screams, and then I was able to kind of time those out and space them into that sequence, so at the end when his scream starts to kind of feedback on itself, we emerge out into the new world, and it just sells it for me.
It puts it over the top for me. - What about all the special effects work that you did? Particularly for the black hole. - It was obviously all very much inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey. And that's not on accident. I love that movie, and I think that section of that Kubrick shot, and obviously he's the master, it's so beautiful and it's so cool and I wanted to try to capture that as much as I could, with my own little spin on it, but so what we did was we created art, these kind of colorful, different designs, very long.
We kind of did it in the same sort of way that he would do it, but we did it digitally. Instead of running a real camera through, we ran a digital camera through it, and then what we did was we took a movie projector, so once we made our black hole sequence, we burned it out to a DVD, and we played it on a projector, and we shot it at Craig live, and we photographed, we video taped that as well, so we have all those really cool close up shots of time moving across his, and it looks real and it looks organic, and that helped sell that effect as well.
But that definitely was a lot of fun, and it's a great, I think it's a really cool sequence. - Yeah, it really, really is. You've got, you know, love and loss and time just kind of, and then, you know, obviously the actual going through the black hole is stretched out, but then you play with some stuff during and after that. Can you talk about your experience editing the film? - Um, editing the movie, it took me forever to put that together.
It was a lot of work and there was a lot of finding those moments and finding those pieces and making them work in post-production, and, you know, we didn't have a lot to draw on, so we just kind of had to figure it out as we went. So what I did was I actually took a lot of those elements, especially the exteriors of the spaceship, they look a little hand held. What I would do is I would make the effects, I would piece it all together digitally in After Effects. I would export them.
I'd export them out to DVD, and then I would play them on a really large television, a big HDTV. And then I would take another camera, and I would shoot, I shot the whole movie again by watching it on television, but then shooting it hand held, and then I mixed those elements together in post, so that there were times when the camera is solid and you're seeing what we actually shot, and then there's moments that are looser feeling and they feel a little bit more dream like in a sense.
That's all stuff that I shot off of the television screen, and I mixed that all together to kind of give it a different feeling and to give it something that felt real in the hand held, even though that wasn't really possible for us in the way that we're set up for the production. But at the time, it was a very effective way for me, anyway, to really sell those effects and to make them feel more believable and less computer generated. Even though, and I still watch the ending of that, and I know I could do it so much better now, so that's why I often toy with remaking this movie.
- Awesome. Well, I think you really pulled it off. Awesome job in creating a space film for $600. It's really impressive. Can you please tell our viewers where they can watch this film? - You can watch Singularity on my website, which is transitoryzenith.com. You could just Google my name too, and I'm sure it'll pop up on Vimeo or something like that. - Awesome. Thank you so much Jason for sharing that with us. - Yes, thank you very much.