Crowdfunder’s Forum is a new regular feature on /bent (and a sibling to our Filmmaker’s Forum features) that allows LGBT media makers to offer first person accounts of the projects they are currently pitching to potential funders through sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Jurassic Park changed my life. I was a nine-year-old kid who loved movies, but until I saw that, I had no idea what was possible. The CGI Brachiosaurus wasn’t what stayed with me though. It was a short animation which played right before the movie. I’m sure most people hardly noticed it: A gold compact disc filled the screen along with the text “THE DIGITAL EXPERIENCE”, and then boom, it exploded into hundreds of pieces. I sat there with my mind blown, shaking in my LAGear light-up sneakers.
I’d never seen anything that sharp, loud, bright, and perfect. The clip was simply meant to announce the debut of digital surround sound. But to me, it ushered in something else: an entirely new era of digital cinema.
Twenty years later, I’m just as excited—maybe even more so. For me, the digital experience is a virtual space where every limit defining our world can be re-conceived, transformed, and undone.
As a kid toiling with animation, I first created these vast cyber-utopian landscapes. I’d wander though them in blissful solitude. I’d climb over glass mountain ranges, fly across iridescent seas, and float through fields of suspended chrome spheres. In the most awkward phase of my adolescence, my family moved to the heart of Silicon Valley and the excitement around technology was palpable. We lived within walking distance of the Stanford Theater, an old movie palace that showed classic double features. Watching movies there taught me about adventure, and showed me what life could be for someone who is open-minded and brave.
This transformative role that digital technology and cinema played in my early life is the direct inspiration for my first movie: MILES.
Both the story of the movie and the process of making it involves melding the digital experience with the physical world. The story is about a creature designed to kill with seemingly limitless power, who is both a living being, and a product of technology. This creature escapes from isolation, and into the natural world where it forms a bond with teenagers who are discovering their own powers and fears for the first time. Telling the story from a teenage point of view allows me to compare the adolescent discovery of adult power with the human relationship to technological power.
At its core, this movie is about how we change when we encounter something more powerful than anything we’ve ever dealt with before.
MILES is different than many other science fiction films: aside from the creature, everything else in the frame will be physically present and grounded in an authentic, real world. To tell this story, I knew that I needed to find teenagers who are pushing the limits of their physical surroundings in a way that directly translates to the camera. I found this in the motocross community of Central California, where teenagers have been riding dirt bikes since they were in the single digits.
As I worked on creating the creature on the computer, I began following these young riders on social media, shooting footage of them on the track and in their homes, and learning from them about what it feels like to fly through the air on their bikes. When I began to merge my computer generated creature with the live-action footage, I became enthralled with what was happening: The blurring of real and imaginary, digital and natural. These themes are at the deepest core of my story, and I can’t wait to share it with an audience.
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