The future is a very strange, unsettling place in your creative world

The future is a very strange, unsettling place in your creative world

I’m a big video gamer

You’re a fan of B-movies like “Soylent Green,” “Logan’s Run” and “Planet of the Apes.” How did they inform your take on sci-fi? Well, I work in genre. I write thrillers and sci-fi movies and then to some extent try to subvert them. They’re usually anti-authoritarian in some kind of way and suspicious and take all kind of risks. That’s the kind of stuff I grew up on, and of course it’s found its way into what I do.

You’ve said you love sci-fi as a genre because, and this is a quote, “It allows for really, really big subject matter without having to be embarrassed about it.” That’s right. When I first started, I always felt like I had to smuggle ideas into the stories. The first movie I ever wrote was “28 Days Later,” which is a zombie flick. There were ideas in it, but they were kind of buried or hidden, for the most part. I realized increasingly that in science fiction you have permission, you have permission for big ideas. Actually most sci-fi tends to work as an analogy or metaphor in some kind of way. And so I increasingly gravitated towards it. It just like you said in the question. You didn’t have to feel embarrassed about the idea. In fact it’s almost encouraged.

Any hint? A kids movie. I just wrote two scripts back-to-back actually. One of them is a kind of tech thriller, which is set here in San Francisco.

But I’ve got two children and they’ve never seen anything I’ve worked on. It’s always too violent or druggy or whatever. And so I thought I will try, before my daughter gets too old, to do one kids movie. She’s 10, so if I can get it done within the next two years she’ll be interested.

Actually some of those older films were very subversive

I think its application seems more suited to video games than to filmed narrative. And it’s not because of anything other than nausea, actually. In a video game, you’re controlling the camera, and so you don’t get the seasick thing where the boat moves in a direction you’re not expecting, and you start to feel terrible. You get a visceral response, you get an inner ear type problem, a nausea type problem and a stomach type problem, that sort of lurching feeling.

I don’t know how to direct the gaze in that kind of VR, which you do in film easily with lighting and focus. I’m not sure how you do that in VR, but mainly I’m not sure how you move the camera without making people want to throw up or take the helmet off. I don’t know how to do it, but someone will.

Let’s talk about “Ex Machina.” You’ve said you felt huge affection for Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, and it’s her story you were writing. Why was that the story you wanted to tell? The film had two separate sets of concerns. One was sentience and artificial intelligence and human intelligence — that’s very apparent. But there was another set of interests in it as well, which loosely speaking you’d say were attached to gender. You have a machine that looks female, and how is the gender attributed? Is it something that is contained in a physical form or is it conferred upon the machine by other people? Why would the word “it” feel inappropriate to the machine? Or is it simply an appearance? And so initially there’s a gender discussion but then it becomes something else as well, which was literally just about objectification.

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