“That which was meant to be a remedy from the Gods, has become a poison.”
Airships, gun slingers and fighting pits – just another day in Specter, the downtrodden struggling town in the looming shadow of the rich and aspirational floating city Wavelinde on the island of Deos, the setting for new “steam punk inspired” science fiction movie Aether: The Rise Of Specter.
With an impressive crew assembled including co directors Drew Hall (director of indie flick Convergence) and Horst Sarubin (visual effects on The Hobbit movies), along with an Oscar nominee in David L. Snyder (Blade Runner) and two Oscar winners (Alex Funke, Lord of the Rings and Robin Mathews, Dallas Buyers Club), it’s early doors in the life of Aether, but the first tease of the film is now complete and in the wild.
This glimpse, know in the biz as the “proof of concept”, is an early sizzle reel showcasing the world of the movie and providing a tease of the plot, used to drum up interest and fan support with the aim of attaining studio backing for the full film.
Welcome, intrepid reader, the world of Aether:
I recently got the chance to grill co directors of Aether Drew Hall and Horst Sarubin on the production to find out how it is coming along, and how it came to be. Here’s what they had to say:
– What can you tell us about the world of Aether, who the protagonists/antagonists are, and where the story picks up from?
Horst: The Aetherverse is a world unto itself. Though it isn’t Earth, audiences will feel right at home, because it doesn’t matter if the film is on a starship, a Roman village, or in the City of Spectre, the human condition is and will always be the same no matter where the characters are. Our story follows a group of common people trying to break free from an oppressive system. Wil is one of our protagonists and he definitely has a Han Solo/Malcolm Reynolds vibe. Reluctant at first he finds himself struggling through a maze of obstacles that separate the social strata of this world. Though there is a lot of gray in the world as well. Class struggles may be at the heart of the narrative, but that does not mean just because a person exists in the upper class they are inherently evil. They are trapped in the same system of class division. They are just on the easier side of it. … And Bad guys? We have some awesome bad guys. That’s all I’ll say for now.
Drew: So the proof of concept piece we showcased was like an extended trailer for a video game. We took parts and inspiration from the entire Aether experience and did our best to relay the look and feel of what the Aether’verse could be visually. As Horst said it’s a HUGE world. I’ve been writing the histories of the various continents for years. The more I write the more excited I get. Like Star Wars or GOT (Game of Thrones); each civilization has a totally unique culture to it – that’s the fun bit for me. We’re both RPG players…so in a weird way we’re sitting at the table as GMs excited to have the players (Audience, fans aka Aether’verse) join us on an epic journey.
– What were your inspirations for the film? Visually it shares a lot of similarities with Firefly, is that where we can expect to see Aether fit tonally as well?
Drew: What can I say, I’m a Browncoat.
Horst: You definitely picked up on one of our inspirations in Firefly. You will see lots of other hints and ghosts of the stories we love in the film, though that is not to say that we set out to make a parody or pastiche. We are children of the cinema and all these amazing characters and set pieces in films, tv, books, and games consciously and subconsciously feed our creative process. So instead of trying to hide from what we love and who we are we try to embrace it and make it our own.
One of the things that we love so much about Firefly is the tone. It can be extremely heart-wrenching and emotional in one moment then jump to the fun and flighty in the next, and there’s always a bit of nail-biting action. Most importantly to us Firefly always seemed to treat its audience with respect. Who wouldn’t want to do that with their own film?
– The crew assembled for the proof of concept is very impressive indeed. How did you all come together to work on the POC, and will the same crew be used for the feature film?
Horst: The crew came together like they always do for a production like this. Friends see our passion and are gracious enough to give us the time to read the script and talk about the project. They got passionate about Aether themselves and now more importantly than the amazing credits the creative team has, it’s the belief in the project. We would love to have the same crew but these things are always dependent upon timing.
Drew: Horst is being modest. Between himself and producer Scott Robinson, they had a very impressive friends list on Facebook. My only part in this whole endeavor was making sure the script worked, which it did as all of them came out to work on Aether because they love the script, Scott and Horst.
– Horst, this is your directorial debut (sharing duties with Drew), how has the process been for you, and how has experience working of big budget productions in the past helped to shape your approach to the challenge?
Horst: The learning curve has been steep. No matter how much planning, reading, studying that you do directing is so much more challenging but also more magical than I was ready for. I have been very blessed to have worked with and watched some very amazing directors do their jobs. I’ve certainly kept my ears and mind open and tried to take in as much as I could from their work, but one of the more comforting realizations that I’ve come to, as silly as it sounds, is that these people are human beings just like me. If I work as hard as they do, apply my talents the way they do then what they do is not out of my reach.
– What are your aspirations for the film?
Drew: I see Aether as a property which could be introduced in a variety of mediums, not as a “get rich with money” scheme, but a “there are more stories I’d like to tell and a video game or comic or webseries would be the best outlet for this one” kind of thing. We don’t want to recreate the same narrative over and over, but ensure that every piece we make adds to the Aether’verse overall story concepts. For example, what happens in the comics will be a nice bonus to the fans who read them. They will have knowledge of the Aether’verse that will enrich their experience.
Horst: Of course I would love to see this film grow, this entire world grow into something huge. The first job is to make Aether as a feature film that audiences around the world will have the opportunity to experience. From there we have enough material to continue the property as more films or as a television series and frankly we’d love to see both.
– What has the reaction to the proof of concept been like so far? Have you had any studio interest at all?
Horst: We have had nothing but support love and congratulations on the proof of concept piece. The buzz is starting and It IS being noticed.
Drew: The Aether’verse family has been amazing so far. They have helped us begin the crusade to Take Back Sci Fi. They’re passionate. They’re invested. They’re in love with the story as much as we are. That’s why we call them family.
– How can fans go about helping to get the film off the ground and up and running?
Drew: Share. Share. Share. And then post to the Aether page on what you’d like to see. Would you support a webseries while we get the feature film (or TV series) off the ground? If we all wanna see this thing take off, then we have to do it together.
Horst: We’ve been very deliberate from the beginning to not ask the fans for any cash. That’s why we haven’t done any crowdfunding campaigns. The most important thing that they can do for us is get the word out and share Aether and support Aether on social media. Share the Facebook page, share the YouTube videos, and let the world know that you want it to be made. With enough voices, people will listen.
For even more on Aether check out our interview with production designer David L. Snyder covering his work on the project and beyond.