Set Report Flashback Part 1: Skyline

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Extraterrestrial terror threatens Earth again!

This set report was first published in May. For the film’s release this weekend, we thought we’d bring it back.

The elevator doors open and a small group cautiously emerge into the parking structure of the Cove Condominium building, slowly looking around for any immediate danger before hopping into their cars and making an attempt to hightail it out of there. Chronologically in the story, the “incident” that sets off the chain of events in Skyline has already happened and this particular group of survivors is already looking for an escape. However, this Shock writer has a sneaky suspicion that something is going to prevent them from leaving this building.

This is how I’m first dropped into the middle of the Skyline production, the new independent sci-fi/horror thriller from visual FX gurus Greg and Colin Strause which was recently acquired at the Cannes Film Festival by Relativity Media.

The mood on set is calm and confident. Colin sits at the monitors watching the latest take of the above described scene with writers Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, while Greg supervises near the camera. Using all of their own equipment and crew, the brothers are definitely 100% in their own element and completely in control. Even the cast – which on this particular day consists of Eric Balfour (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake), Scottie Thompson (Star Trek), Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel (Club Dread) and Crystal Reed (MTV’s Teen Wolf) – are “on” when the cameras are rolling, yet loose with each other in between takes and genuinely having a good time.

I’m brought into the editing bay when I’m treated to the original teaser pitch trailer that debuted for investors at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film secured its financing. I know little about the film itself at this point other than that during a party at this apartment complex, a mysterious light in the sky draws people outside. After viewing the impressive teaser, however, it’s obvious that we’re looking at a new alien invasion flick.

“We pretty much came up with the whole idea over one dinner,” explains Greg. “I think the concept that stuck with everyone was the idea that it’s the end of the world right outside your window, the idea of standing right here and you’ve got boxed seats to the end of the world. From that, Josh and Liam started crafting the story around that, but that was really the hook that set us off.”

The idea of the light in the sky is literally only the beginning in terms of the scope that the story takes. In our previous report, Colin admitted the light aspect was only the first ten percent of the movie before things got crazy.

“We don’t think of it as an invasion, it’s more of a mass abduction,” elaborates co-writer O’Donnell. “There are tropes we’re playing with from every survival horror movie. It’s scary, but it has some fun moments. The Dawn Of The Dead remake nailed the tone we’re aiming for here.”

Back on set, Donald Faison, best known for his comedic role on television as Dr. Christopher Turk on Scrubs keeps things light on set by serenading his female co-stars, from Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to Peter Cetera’s “Glory Of Love” from The Karate Kid Part 2 in between takes. After this particular scene is wrapped and lighting begins for the next set-up, I pull him aside to talk about his character in Skyline.

“I play Terry who is a big time special FX artist,” reveals Faison. “He owns a special FX house, much like Greg and Colin do with their place and it’s finally all come together for him so he throws this huge party at his apartment and he invites his best friend to come visit from New York. And then all hell breaks loose.”

One of the biggest challenges for Faison was the opportunity to tackle a character that’s a bit more serious than what he’s done previously in comedies. “I’m fresh off of Scrubs literally,” explains Donald. “I did that for nine years and everything in between that, I was the comic relief as well. So, it’s very difficult, but it’s a challenge and something I really wanted to do. I don’t know if you know what a ‘blerd’ is, but it’s a ‘black nerd’. It’s hard to find another blerd! Everybody’s into what they’re into and I’m into science fiction. So, to be in a movie like this is a dream come true, just for that.”

“Donald playing Terry, this very brash and successful entrepreneur is awesome,” gushes co-writer O’Donnell. “Terry doesn’t need to be likable, he just needs to be fascinating, but Donald can push it and make it really great. We have comedic actors in serious roles. I feel like they’re always listening and aware, and they can always bring it, it’s just people don’t ask them to do it. They get typecast, so it’s pretty cool to have them do something different here.”

Brittany Daniel, most likely recognizable to genre fans from her appearances in Broken Lizard’s Club Dread and the Butcher Brothers’ The Hamiltons plays Terry’s girlfriend Candice, while newcomer Crystal Reed is Denise, the best friend that comes between the couple. “The character that I play in this is a little bit manipulative,” confesses Reed on Denise, “she really is in love with Terry and that’s all she wants, so she’s going to do whatever it takes to get him. And even if that means sleeping with him, even though it’s her friend’s boyfriend.”

Daniel’s character Candice barely has a chance to deal with the drama in her relationship because she find out just as the alien invasion begins. “I’m kind of the one who is creating doubt in scenes,” she tells us in terms of assessing what’s going on. “The other characters are all freaking out but I don’t really buy it. I’m the last one to buy what’s really going on. I’m also kind of the voice of reason.”

“I’m the one that’s asking the questions and moving the story along,” she jokingly adds.

While a late casting addition, Brittany reveals what drew her to the project. “It was a page-turner and I really liked it and I’ve never been part of a movie like this and I thought it’d be so cool to be a part of it. It has an action feel to it too, so I thought it’d be fun to work with that and with the visual FX, especially since the Strause brothers are known for that.”

Reed was also anxious to work with the Strause brothers on this particular project. “When I read the script, it’s really heavy on special FX and that was the most exciting part for me because I’ve never worked with anything like that and you really don’t know what it’s going to look like. You read the script and try to imagine, but you really have no idea. Then you get here and you see the early renderings and you get really excited, because they have this whole other world that they’re creating. You look up these guys and see their visual FX background. It’s ridiculous! So I couldn’t wait.”

Sitting in as a spectator to the cast, I can’t help but marvel at how well they all click together, especially watching scene playbacks on the monitors. “I’ve known Brittany for a long time so it’s pretty easy to work with her,” Faison explains on the actors’ rapport. “I’ve known Eric for a long time now, so it’s easy to work with him too. Scottie Thompson and Crystal Reed are new, but they are great and they’re professionals and they fell right into place. It’s always great when you work with a cast and then at some point, you all form Voltron. You know what I mean? That’s always awesome and it’s rare.”

“This is the smallest crew I’ve ever worked with in my life,” says Faison of this working experience thus far, which is keeping a very indie spirit. “To work with the Strause brothers is pretty cool because they know exactly what they want and they have their vision already set, and if this were a studio movie, they could shoot down a lot of the things they’re trying to do. But because it’s an indie flick and because it’s their flick, they’re getting to do some really cool stuff.”

“We’re having fun and we’re getting to do whatever we want,” Greg expresses with enthusiasm. “Hopefully, doing a film like this independently will have an impact on how stuff is done in the future too. We’re trying to bring the big cinematic style and look and quality that we’re used to on the studio side from the movies that we work on, but at this really interesting, independent budget level.”

Source: Rob G.