Set Report Flashback Part 2: Skyline

Shock’s second day on the Strause Bros.’ next film

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

Click here for day one of our set report.

It’s Shock’s second visit to the set of Skyline, the Strause Brothers new indie sci-fi thriller, and the production is on its final three days of principle photography before completely wrapping. Again, the crew and writers are cool, calm and collected. All of the lead actors are in one of the shooting location’s well-furnished suites relaxing in between takes. Actor David Zayas is on set today and entertaining his co-stars with old stories of his days as a New York City police officer. The Dexter star takes a break however to join me on the balcony with a view that overlooks all of Marina Del Ray to chat about his role in the film.

“Well, my character’s name is Oliver and he’s the manager of the building,” says Zayas. “He sees Jarrod [Eric Balfour] and his girlfriend arrive early in the morning for the party. When the incident happens, he happens to be one of the survivors in the building and he hooks up with these young people and together they try to survive and see what they can do to get away from the situation.”

While Zayas was familiar with the Strause brothers work prior to working on this film, the actor confesses his son was the motivating factor behind him taking this role. “My son is a big, big fan of sci-fi and horror stuff. He knows everything about those genres and when I mentioned this movie, my son knew all about it. And I thought wow. He said, Dad, you got to do that movie! And so, I read the script. I knew about Greg and Colin and the amazing work that they’ve done in films that I’d gone to see together with my son and between that, the story and also the cast – it was a great incentive for me to really want to do this.”

We asked Zayas what it’s been like to work with two directors primarily known for their visual FX background. “I think the visual FX part of it comes so naturally for them,” he explains. “I think what they do is they try to mesh the story of the movie with how it’s going to translate with their visual FX ideas and what they’re going to do with this film. They’re very hands-on and very smart. They know what they want to cover and they know how that’s going to relate to the computer generated images that they’re going to do. It’s great. They have a great idea and a great understanding of what they want to see and they are great at articulating that and communicating that to the crew and the actors.”

From the two days that Shock has spent on set, it’s been one of the most laid back and fun productions we’ve had the opportunity to witness. We asked the actor how it compares to his previous film experiences. “Well, I’ll tell you this – I could be mistaken, but cast, crew, administrator, I think I’m the oldest guy here,” he laughs, “and I’m not that old! But that tells you the young enthusiastic blood that’s driving this film. They really create a set that’s open and friendly, but also intent on making the best film they can make. They’re all very intelligent young people involved in this film. So, it really helps in letting you discover new things and to be creative. Also for me, learning a lot about how this genre works, how certain shots work and how later on it’ll all come together. It was a learning experience for me too. They create an atmosphere for me where your creative juices can really flow and hopefully we’ll do things that – just nuances that will make this film different from other genre films.”

Zayas is called back to set for the next scene and I join lead actors Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson in the make-up room to chat about their characters. From speaking with Donald Faison who plays Terry, we know that Balfour plays his best friend Jarrod who’s visiting from New York with his girlfriend Elaine (Thompson) to celebrate in his childhood friends’ success on the West Coast. “He is an artist, he’s a painter and the juxtaposition between him and his best friend Terry is that they took two different paths,” explains Balfour. “Jarrod is an artist because that’s what he loves. I don’t even know if he necessarily ever thought of it as a career. Even when we meet him, there are things happening in his life where he has to figure out how to gain some stability. We meet him and his girlfriend Elaine and they’re facing the next phase of their life when the incident hits.”

“I had never met Eric, so obviously I’d never worked with him,” interjects Thompson on her role as his girlfriend Elaine. “But certainly, I’d seen his work before and was very excited to work with him. As far as our character’s relationship, the writers helped, but we were very lucky to have a week of rehearsals. Eric got me to watch certain movies to get inspiration on how he imagined our characters would be. Because it’s very important considering the way the film is structured, things happen pretty quickly in the course of the story. It’s pretty immediate when stuff happens, so in that little bit before, you really have to get a sense that these two people have a real history together, because everything after that is heightened.”

Balfour tells us that what really worked in the script was the complexity between the characters. “You think about something like Poltergeist. It’s just a haunting movie, but what made it special was the humor that was infused by this family and the dynamic that they had. There was a humanity to it,” he elaborates. “Look at The Exorcist. It would’ve been one thing to watch a priest try to save the life of a girl that’s possessed. But when you infuse that with a priest who’s having a crisis of conscious about his own faith, all of a sudden these things become much larger. That’s what was interesting about this for me, all the characters were facing really big issues. There’s a great saying I heard recently…it’s not what happens to a man, it’s what he does when it happens.”

Balfour and Zayas have crossed paths several times on the small screen in television, but this is the first opportunity the two have had to work with each other, and there’s an obvious mutual admiration between the two. “The best actors are the ones that bring a life experience with them, and David is a real person,” Balfour maintains. “He’s lived life and brings real life experience to everything he does for a scene, so it makes it really honest and great.”

Eric’s had his fair share of experiences with FX in previous movies and TV shows, but how’d he feel working with two directors primarily known for their visual FX work? “It was absolutely a concern going in. I knew they had the talent to make it look amazing and bring into it FX that no one else could bring. But again, that doesn’t mean anything if people don’t like or care about the characters in your movie. I remember having a meeting with them and it became very clear to me that they were concerned about the conflicts of the characters and the dynamics of the characters, so after that I knew I was in good hands.”

Speaking of the FX, we were curious if he had any “close encounters” with any of the inhabitants causing that light up in the sky. “I have about as much interaction with the FX as a person could have in this film,” he laughs. “From a physical standpoint, there was one week that was probably the most demanding that we have in the movie. Lots of these types of films, it’s always this rogue distant being. But there is literal up close personal hand to hand combat with whatever these things are.”

This is also the first truly physical part that Thompson’s had and she admits to having a desire to do more action oriented stuff. “The beginning of the movie was much lighter,” she clarifies. “Later on, we got to the really intense stuff on the helipad of the roof. That was exhausting to do, but I’d leave pumped up because I got to spend the day running around. I totally want to do an action film! I never thought that I’d secretly want to do an action flick but now I want to.”

At this point, the Strause brothers take a quick break and I join them on the balcony again to catch up on how the shoot has gone since last I saw them. “I want my apartment back, “ jokes Greg. “I’m kind of tired of people bashing equipment into the walls, but in all seriousness, it’s going really good.” When asked how this compares to their previous directing gig on the Alien vs. Predator sequel, both brothers affirm there is no comparison. They’re completely steering the ship on this one. “On Skyline, you’ve got four people, the writers Josh [Cordes], Liam [O’Donnell], Colin and I that are completely aligned in our creative tastes. From the lines of dialogue to the way it’s said to the guy who gets cast in the movie to say it.”

“One of the issues you have on studio movies is certain limitations,” interjects Colin. “Such as you can’t have certain people with facial hair, there are certain looks and every studio is a little bit different with their rules and regulations. We wanted to look at the casting very differently. We thought let’s open it to people that normally would have trouble getting through levels and levels of executives just because they’re on TV or something. We didn’t have to go and say, Here’s someone we love, and try to get it approved by 12 other people.  Usually, trying to get 12 people to agree on anything can be very difficult.”

The brothers are also thrilled with the collaborative process this time around with Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis from Amalgamated Dynamics. “We had fun with them on this,” Colin tells us enthusiastically. “I know sometimes people criticize certain designs they did on AVP: R. People always ask, Why didn’t they change the alien designs? Again, they too had to get their designs approved by 12 other people. On big studio films like that, it’s not just what the director wants, but the studio and all the producers. That’s what was fun on this is we gave them a rough idea of what we wanted, the biology of what we were looking for, and they went nuts and got to go in far different directions with the designs.”

“We didn’t have five other movies of pre-established rules that would serve as a pair of handcuffs,” continues Greg. “On this, it was fun and fresh to start with a blank canvas and do whatever we wanted with it. That’s such an exciting opportunity when you get to create your own thing.”

Skyline has been acquired by Relativity Media. Stay tuned for release date news! For more on the film, read our set preview report right here and our extended interview with actor David Zayas here!

Source: Rob G.


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