Film Independent is now accepting submissions for our quarterly 2014 Canon Filmmaker Award. Four times a year, we select one filmmaker to receive the award: a Canon Cinema EOS package loaned to the recipient. Only Film Independent Fellows, Los Angeles Film Festival alumni and Spirit Awards nominees and winners are eligible. The final application deadline is April 7, 2014.
Here, we check in with last quarter’s winner producer Josh Penn whose film Ad Inexplorata explores the psychological drama inherent in an astronaut’s one-way mission to Mars.
Tell us about Ad Inexplorata. What is the film about and why is it important to you to tell this story?
Ad Inexplorata is about a one-man, one-way mission to Mars and the many challenges–technical, physical, emotional–that face man traveling in space. This story is important on a number of levels. It’s about exploration and discovery, evoking the glory days of the 60’s era space program and our collective hunger for that next horizon. It’s also about one man’s sense of purpose and self, and his utterly human drive to define these things in the most extreme environment imaginable.
Where did you shoot?
We shot the film in a small town in the Hudson Valley area called Accord, NY, in a space that many years ago used to function as a carpet warehouse. We needed a big room where we could build the spaceship and make a home for our film, and it was important to us to do it outside of a city where we could create something of a summer camp feel to the process. Matt Parker, my producing partner, had used this space briefly for another film a few years ago and it ended up being a perfect home for us on this film.
What have been the biggest challenges with making this film?
I think the biggest challenge creatively is that it is predominantly a one-man film that is set largely in one location. We were very mindful of these facts throughout the process and were constantly thinking of ways to make the movie feel dynamic throughout. In order to stay ahead of this we all needed to bring our A game, which I truly believe we did. Our writer/director Mark Elijah Rosenberg wrote a beautiful script, our production designer Steven Brower created a remarkably thorough and detailed set, Mark Strong and our other actors gave themselves entirely to the roles, and our DP Adam Newport-Berra shot stunning footage that manages to make everything continue to feel fresh and exciting at every turn.
Who is on your creative team and how did you all come to work together?
I have known our writer/director Mark Elijah Rosenberg for many years. He is the founder and creative director of Rooftop Films and he has shown and been a huge supporter of a slew of films that I have produced over the years. He came to me with this script about three years ago and I immediately fell in love with it. We have been working together ever since. My producing partner, Matt Parker, who I worked with on Beasts of the Southern Wild, had worked with our DP Adam Newport-Berra on a few short form pieces and raved about his work. From there, Adam and Mark met and it was immediately clear this was a natural fit.
What is the visual look and feel you are trying to achieve with this film and why did you want to shoot with the Canon C300?
Here is what our DP said: “After much testing, we decided the Canon C300 is a beautifully vivid camera, and therefore we plan to shoot everything our lead actor sees of the outside world with the C300. Canon’s colors are rich and vibrant, and the contrasting visuals from the vivid, natural Canon look will beautifully contrast with our other camera, which will capture all the ships interiors.”
How have you built the support for this film and how are you putting together your financing?
One of the things I am most proud of is the community we have built around this film. It starts with our amazing crew, who brought to the project unbelievable dedication, talent and spirit. It was a family whose love will be felt on screen in a thousand tangible and intangible ways. Institutionally we have also been very fortunate to be involved in several distinguished communities, among them the Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, Creative Capital and Film Independent.
Kelly Thomas / Producer in Residence