Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Locally Produced Sci-Fi Thriller The Signal Bends Genres

Courtesy Focus Features
Chagrin Falls native Tyler Davidson's latest movie brought him to New Mexico and back home to Northeast Ohio. The Signal, a sci-fi thriller that follows three friends from Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a road trip gone wrong, filmed in both locations last June including the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and the Cleveland Metroparks' Rocky River Reservation. Starring newcomer Brenton Thwaites, who will be seen later this summer in The Giver, the film was screened last Thursday for a special local audience in advance of its limited release this Friday at Cinemark Valley View. Following the screening, Davidson talked with the crowd about the director, defying genres and working with Laurence Fishburne.

Q: How was William Eubank, the director, a good fit for this movie?
A: His only prior feature was Love. It's pretty experimental. It was made on a minuscule budget, but what he accomplished was really mind-boggling. He built a replica of the International Space Station in his parent's backyard, and he built a Civil War battlefield. I thought, if this guy could do that with nothing, what if we could get him some resources? He was very hands on with The Signal, too. He and his brother did many of the special effects themselves. There's a sort of "Thunderfist" explosion scene, and they covered trampolines in cork themselves and hit them from below.

Q: This film had a lot of flashbacks to Nic's past. How did this fit with the rest of the story?
A: On a thematic level we wanted this film to be about a person's emotional self and not his logical self. We used the flashbacks to help communicate that, and we also mixed a lot of genres. We used The Blair Witch-camera style to maximize the suspense and horror factor, which worked well because Jonah [a character played by Beau Knapp] chronicled this scene with a handheld camera. This movie is a genre bender, there are so many different genres in here. You've got a college road trip at the beginning, then there's the horror scene, and after that there are some crazy sci-fi action scenes.

Q. Was Laurence Fishburne your first choice?
A: Lawrence was at the top of a very short list. He has the perfect voice for it, kind of a butter voice. He was a little apprehensive about spending six weeks in a hazmat suit in Albuquerque, but it worked out. He's such a veteran, and this is a pretty young cast otherwise.

To read more about The Signal and Tyler Davidson, check out our June article "Action Shot" featured in our annual Summer Fun Guide.

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