Andrew Bairds Zone 414, with Guy Pearce and Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, is now available on digital platforms. With a strong script by Bryan Edward Hill and packed with wondrous imagery and intriguing themes related to artificial intelligence and the nature of humanity, the film offers a unique look at an alternate future where technology has become the bane of existence. and humanity has as good as abandoned emotions.
Fortunately for us, director Andrew Baird was there to discuss his directorial debut in more detail.
Jeff Ames: What drew you into the world of cinema?
Andrew Baird: Oh wow. Well my dad, I suppose. I grew up with my father and watched a number of films and then I found out that my father’s brother – my uncle – was making films for Ken Russell back in England. My brother was a great film editor in Hollywood for a long time – he still is, Stuart Baird.
But I was never involved, you see? Unlike I knew they were in the movies. Around the age of 15 or 16 I decided this is what I want to do. The films grew and grew and I decided to go to film school.
RELATED: Red Notice Teaser: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot lead Netflix Action Pic
You have worked on a number of short films as a visual consultant and / or writer. What made you decide to take the plunge with Zone 414?
Well, I don’t know if I even had to take the plunge. I always knew I wanted to be a director. The two big influences for me back then were Terry Gilliam and Ridley Scott; and to a lesser extent James Cameron. They were all art directors who became directors. When I went to film school, they told me I could do different courses. One was design and the other was animation. So I thought I was going to do design and get into art direction and direct from there, and that’s what I did.
I did that in Europe and then came to LA in 2006 and was immediately an art director for a long time – well, five or six years as an art director and then I directed in LA again. I made videos and commercials in that order and mixed and voted – I also worked for Roger Corman before he even came to the US.
American cinema, without question or doubt, has had a tremendous impact on me. And the Hollywood business was crucial. It gave me a lot of work. As soon as I went to LA, I got work right away. I am very lucky and I appreciate it.
Then, strangely enough, I come back to Northern Ireland to do Zone 414. It was definitely an adventure!
Speaking of Zone 414, there are a lot of really interesting elements in Brian Hill’s script. What was the first thing you realized the first time you read it?
I’m a little dyslexic and it took me a while to figure that out. So I need time to read things. What I’ve noticed is that when a script is damn good, I read it really easily. If they suck or are boring, it takes me forever.
With Zone 414, I read the script so quickly. It totally captivated me. I understand it. I thought it was pretty meager. I think our film is a lot more elaborate than what was originally written, but it just worked out that way. We were really lucky with our resources and got it in the game of Thrones Studio in Belfast.
I thought the script was like a very intelligent adult comic; and I wanted to do something like that. I felt like this would be the perfect way for me as a film director to go from art director to director in a nutshell – you know, very visual work. Even when I was in film school, the first film I made, the graduation film you make, was heavily influenced by William Gibson. I brought in a bit of cyberpunk – and I read that in Bryan’s script, too.
RELATED: Pollyanna McIntosh’s Jadis Returns in TWD: World Beyond Extended Trailer
I really liked the story between these two characters. They find each other in this dark, precarious world and help each other to find their way around it. It’s that simple. And to try to break it down to this human story and not get lost in all the gimmicks and nonsense. It’s old school storytelling; And as another journalist noted, it’s a lot of noir and very little sci-fi, and that’s what I intended. The technology is very inconspicuous and analog. I tried to immediately convince the audience that even though Jane is a machine, one really identifies with her.
Matilda did a great job with Jane. I think she was very smart and beautiful.
It’s a very visual movie really, based on movies like Blade Runner, but the core of the story seems to be how humanity has gotten tired of technology – it just gets in the way more than it helps.
One hundred percent! Technology always hits LA first and lifestyle is so influenced by social media and technology. It’s funny when you go east you almost go back in time. Even if you go to New York! Though I suspect Zone 414 is the place where the technology is created.
Somebody asked me when the movie is playing, is it some kind of alternate timeline or an alternate future where this technology is available. What would people do with it? They have made these kind of robots and androids before and of course the sex business will be the driving force.
Another journalist told me that there was quite a sexual undercurrent that was intentional. It was an edgy script that Bryan wrote, and then when the elements in the film came together it definitely went more towards the finer execution of the film, which isn’t bad at all because I can get very dark and very spoiled. We didn’t want that with this film. To be honest, I think Matilda was a big part of that. She always had a clear idea of what to do with Jane. She is a very stylish lady who has just added a lot and her take on Jane really influenced how the film was made. With topics like this, it’s really easy to get too dark and spoiled and get a little too angry.
We point out what can happen as we explore the lower levels of the zone, but again this is a graphic novel. This is the world it is in. It has a firm foothold in fantasy as in reality, but what needs to be real is the human connection, and it’s really about two lost souls finding each other and going through that dark journey and out on the other side together .
Every one of these other great movies is just based on these classic stories, you know? Bryan had a lot of things in his script that touched a lot of things and we had to find a way to shoot that effectively. What works on the page often doesn’t work on the day of shooting. It’s interesting how films start out in writing and end in the cinema. Movies are very visual. It’s like building a house. You don’t live in the blueprint; You live in the actual house.
So everything is a collaboration. We had a great collection of actors. As a first-time film director, I am proud of the cast we have put together for this film. It was wonderful. Not only did we create a fantastic world, we populated it with really great characters played by great actors.
It’s great how you allow the performers to do what they do, often in wordless scenes where we just watch them walk around a room or listen to music.
I appreciate everything you say. Everyone will interpret the film differently and I think that’s nice. Another journalist went on and on and loved it, but she had her own experiences. It’s like looking at a painting and interpreting it yourself.
I think the film is very authentic. The film is exquisitely made and executed in many ways and great care has been taken in it. It is inevitable that some people will compare it with Blade runner and some work by John Carpenter. You don’t know, of course, that we’re running out of catering budget Blade runner. I don’t want to emphasize that either. If it suits you, great! But what you are saying is that a lot of things happen … when you deal with them. I tried to experiment with it. This was a pretty classic exercise in filmmaking, but the bottom line is, when you have such great actors portraying these great characters, you just have to play with them. I’m glad people pick up on things that are specific to them. I think on the surface you could just call it that Blade runner Knockoff, but I think there’s a lot more going on in the movie. The bottom line is that it has to be captivating and entertaining and we have tried to bring the plot down to a core, captivating simplicity, namely: He’s on a mission to find a missing girl, he finds this other girl, and together they find each other and go through with it a cathartic experience. I think Guy and Matilda have great chemistry. It’s a good story and a good story.
I don’t even know if that’s a question, but my favorite line in the film was when a character said, “When God does something, He makes it fragile. When we do something, we want to keep it alive forever. ”I found that to be such an interesting way of looking at humanity and technology in general.
Thanks very much! It’s great that you got so much out of the movie. Please bring the word out. It’s a little independent film. We are very lucky to have some great machines behind it, but I think some people consider it a big studio release, which it doesn’t. We had to make this film with great care. It’s great that it’s coming out.