Aether: Prologue

Poster Frame V1Have you ever fallen in love with a world at first sight? That’s the idea behind Aether: Prologue, a proof of concept film from Frame 29 Films. Although the creators are hoping to impress a studio enough to expand the project, this is also about you. While most fan bases come together after the fact, fans of the Aether’verse (known as Skyborne) are already gathering. In addition to the short film, Skyborne can look forward to other projects, such as a comic, based in the same world.

Specter-1-GROUP-SHOT-EPICThis is an innovative launch, and many early fans are actually part of the team themselves. Airship Isabella joined the crew to help put the short film together, working side by side with Oscar winners and nominees like Alex Funke, David L. Snyder, and Robin Mathews.

I had a chance to interview one of the film’s directors, Drew Hall (also known as Major Spoiley), and he gave us details about the Aether’verse, the production, and how Skyborne can contribute.

Me: Steampunk is a broad genre, and its definition bends around whatever story grows out of it. How would you define steampunk as it applies to your film? What genre conventions have you enjoyed breaking, or what new elements have you chosen to introduce?

Drew Hall: In writing Aether, one of the ideas we adopted early was clear language saying “steampunk inspired.”  The reason was that we didn’t want those outside of the community to think it was solely set in a Neo-Victorian setting.

Aether-WEB-2215_CathedraThe Aether’verse is rather vast and encompasses a tremendous amount of influences throughout science fiction, but the prominent style was that of steampunk – in that the tech used in the film appears “antiquated,” but for all purposes is quite the opposite.  Yes, we have airships, but ours work a bit differently.  Aether is the primary power source (think of it like fuel) for SO much of the technology.  There are all sorts of different airships, but most of them adhere to a few “faction based” rules.  The airships of Wavelinde, for example, use Aether filled ballasts beneath the primary vessel – akin to a submarine.  When a high wattage electrical charge is sent through the Aether, it causes a floating effect.  So to increase altitude = more voltage and to decrease altitude = less voltage.  That said, the ships of Specter (a lower class faction) don’t have access to the energy generators, therefore, their ships move with less agility and typically resemble that of “traditional” dirigibles (kind of).

Horst and I both don’t always like to play by a set of “rules,” instead we prefer to interpret them (which means we either have great tabletop RPG sessions or complete messes, depending on your POV).  There is NOT a universal style of dress, for example, across the world.  It comes down to logic applied to the caste system.  Those who are privileged enough to live in the floating city of Wavelinde tend to dress and act closer to that neo-victorian style – with a minor caveat into color.  Wavelinde likes colorful patterns as much as they enjoy muted earth tones.

Sywren-Throne-1-FBThe people of Specter don’t have access to the trade routes like Wavelinde does, and therefore get the “hand me downs”.  Specter is basically always out of fashion to a Wavelinde citizen.  The clothing in Specter, just like the people, is all about function over form, therefore, we adopted a bit of the weird west style to their look.  The last group is the Bruewen.  Their look is more Mad Max, but without the modern 20th century aesthetic.  Their armor and clothing is made of scraps or bits of worn out machinery used in the mines they inhabit.  So a Bruewen guard might have a pauldron made up of portion of a gear affixed to his shoulder with what little leather he could find…or steal.

We have but one rule that spans the film – “Every gear has a purpose.”  For us, it was important to make sure that if a gear existed on a piece of costume, prop, or machine that it is there to serve a very specific purpose.  We approached the movie saying “don’t just put a gear on it and call it “steampunk.”  It’s not meant as a slam on anyone’s craft, but we’re so detail oriented that if something is in our world, we want the craftsmen/women who put it there to consider a reason why.

Me: Sci-fi has a special versatility when it comes to social structures. How did you decide on a caste system for this world?

P1040943-LAWMANSMDrew Hall: Horst and I both feel that good science fiction should be a reflection of modern society.  It should challenge the status quo.  Although Aether is not directly a “political” movie, I can’t help but write my opinion into content.  I look around this world and I see oppression, rich to poor, race to race, belief to belief.  Sometimes the oppression can be lifted if all perspectives are considered.  There are bad people in the film, but there are no bad societies, they just have chosen to accept the easiest path – Wavelinde could help Specter, but that would require them descending from on high.  Specter could help the Bruewen, but because they look different, they refuse to do so.  The Bruewen, to a degree, control some of the Aether flow, and are clearly a strong society of survivors, but their generational hatred and acceptance of the belief that they are lower class prevents them from succeeding.

Aether (the resource) is also a trigger to help re-enforce the class-based oppression and a mirror to show the flaws within classes.  In its raw form, Aether has an effect similar to a barbiturate/hallucinogenic.  The people of Specter abuse it en masse, as do some of the people of Wavelinde.  In Specter, Aether is illegal, but in Wavelinde it’s not – considered a recreational pleasure.  The Bruewen are, for the most part. born into Aether from living in the mines.  They are naturally “immune” to the effects.  In the end, the abuse of Aether is a metaphor for Petroleum.

Me: What gave you the idea to integrate Airship Isabella as part of production?

Arena-GuardsmDrew Hall: A wonderful young lady named Kristie Provins was kind enough to start pushing Aether (bad pun) when we were in early pre-production.  She introduced us to a ton of supporters – of which led to an email between Captain Cedric Whittaker and myself.  We got on a Skype call and immediately the two of us knew that we both shared the same vision for a concept.  So I sent him the feature length screenplay and we have been working together since.  What sealed the deal for us as a film company is their incredible attention to detail in their designs, costumes, and leather work.

And then the filming started.  There was not a single crew member who didn’t fall in love with ASI.  They are as effective, if not more, as any seasoned prop/production team I’ve had the pleasure to work with.  They responded quickly, efficiently, and understood that their creativity wasn’t just welcomed, it was encouraged.  They were daily inspiration for all of us.

I loved their characters and backstory so much that while Horst was shooting a few VFX scenes, I stole a camera and a small crew and shot a SECOND short film about ASI and their interaction in the Aether‘verse.  I can’t say much about it yet, but it’s one killer little heist movie.

Me: You’ve built an expansive world stuffed with minute details, but in this “proof of concept” short, we only get to see a tiny part of it. What are you hoping this endeavor will grow into? Feature film? Webseries?

Video Still - Alex Funke 1Drew Hall: Yeah, so Aether Prologue is a short proof of concept film about the tiny island of Deos.  The first feature (there’s 3) focuses on a series of events on the Island.  The purpose of the POC is to show the studios that there is a market for original content.  The film business is a very risky endeavor, costing millions, so the risk grows when you put out a story that doesn’t necessarily have a huge fan base.  We hope that by giving the audience a taste of Aether (another bad pun) they will demand more – so much so that we can then see one of two things happen.

We would LOVE Aether to be a series.  The world we built certainly supports it.  The feature length script we have is easily scalable into the first season.  With the success of Game of Thrones, we think that sci-fi fans, fantasy fans, and mainstream audiences would enjoy the action, political musings, and thrill that is Aether.

Character&Costume Design Test (In progress)If a feature is where we land – we’ll be equally happy.  It is such a big world, we all wouldn’t mind seeing it unfold on a cinema screen.  I still find going to the movies to be something sacred – and Aether has been in development for nearly ten years, so getting it to play out at the multi-plex would be amazing.

Here’s the thing with a web series – and pardon the candor – we put everything we had into making the prologue.  Horst and I have a great idea for a webseries based in the Aether’verse but NOT about the characters in the film.  This would be an extension story meant to compliment the film.  We have not asked for any fiscal support for the feature, but to pull off a webseries we would need to launch a kickstarter campaign and ask for financial support.  That said, if we do a webseries we would do our best to make it as community influenced as possible.

Me: How can new fans show their support and help launch Aether beyond the prologue?

Cathedra 03Drew Hall: We like to say that we don’t have fans, but that we have a really big family.  We are completely looking at the steampunk community and beyond to help spread the word about Aether.  The more likes, shares, and tweets we get, the closer WE ALL are to seeing the movie/series get funded.  We’re attending as many cons as we can and have a group called The AE team who will gladly show footage, run panels, or just offer additional support to anyone who wants to help.  We have sashes coming out for supporters to tie around their arm or to their gear to show their support.  It doesn’t matter what your “look” is – be it Neo-Victorian, western, post apocalyptic, or just street clothes – the sash helps build the Aether’verse.  People will ask you about it and you get to tell them about how much fun this world WE ALL have created can be 🙂  As we say, we are Skyborne!

Arena V3 Updated

You can find us on facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/AetherMovie

Our website is http://www.weareskyborne.com

We have been encouraging the use of the hashtags #weareskyborne, #Aether, #welcomebackscifi to help show our unity across the social media platforms.

Find us at cons across the country – I assure you that you’ll find a warm welcome.  We love the Aether’verse.  We love the Skyborne.

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