New Zealand, 2010. 6:05 min.
Team: David Clark, Rachel Bayley and Josie Brough.
What is normal? Do you believe in the unknown? What defines good and evil?
These are all questions that the film XENOS aims to raise in people. XENOS explores the unknown, the unexplained and the inexplicable. The character of Xenos is a young man who looks normal, but it seems that he possesses powers that allow him to manipulate the environment. Whether he does this intentionally and whether it is sinister is left up to the viewer to decide. However one thing is for sure: Xenos is dangerous.
It seems that recently there have been a huge number of natural disasters; Hurricane Katrina, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, and most recently the Christchurch earthquake; just to name a few. The increased publicity about these events is leading some people to hysteria, and many people are looking for something to blame. Some people think the end of the world is coming, some think it is God, some people think it is global warming, and some simply think it is the earth evolving as it always has. But what if all of these events were caused by one person?
An introduction to the characters throughout XENOS
Name: Xenos [also known as Freddie, Jim, Patient X]
Played by: David Clark
Age: Unknown but estimated mid-late 20s
Xenos is the main protagonist. It is not known who he is or where he is from. His intentions may or may not be sinister; this is also unknown. The thing that makes him so intriguing is that his character taps into peoples’ fear of the unknown. When he was younger there was nothing to suggest that his intentions were anything but innocent. However, it seems that he has recently harnessed his powers and the outcomes seem to become less and less innocent as time passes. It seems that his powers are responsible for the natural disasters that have been happening recently. It appears that he is “predicting” these disasters through drawings which are caught on camera by his flat mate.
Name: Foster Parents, Mark and Claire Harper
Played by: Mark and Claire Clark
Age: Mid 60s
Relationship with Xenos: The foster parents are an older couple who are happily married with no children of their own. They took care of Xenos for eight years when he was a child, he was known to them as “Freddie”. They described him as a quiet boy who was exceptionally talented at sports but was introverted and found it hard to make friends. Years after Xenos left their care they attempted to track him down but could find no records of his whereabouts.
Name: Flatmate, Joe Sheppard
Played by: Michael Clark
Relationship with Xenos: The flatmate lived with Xenos for a year or so. The two had a reasonable relationship, however they definitely saw each other as flatmates rather than friends. He started to suspect that there was something strange about Xenos after repeatedly finding him doing creepy drawings in the middle of the night. On one of these occasions he caught Xenos on film; shortly after this Xenos disappeared from the flat and never returned
Name: Doctor, Dr Sergei Kozlov
Played by: Michael Clark
Relationship with Xenos: The doctor’s identity is concealed in order to protect him and ensure the safety of him and his family. When Xenos was institutionalized the doctor ran tests which scientifically proved that there was something abnormal about Xenos, however, Xenos escaped before he had a chance to run further tests.
Played by: Josie Brough and Rachel Bayley
Age: Early 20s
Relationship with Xenos: The hikers discovered Xenos whilst out hiking. They caught him manipulating the environment on camera; this is the last known sighting of Xenos. It is also the closest thing to proof that Xenos is knowingly using his powers.
The filming of XENOS was originally planned to take place over a consecutive three-day period. However filming was eventually undertaken sporadically and collaborated individually in three distinct parts; the introduction, middle and end.
The introduction was a series of slow motion clips, synced with the song Spanish Sahara, remixed by Mt Kimbie. The opening scene was intended to depict a sombre and thought provoking environment for the audience. The character of Xenos and the general atmosphere of the film was established in the introduction.
The middle of the film intended to take the audience on an exploration of the many lives of the Xenos persona. It is established that Xenos was strange and that all the people that he had interacted with, knew him in a different manner with the only common denominator being that he was somewhat different.
The conclusion of the film was intentionally left ambiguous to facilitate the ability for the audience to come to their own conclusions. The film draws to a conclusion after it is made apparent that the character of Xenos had mysteriously disappeared. Just prior to this scene, the interview with the psychiatrist offers a variety of indication as to who or what Xenos could be.
Throughout XENOS, a series of special effects were employed to add to the films overall mood and impact.
The mountain effect was generated through a collaboration of Photoshop, final cut and flash animation. First a freeze frame of the clip was taken. The image was then brought into Photoshop where the different layers were segregated. A background image was then generated so that when the mountain did move, there was a realistic depiction of what that backdrop would look like. The background image was created through blending the existing image under the rest of the segmented layers. The Photoshop file of all the layers was then taken into Flash. Each layer of the mountain (generated in Photoshop) was positioned on a different Flash layer. This is where the moving mountain animation took form. Various falling rocks were put in the clip to add to the overall impact. The flash clip was then exported and brought into final cut where it was blended with the beginning and end of the original clip. Lastly, the earthquake plug in and motion edition were utilized to give the clip a realistic appearance.
The 2 ½ D effect was discussed in the proposal, as a key effect that we wanted to utilize to effectively communicate our film to the audience. To construct the 2 ½ D effect, Photoshop is used to separate the original image into the various layers evident (foreground, mid-ground background etc). The image was then taken into flash where the motion tool was used in conjunction with the blur effect to generate the 2 ½ D clip. There were a variety of issues associated with the 2 ½ D effect in the images that we selected, for example the difficulty of precisely separating the outlines of the different layers. Difficulty was also experienced when exporting the clip when effects had been used to give the layers a feathers outline.
The images depicted during the final XENOS credits were another effect used to communicate the sombre tone that we wanted XENOS to portray. The grungy images were created by capturing still images of the shot and then importing those images into Photoshop. The images were then de-saturated then the grunge brush tool was used along the borders to generate the grimy effect.
The glitches and the static present through out the film was generated using final cut. The static was produced through the use of a sourced clip. The intention behind the use of the static and the glitches was to provoke a response that the footage was not created for public use, like XENOS was a hidden file.
Behind The Scenes
To generate the final XENOS film there were a selection of scenes that we were advised to eliminate in order to effectively and succinctly present our concept. The original ending was not utilized as it was thought to confuse the audience with regards to analysis of the Xenos character. The ‘sleep drawing’ scene was another scene that was suggested to be cut down. However, we decided to keep the scene as we felt that it added to the chilling persona of Xenos when he all of a sudden appears when the light is turned on.
Our original intention for the XENOS film was to explore the tendency of human nature to dismiss all that cannot be conventionally rationalized and to confront the audience to reconsider alternate methods of justification. However, in the final product of the film, our purpose had been revised and reiterated to present the audience with a unique and troubled character, ultimately enabling the viewer to generate their own conclusions with regards to his persona.
Our team was made up of people who each possessed a different forte, enabling each member to bring something different to the table. We were eventually able to combat persistent issues with timetables and scheduling to collaborate and work as a team in order to produce XENOS.