Director Neill Blomkamp wanted Sigourney Weaver to reprise her role in an Alien sequel but when that fell through he cast her in his own alien movie, Rakka. The short film is the first release by Oats Studios, an independent studio with money to burn.
“I’m basically just setting fire to cash. So is there a way to make it self-sustained?” Blomkamp told First Showing.
The all-in-one studio has just a few dozen employees and even they’re not sure about the business model.
Weaver stars as Jasper, the leader of the human resistance in an alien occupation on Earth. The story is a slice of life in the resistance. Only in interviews does Blomkamp reveal seemingly important details. The aliens are called the Kulm. Their motivation is revenge for being cast aside in favor of humanity by yet more unnamed aliens. And the also unnamed multipurpose black liquid is a nanotech ferrofluid that not only forms the alien spaceships but also doubles as a spacesuit allowing the aliens to breathe.
The film examines the normally deplorable acts that people justify during an occupation. Politicians (Mike Huff) are used as literal puppets for the regime. Jasper resorts to using a pyromaniac named Nosh (Brandon Auret), who uses suicide bombers as live bait to trick the telepathic aliens. Beheading are usually considered savage but not so much when a soldier, Carl (Robert Hobbs), hoists the severed head of an alien. Even children are shown waving alien body parts in victory. And while there are no child soldiers on the frontline, they are shown loading bullets into magazines. Another soldier, Sarah (Carly Pope), plays good cop to get the cooperation of a Amir (Eugene Khumbanyiwa), who has been experimented on and essentially converted.
There’s room to explore each character in this open-ended story.
Whether Rakka is revisited depends on the response. Blomkamp says he reads “shit out of everything” people say about his work.
“When you look at the Rakka piece, it doesn’t really begin or end. It just sets up a world. It’s an exploration into a place. I want to go down the road of seeing where Sigourney’s character goes and where Amir goes or where Sarah goes. But I don’t know if the audience does. I need them to get behind me if they do. I felt like charging the audience outright was the wrong move. So then I thought like maybe the best thing to do is just put it all out for free mixed with a combination of an ability to pay for it on Steam if you want to. Then I started thinking about how much additional content you could get. And there’s actually a ton of interesting stuff. So that’s how I ended up here.”
Rakka can be purchased for $4.99 on Steam and includes extras such as concept art, 3D models and a video file with 5.1 surround sound mix. Fans to be able to get involved in the process of filmmaking.
“I’m really interested in opening up all that the stuff that is usually hidden behind closed doors in filmmaking so that anyone who feels like they can cut it together in a more interesting way, or who just wants to take a stab at it because they’re learning film editing, can have access to that,” he told Wired.
Blomkamp says he’s determined to keep a short film format that can be funded directly by the audience.
“I function better if I’m not getting surprised by things that are driven by fear or by economics,” he explained. “And so those options like Netflix are cool and very interesting and maybe that’s where we’ll be forced to have to figure something out eventually, but that isn’t the intention. Our intention is to be separate and autonomous and interactive with the audience. And a lot of that will die off if we go down traditional roads.”
Fans can show their support this “incubator of ideas” by donating directly to Oats Studios.