“It’s easy to forget that this is not something put together by a large studio”
by Nav Qateel
Winner of several festival awards including the INFLUXPalooza Best Screenplay and Best Sci-Fi Trailer, the Northern Lights trailer, produced by Black Rock Entertainment was directed by David K Drew II, exec produced by Chuck Powers and Michael Greene, and based on the novel and screenplay by Tom Rico.
The 15-minute version of the trailer (see below) opens on a dark, noisy New York City in 1977, where an impressive flyover offers us a fantastic view of the streets and skyscrapers below. A news bulletin cuts in and announces that a Son of Sam victim has just died. This is a nice bit of foreshadowing from the pen of Tom Rico, who begins to paint a bleak picture for the audience. Death ensues before we jump forward 44 years.
It’s now 2021, and a beautiful shot of the Aurora Borealis (AKA the Northern Lights) in Norway, introduces us to a married couple who become affected by the light that’s given off by the aurora, giving us the first hint of trouble from something otherworldly. We’re then treated to flying saucers, huge explosions, infections, the dead reanimating and global panic, offering us a taste of the potential of Tom Rico’s wonderful material.
What immediately strikes you about the Northern Lights trailer, is the work that’s gone into the production. One can easily get a sense of the sheer size and scope that the Northern Lights team is aiming for. Although the shots from space and the flybys are stock footage, the team have done a fantastic job during post production that it’s almost seamless and extremely difficult to spot. When you include the great-looking CGI, it’s easy to forget that this is not something put together by a large studio, such is the high level of skill on display. Northern Lights takes us on a decades long journey right around the world and up into space. This is a journey you don’t want to miss.
Watch the Black Rock Entertainment Promo Video Here
Northern Lights creator Tom Rico, and Exec Producer Chuck Powers answered a couple of questions about the production:-
What was it like to adapt your novel for the screen? Did you have to leave anything out?
Tom: It was actually quite difficult taking a 325 page novel down to 125 page screenplay. I did have to leave some things out that in the end I realized were non-essential to a film. I went through many edits to make sure that I captured the essence of the story-line without leaving out major pivotal detail. It did however teach me a lot about the difference between writing a novel and writing a screenplay by forcing me to drill down to the visual aspects for filming, and the character aspects for depth. It was actually a great learning experience.
Can you tell us a bit about your next project?
Tom: Certainly. I always intended Northern Lights to be a trilogy with aspirations of a Star Wars type magnitude. So right after Northern Lights was completed I began work on the sequel The God Particle – RESURRECTION. It’s a post-apocalyptic setting in Geneva Switzerland, at a government facility called ‘The Large Hadron Collider.’ For those not familiar with the facility, it’s a high-speed particle accelerator whereby research is being conducted into the building-blocks of the Universe. Many have speculated that some of the testing into black hole technology and multi-dimensional universes could be quite dangerous if successful. The threats to our planet are very real with regard to the government testing being conducted there as we speak. Being fascinated by possibilities, I spun a tale of planetary disaster, of epic proportions. It was a great deal of fun to write.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Tom: That’s a tough one! I hope to complete the trilogy and move onto other projects in the same genre. I of course would like to get picked up by a major studio and see my trilogy come to life on the big screen, but I’m aware that’s a tough nut to crack. It’s all about the art and having fun, if you set out with goals of fame and fortune, chances are you’ll be quickly disillusioned. My goals have always been to tell an entertaining story and have fun doing it. 5 years from now I hope I’m still able to do that. If my stories make it to the big screen – even better, it’s not a destination, it’s a journey and I am enjoying the ride…
How long did it take to produce the Northern Lights trailer and what were your biggest obstacles?
Chuck: We shot Northern Lights in 3 days.
1st day was in Hawkinsville, GA at an abandoned psychiatric hospital. We had to overcome heat of over 100 degrees and no Air Conditioning. The building had been abandoned since the 1980’s so it was a challenge. We also had little to no electricity since the building had been vacant for so long. Getting power and enduring the heat and gnats flying around you constantly was no picnic. I do however have to credit the cast and crew for enduring these obstacles but never complaining about them. It was all about getting the shots right.
2nd Day we shot in two separate locations in the Columbus, Georgia area. The first scene was the lake scene which filming began at 3AM in the morning. We wrapped up that location around 8AM and moved to another suburb of Columbus for the 1970’s Son of Sam killing scene and several other scenes including the famous red scene where Hannah is staring out of the window viewing the alien arrival.
3rd Day -The last and final scene was filmed in Studio in Marietta, Georgia. This scene was the cavern scene and it was all done on green screen.
You’ve been in the business a long time. How do you know when you have something with true potential on your hands?
Chuck: I have been in the business for nearly 36 years and when you see a screenplay that has so much potential and substance that it grabs you… You know you have a winner. When Tom sent me the screenplay to Northern Lights last April, I felt that this production had so much merit and potential that it really was a no brainer. I get many screenplays each year to review and some just don’t have the feel or power to grab you. When a story is so compelling that you don’t want to put it down… You know you have a winner.
Do you feel it’s important to be able to wear as many hats as possible as a producer? You’re credited with performing quite a few tasks on the trailer.
Chuck: I try to be involved as much as possible to ensure the productions vision is meeting the expectations of our clients. There is so much at stake in these productions and we want to make sure that the projects are worthy to be reviewed and accepted by networks and studios for consideration. It is such a great honor to be recognized for your work at Film Festivals. These venues give filmmakers the ability to showcase their talents and make dreams come true. I am all about magic… The magic is in editing and those who see the vision. I like to consider myself as a person who creates magic for my clients. After all that is what is important at the end of the day.
Thank you both.