Just as he did with the horror genre in In Search of Darkness, director David A. Weiner is back to shine a spotlight on the well-loved, forgotten, and mystifying science fiction films from the 1980’s in his new documentary, In Search of Tomorrow.
After many years of exhaustive work on the project, Weiner is ready to share his film with the world, and we were lucky enough to talk to him about his process and love of the genre and era in this exclusive interview.
Where did the idea to do a Science Fiction installment after In Search of the Last Action Heroes and In Search of Darkness originate?
David A. Weiner: It originated as an idea from our producer Robin Block. After Oliver Harper directed In Search of the Last Action Heroes, Robin recruited me to do In Search of Darkness for Creator VC and the goal was to focus on as many movies as I could in the larger context of the 1980’s cinema. The other two documentaries set up a great formula for any genre and we were already plotting it while we were working on In Search of Darkness and then COVID happened and slowed everything down.
How did COVID impact the production?
Weiner: We all had to stop what we were doing for a little while, but it also created this interesting problem to solve. Even easy things to do before took more time such as just getting people in a room to talk about the films. We always took precautions and were safe, and as people started to get vaccinated, some were happy to get out of lock-down and speak to us, and for others we got creative and shot the interviews outside. We ended up speaking to over 70 directors, actors, special effects artists, film critics, scholars; just a huge variety of people involved in or with knowledge of these films.
Even though the documentary is five hours long, was it difficult to pare down your list for each year?
Weiner: Absolutely. Sci-Fi fans are incredibly fervent about the films that they love and they are used to seeing and doing deep dives into them. The fandom is so educated about the material through reading classic magazines likes Starlog or Cinefex and researching them on the internet that it was a challenge to present something new and different. And on the other side, I asked myself “What do the masses know about these films already?” There had to be a balance between the hardcore fans and casual, or interested, ones. The integration of the big picture and the little factoids and details was the balance the we were looking for. We certainly looked for information and stories from our interviewees that people hadn’t heard before.
It was a wrenching task to make the final cuts and concessions, and the documentary could have easily gone another 90 minutes. It was very difficult to balance the years as well. Everyone talks about 1982, but 1984 was another year that offered us a lot of difficult choices. If we did all of the “greatest hits”, there would have been no room for eclectic and forgotten films.
How did you got about finding those unknown facts and stories?
Weiner: Yes, that was the biggest new challenge. I mean, so much has been written and examined about Star Trek, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner. With Blade Runner, there was the comprehensive documentary Dangerous Days which looked at every aspect of the film, but we got to sit down with Sean Young and ask her directly is she believed that Deckard was a replicant or not.
We also got to speak to Craig Miller, who was with George Lucas from the early days of Lucas Films and worked on the very first Star Wars Fan Club publication, Bantha Tracks, and we got to hear the true story behind the death of Boba Fett. Without giving it away, being able to hear him tell us that it wasn’t a casual decision, getting the knowledge first hand, was an informative and exciting moment.
The structure of In Search of Tomorrow and In Search of Darkness makes the experience an enjoyable one in terms of the reveals, almost like a visual slot machine of films.
Weiner: Our editor Samuel Way really makes the stuff fly and made them quick and efficient tales. Paul Konschake was in charge of the visual graphics which gave the viewers that experience of seeing the posters and zooming in and Weary Pine’s music enhanced it as well. There is only so much time between each segment before we move on to the next film. You can’t really balance one more than the other, because it is on to the next. You can’t spend too much time on E.T., because you need the same amount of time for Mac and Me.
Did you find that there was a lot of overlap in terms of the horror and sci-fi genres when determining where they would fit in both documentaries?
Weiner: When watching In Search of Tomorrow, there might be films left out that were covered in In Search of Darkness, and some are very difficult to differentiate. Even when we were interviewing the subjects for both films, we had to capitalize on the time we had with the individuals who worked on films from both genres. So when we spoke to someone like Nancy Allen, we made sure to talk to her about Carrie, as well as Robocop, or something like the Philadelphia Experiment.
The crowdfunding model for the In Search of Films has been very successful. Why do you believe that it has worked so well?
Weiner: Yes, it moves everyone from passionate appreciation of a genre to those who want to participate in making a film. It gets everyone involved in the process, and Creator VC has been great about engaging the backers in the decision making processes and all of the extras such as the watch-alongs, posters, and even having your name listed in the credits.
Why do you think fans have such love for the Science Fiction films from the 1980’s?
Weiner: Everyone has a different story about how or when they first experienced these films, whether they saw them in the theater, on video, on cable, or by streaming it. The films created life-long fans, influenced future filmmakers, and were made by some of the masters at the top of their game like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Miller, Ridley Scott, and Paul Verhoeven. The movies from the 1980’s can make you feel, cry, cheer; the whole spectrum of emotions. Whether they were thinking films like Blade Runner, or visceral like Alien, or crowd-pleasers like Back to the Future, Star Trek, or Star Wars, there were so many sub-genres represented in the 1980s.
They endure as a whole new generation gets to experience them, and these films are just as much about who you were with and what you were escaping from or to when you first saw them, whether that was yesterday or forty years ago.
In Search of Tomorrow is only available to purchase until March 27, with a number of specialty items and packages still available. In Search of Tomorrow will not be sold in stores, so if interested, check out the CreatorVC In Search of Tomorrow website.