Synopsis: An astronaut hears a mysterious message that turns a routine space-walk into a dangerous mission.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came to me while shooting my previous cyberpunk short film BABY BOOM. Filming for that short took place in a bunker and I said to myself: "Next time, I'll make a movie in a great space.” And space is the biggest place you can imagine. The idea crystallized in my head. It was an obsession to make a film where the action takes place in space with all the challenges imposed by this type of cinema, like putting actors in weightless environment. Sadly, the story take place in space but in reality, the set is inside a studio!
Who are your sci-fi influences? Phillip Dick’s Ghost in the Machine idea would seem to be in the mix.
Indeed, Philip K. Dick is one of my influences. I wanted ON/OFF to feel like a science fiction novella. Philip K. Dick was very good in short novels. There is a special charm in the novella that I wanted for my short film. Japanese animation also has influenced me a lot. In addition, everything that is related to humans and technology fascinates me.
How do you choose when and how to use special effects?
Given the subject, it was obvious we were going to need a lot of digital visual effects. We had the support of VFX society in Montreal, Rodeo FX. But in reality, there is also a lot of tricks to mimic weightlessness. The visual effects making the effect credible are in the set. I didn't want a fully CGI film with an opaque visor that hides the face of the actor. I really wanted to put my actors in a weightless environment.
On/Off may be among the sexiest space films ever. How do you achieve that?
This is a very interesting question. Indeed, there are very sensual and carnal desires that I wanted to ingrain into the film images. Although the astronaut suit is far from sexy, Carole Brana overcomes this problem because she has a very special magnetism. Unfortunately, there are too few films where the action takes place in space for inspiration. Everybody has seen 2001, Space Odyssey, Sunshine, Alien, and now Gravity. Instead, we must find our own singularity for the movie. Paradoxically, I think when we talk about a "machine,” a director must especially make a carnal film. It is intended for spectators. For human adventurers. I have never forgotten that.
What does this film say about man’s relationship to technology?
What I tried to say is that technologies change the whole man before the things around us. What is interesting with the new technologies is to see how man is soluble in them. Psychologically, we are increasingly dependent on new technology but in this film, the dependency is now organic.
Why does it seem that the future is always a scary place in film?
There will be psychological problems with human 2.0. And movies are made to ask those questions.
There is a long list of credits to this film. How many people worked on it and for how long?
Between writing and the end of post-production, we spent 3 years making On/Off, including a full year for visual effects at Rodeo FX. In the end, no less than 150 people worked on ON/OFF. I am very grateful to all these people.
What’s the reasoning behind making such a lavish short film? What’s in it for everyone that worked on it and why do it?
I come from a generation that grew up with generous movies and that made us dream. In France, science fiction is not put forward even though we have Jules Verne and George Melies in our cultural history! So, there are very few science fiction movies. So there is a frustration in both the new generation of French filmmaker but also among technicians who are eager to work on this kind of film. But I think it's the frustration that drives us to excel. I believe things evolve positively, slowly but surely.
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