In just a moment, your entire life can change. Add a genre twist to such an event, and that change can become even more compelling. Just such a life-altering a moment can be found in Instant, a new short film produced by Roddenberry Entertainment that debuted Thursday at San Diego Comic-Con.
Instant takes its audience to an intimate setting, a bar where six people are gathered and suddenly find themselves in a hostage situation. As time passes and things become grimmer in this small space, we learn more about each of these characters, their motivations, and who they are. As the title suggests, for these people everything can change in just an instant and that’s exactly what happens at the very end.
How did Instant come about?
Roddenberry: In the industry, you generally don’t read unsolicited scripts. We often get things that come to us, but this was brought in through a friend. I still didn’t get around to it, but my friend really encouraged me to read it and I finally did. I was really taken with it. It’s got a nice relationship angle that really resonated with me, a good father-son angle. I got very excited so I met with the guys doing it, the guys who had been shopping it around, and they had come together because they fell in love with the script.
They were from different aspects of the industry but they had all come together because they felt passionate about it as well. What really drew me to it was certainly the story, but also the team that was there. They were very collaborative. There was no ego. People just wanted to work together and were excited about the story. They knew it was a short, they knew there was no money in it; they were just passionate about it. I felt the same way and once I saw that I brought it to Trevor. He runs everything on our entertainment side and read it and agreed with me.
How long have you been working on it?
Roth: It’s been awhile. When you have a short there’s always a question of what are you going to do exactly with the short. We looked around for a few different ways before bringing it out to the world.
At the end of the day, it’s a very interesting story because there is a genre theme to it. There is some science fiction to it if you will, but for the most part, you think you’re watching a movie about people and this extraordinary circumstance they’re in.
Roddenberry: Arguably if you’re watching it for sci-fi you might even be disappointed because it’s not really until at the end that you might have a reveal of some sort.
Roth: I think it speaks to the power of science fiction in general to be able to have films like this that still make sense to call them science fiction or genre entertainment because it’s an area where you’re really getting into the nuts and bolts of everyday life and people, and at the same time having fantastical elements to it.
How does the short film format help tell Instant’s story?
Roth: When you’re comparing it to a TV series, at the end of the day you’re always looking at where is it going to go from here. Where’s it going to go next. One of the great things about shorts or movies in general is that they’re close-ended. You know this thing is going to be telling a very specific story and is going to have that ending. You’re not looking ahead too far. You’re really just trying to find that end and work back from it and say how is it we’re going to get there and that’s where we’re going to leave them.
Roddenberry: I’ll jump in and just to be provocative, say "control." It’s not that I’m an egomaniac that needs to control everything. Had it been pitched as a series or something like that, I don’t want to say [it would have been] too big for us, but then it’s big and we’re going to studios and trying to pitch it and everyone’s giving opinions. This being a short, it allowed us to be able to do it on our own. We had the creative minds there. The guys had already put it together. For me, that was appealing because we could do it and we could do it the way we wanted.
What was it like finally showing Instant during the panel Thursday and seeing the audience’s reaction?
Roth: It’s very cool to share it with people. Even for us, looking at it on a nice big screen with good sound and all that kind of stuff is very cool. Then to allow people to engage in that world and have them receive it well at the end of the day — and with this one, you really need to get through the whole thing. Whether you’re loving it or just enjoying it a little bit, we really love the fact that it's a short, so you can get all the way through because it is a whole piece.
From that standpoint, we want to be seen and understood as that entire story and people seemed to be enjoying it when they get to the end and they get to that place. It’s the kind of film you might also want to watch again. If I can intrigue people at all, I can say that it’s definitely something you might catch things the second or third time around that you don’t the first — once you realize what it is.
Roddenberry: I don’t know how well this will be received by everyone out there. My thought is there are people out there it’s really going to resonate with like it did for me because it touches on some level for them. And then I think there are other people who say, “oh, that’s good. That was enjoyable,” and that’s fine.
We did it because we loved it and hopefully other people will too, but after the panel there were a few people that we talked to and heard from that shed a tear. Every time I watch it I get teary eyed. It’s definitely a personal project.
Why was this a project that was important to you and a story you wanted to tell?
Roth: Two reasons, one is for me and one is for him. For me, I would say it’s very cool to look at different points of view. We’re constantly talking about that in the office. How do we get people to look at a different point of view? That’s obviously relevant to today’s world and to what science fiction offers and I think this project allows us to see different points of view [from] different people, different circumstances and situations they have vantage points on and can articulate in a way that you say, “I get that.” All of those might be in conflict with one another, but they’re all understandable. For me, the best villains are the ones where you understand their point of view and can go “I may not agree with the execution of what they’re doing and their actions, but I do understand where they’re coming from” and I think that this has that in spades.
My other answer is, I’ve never said this out loud to him, but I think given what I know about Gene Roddenberry and Rod and the relationship they had and losing Gene, I think in some ways this film because it has familial ties. There is something to it that’s therapeutic almost.
Roddenberry: Clearly it resonates with me because of my situation. I lost my father at a young age and I don’t often think about trying to go back and find out more about him. That’s all been brought to me. I’ve done a documentary called Trek Nation and I went on a multi-year journey to learn about him from friends, family, and other people in the industry. This Star Trek legacy started with Gene Roddenberry and as a young kid I didn’t get it and I didn’t pay attention. But as I got older, I learned a lot about him and became very inspired — like the fans did — by its message.
We try to carry on in our own ways, but it’s something I’m very proud of and love sharing that story wherever I can.
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