At its best, science fiction isn’t just about planet-busting death rays or alien invasions — it challenges contemporary social issues. The upcoming independent sci-fi movie Credence aims to do just that, exploring the imminent end of mankind through the lens of two parents forced to say goodbye to their daughter, with only children being ferried from a doomed Earth. Those parents happen to both be men.
Having smashed its initial targets on Indiegogo and with two weeks still to go, Wired.co.uk speaks with director Mike Buonaiuto about the project’s success and the importance of LGBT representation in our media.
Wired.co.uk: When and how did you begin development onCredence?
Mike Buonaiuto: It comes off the back of some viral campaigns we did. We did the UK marriage equality viral campaignHomecoming, which had a million views and inspired the Out For Marriage campaign with Theresa May, Nick Clegg and Richard Branson. They all gave their support to marriage equality. Then we ran some campaigns like the Olympic campaign against the anti-gay laws in Russia. That saw over a million and a half views in November. There was a general consensus about activity around viral videos for the LGBT movement. I worked for AllOut.org, which is a global campaigning organisation. As their creative lead, I learned a lot about how that works.
At the same time there’s a love I’ve had for science fiction — I’ve tried to make sci-fi in the past. I realised that there was no protagonist in science fiction, or almost any kind of movie, where the main characters are LGBT. So we wanted to make a film that puts the LGBT characters up front but doesn’t make it all about sexuality, much like in the 1960s where if you had a black character it was someone who would be “the help” or struggle with issues of race.
Romero touched on that in the original Night of The Living Dead, where Duane Jones’ character Ben survives the zombies only for other humans to kill him.
Yeah, I think that’s something powerful about science fiction. I think it shapes the understanding people have of the world around them. There are millions of LGBT science fiction fans around the world and it’s so important that they feel represented. That’s where the idea came along. Let’s make something no-one’s ever seen before. Let’s make sci-fi that’s forward looking and progressive.
Speaking more creatively about the film, where did your ideas for the story come from?
It’s been in development in my head for a year or two and mostly it’s been a matter of me having the guts to get it down on paper and being brave. It takes a lot out of you to put something like this together so you’ve got to be committed to it. Really, the idea came from a campaign that we ran for adoption rights in Europe that was saying LGBT families across Europe are, in effect, invisible because they’re not seen in the eyes of the law. In one country they might be seen as a family and in another they wouldn’t. Equally, in Russia right now and other countries like Uganda where it’s illegal to be gay or even pro-gay — there we’ve got a government that takes children away from their parents just because they’re LGBT and seen as non-traditional. What we wanted to do is not run a campaign about it but touch on these important issues and write a story about what happens if a family did have a child taken away from them. Here it’s because it’s the end of the world and there are only enough resources to take children.
The concept is a mass evacuation of the youth of Earth. Can you expand on that?
Essentially it’s about the last evacuation of Earth, where parents have to sacrifice the family they built and let the children go. Some adults are allowed to go on to the ships, because they’re allowed to look after the children. The children are taken because they have longer life spans and can fuel the next generation of the human race, but there’s not enough space or fuel with the ships for the adults. It’s a decision the government has made and because of that it’s an issue where only rich and privileged families have been able to get tickets for their children. The film will explore the lengths this one couple has gone to in order to raise enough money to get a ticket for their child. The film itself will explore the relationship not just between child and parent — how they have to lie to their child to protect them — but also between the parents, because the only way two people can deal with a tragedy is to come together rather than deal with it alone.
The actors playing the two dads — how did you cast them?
Good question. I got in touch with people over a site called CastingCallPro. We advertised the project, what we wanted to do, and held auditions. Both of them, Anthony Topham and Alex Hammond, are straight! That’s the funny thing with most of the work we’ve done, is that most of the actors playing gay characters are straight. It’s important not to limit gay actors to gay characters, or vice versa. And they’ve done a sterling job.
They’re just good actors! This is something new to people and the audience want to praise people for playing a gay character, but for the actors they’re playing characters and making stories.
The trailer really makes the LGBT aspects seem incidental, which sounds like your intention — it’s the end of the world and, hey look, two dads. Is that the case?
Yes. It’s quite ironic that we’ve had to market it almost as a gay film when the point of it is to be a normal film with more representation. We actually wrote it and made the trailer all in mind of a straight couple, and then at the last moment swapped out the wife with another guy, all so that we avoided falling into stereotypes ourselves.
Is there a particular meaning behind the title?
Credence itself is a metaphor. It means belief in something you consider being true. In effect, they are telling their child that there is a belief in something, a hope in something, that they’re doing the right thing. In another way, credence is a metaphor for everything that’s going on here, that there’s a right way of doing things in the world and we’re trying to question that, go against that or challenge it.
Why do you think genre fiction, which is renowned for covering themes through metaphor, has been so reluctant to represent LGBT issues?
I think it’s film in general. Despite being forward-facing in how it looks and how much money is invested in production technology, it has a habit in terms of plotline and character progression of just dropping in the easy stereotypes the audience will understand. So I think it’s about being brave more than anything and pushing the boundaries and making things people haven’t seen before. I picked science fiction because it’s what I love, but film because it’s not as forward-looking as it could be. What the campaign has shown, which is absolutely amazing, is that there is a need for this. We raised our goal in three days and doubled it in another three days. We’re now up to £19k. The more budget we can raise, the more we can put to the others things like VFX and colour grading, the things that will set the film apart from the rest.
Has gay cinema in general ghetto-ised itself? Most content is very clichéd first-love tales. Is there a hunger for more?
Yes. We’re not really making Credence for just a gay audience, which is why we’re doing production and funding a bit differently. That’s why it’s so exciting. The majority of the coverage has been non-LGBT related. The people who’ve been sharing it have been more from the mainstream press and not just the niches of LGBT and, say, sci-fi gamers. What we’ve seen in the coverage is what we’ve really hoped for with the project, which is seeing it as a mainstream film that touches on LGBT themes and issues. Gay cinema does fit into stereotypes — coming out, dealing with sexuality, relationships, and bigotry. We wanted to do something different. That’s the way I approach almost all my projects: how do we do something different and never before seen? And it can be hated! If that’s the case, then that’s the case but you’ve got to put yourself out there and take a chance.
Were you surprised to hit your funding target for Credenceso quickly?
Totally. I knew the trailer would do well because there are ways I went about sharing it, along with previous campaigns. I know how to do that. What I wasn’t expecting was how the financial contributions would mirror the excitement that’s around the project — people sharing it and getting excited. By running an Indiegogo campaign, you can see how people have shared things and who they’ve passed it on to and how they’ve contributed. It’s viral in that sense. You can see how one person shared it with five people and each of those people pass it on. Stephen Fry retweeted it and there have also been numerous people supporting the campaign on the journalism side — theHuffington Post was a great one supporting it on the first or second day. They alone contributed about £3,500 of the fund and the readers of Huffington Post passed that on.
Your initial goal of £6,000 was quite humble for a film production. Where were you expecting that money to go?
The costs you can’t avoid when making things like this — travel, accommodation, equipment hire, expenses for crew and actors. Every piece of equipment we used to film the trailer was borrowed and we can’t really go back to those people who loaned it to us without paying what they deserve. They’re a local business and they’re helping grassroots films likeCredence be produced. We’d like to give them the job when we are making the real film. Most of the cast and crew are working for free, and most resources for the film will be covered by people giving up their time because they feel passionately about the project.
Have you had any negativity or resistance to the film since it went public?
Only to the production values [but] I think it looks sensational for what was spent on it, which was nothing! It does show that we really need to invest in top-notch effects and grading, which is where the majority of the funding will be going, so that this film is seen and respected as a science fiction piece. Fans of SF respect things that look a certain way. At the moment, all the VFX in the film are done by me. I am the editor and I’m trained in After Effects, so I sat there on a long weekend and did it myself. Hopefully with this project we’ll be able to invest it in all the right ways to make the film look as good as it possibly can.
What’s your release plan for Credence? Are you going to go the festival circuit, aim for a cinema release, or straight to digital?
I would like to join the festival circuit at the same time as an online launch. I’d like this film to be seen by as many people as possible and by its nature I’d like it to be shareable. We’ll see if we can do both at the same time, or at least one after the other — a festival and then an online launch with exclusive content. I’m not too concerned with people just seeing it on the big screen, but also across multiple devices.