How a Director Made a Sci-Fi Marvel in Five Days With No Script and No Budget
From IndieWire: “Coherence” is not just smart science fiction: it’s a triumph of crafty independent filmmaking, made with few resources and big ambition.
Director James Ward Byrkit stripped his vision down to the barest of bones to achieve a mind-shifting, metaphysical freakout about a dinner party gone cosmically awry. This film explodes with ideas, and it has that thing we always hope for at the movies: the element of surprise.
[ Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. This interview was originally published this Spring. “Coherence” is now available to view On Demand.]
Shot in sequence, in one location on a beer budget, “Coherence” gathers eight longtime friends and lovers hoping for a pleasant night on Earth — only they, along with space and time and reality, are about to be torn inexplicably asunder by a comet passing overhead. Inject some heady quantum physics, volatile emotions and parallel realities into the equation, and the film goes completely rogue.
Byrkit brought eight unwitting actors to his Santa Monica home, threw them a few red herrings and set them loose for five days knowing that the film could evolve organically, like great jazz, if he kept his players in the dark. But he and co-storywriter Alex Manugian weren’t just making it up as they went along.
This film is incredibly scary. What were its origins, and what compelled you to tell this story?
It was a combination of two things: a desire for many years to try and experiment, to strip down a film set to the bare minimum: getting rid of the script, getting rid of the crew. When you’re on bigger movies, most of your time is spent waiting. You’re not actually filmmaking. So I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to have nothing to worry about but the actors and the story?” So that, combined with the opportunity to explore the latest cameras — Canon 5Ds — and make a micro-budget movie.
Starting with a lack of resources merged well with my desire to experiment with having a lack of everything. Saying, “we’ve got a living room, a camera, and some actors…what can we do?” “Coherence” was born after about ten seconds of putting all of those elements together.