Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away

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Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, and Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer, take us behind the scenes of their design process.

Update, Nov. 2: Back during SXSW 2018, Ars caught a small, enchanting bit of space sci-fi called Prospect, and evidently many others felt just as smitten. The film ended up snagging a distribution deal soon after and is now being released in theaters starting this weekend. In light of more audiences getting to see it, we're resurfacing our interview with the filmmakers and the corresponding review (originally published April 15).

On top of that, the Prospect team kindly shared the behind-the-scenes video above since they noticed how much Ars readers seemed to take to the film's design process. (They may have said they're excited to re-engage with commenters about the film again, too).

AUSTIN, Texas—Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or "kaboom!"), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

"$10,000?" she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. "That's enough to cover the loan... and the pod lease?"

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they're now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

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