As already stated, thanks to your generous support, we're setting our sights a little higher than the rest of the series.
In the way that Biffovision was a heady cocktail of all the TV shows I watched and loved as a kid, so the Finale will be a blend of influences - some profoundly silly, others less so. A lot of them come from the movies I watched as a teenager. Others from my post-pubescent fear of thermonuclear war, video games, and more recent world events.
Given that, for the most part, I'm approaching it instinctively,I thought it'd be an interesting exercise to see if I could identify the constituent parts that make up the Finale.
Reading this you might think we're making a multi-million dollar sci-fi movie - I wish - but it doesn't hurt to have lofty ambitions, even if we fall short. Which we will. But hopefully not catastrophically so.
It might be manipulative, but it engages the audience, and gives them permission to become emotionally invested in the action. If you care about the characters, if you like them, you care more about what's happening on screen.
I've really enjoyed the short films Neil Blompkamp has been releasing on YouTube over the past month or so, but more from a technical point of view than through any real emotional engagement. Found Footage: The Finale (title TBC) might only be 20-30 minutes long, but I've tried to give each of the main characters a story, and give you a reason to care about them.
Also, then banter between the Colonial Marines made them feel like real people, and the little hints that the base on LV426 had - until recently - been populated by real people, made it feel real. Work places aren't sterile; we decorate our cubicles and desks, and try to personalise them. I want to try and capture some of that.
The more familiar the world is - either through the way the characters interact, or via little background hints - the more we'll relate to it, no matter how mad and bizarre the action gets. Hopefully.
For me, more than the story, more than the special effects, it was George Lucas' "used universe" which had the most impact on me. It was the way everything had a layer of grime, the glimpses of machinery in the back of the shot - which never drew attention to itself, but which made the world(s) feel grounded. The way that everything looked as if it had been patched together, and was in danger of breaking down at any moment.
For Found Footage: The Finale I've spent a small fortune on this stuff called "Dirty Down", which is a range of water soluble sprays and dyes made for film and TV, which allow you to cover the set and props in various types of muck - from oil to rust to dust - as well as things like tractor compressors, oscilloscopes, old portable TVs...
I was studying the behind-the-scenes video of The Last Jedi that was released last week, and was amused to see - in one shot - the exact same prop as one I'd just bought from eBay.
The other thing Star Wars did was to hint at backstory without feeling the need to go into massive detail. We all wanted to know about The Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi, Jabba the Hutt...
These days, our science fiction tends to be influenced by anime, but I want a look which feels different to all that, otherwise it all just blends into one amorphous morass. Most short sci-fi movies I've seen either try to look like Aliens or Halo. Just because our budget is small, I didn't want us to go the obvious route with the art direction.
I'll be mixing the Soviet feel in with my childhood obsession with the Cold War, and a trip I took with my dad to Chernobyl about ten years ago. Think a version of the Soviet Union where instead of Communism they have Capitalism. Imagine a Cold War fought between rival global mega corporations, which turns into a real conflict.
What's a corporation to do when most of its consumer base has been wiped out by thermonuclear war?
Yes, the smokey, neon, backlit look has been ripped off endlessly, but what they did - by shrouding everything in shadows and smoke - somehow implied that the world (and budget) was bigger than it was. It was a look borne out of necessity, but it was profoundly effective.
Even now, you see the Blade Runner look in modern movies and video games.
However, there's a certain similarity between the setting of Split and our location, so I'm going to steal one shot in particular; perhaps the only thing I liked about Split.
We're going to be dressing the set with a LOT of pipes and tubes next week. Also, that mix of sort of analogue, retro-futuristic technology. I hate the way every movie now has holographic screens and displays. I like my technology to be brutal and tactile. Big, chunky buttons, and flickering screens in 2:4 ratio with terrible resolution.
You know what else bugs me about all modern sci-fi? Helmets with lights in the face masks, shining right into the actors' eyes. I toyed with doing the same in Found Footage, but couldn't get over how it draws attention to fact that it wouldn't be practical in reality - it'd dazzle the wearer - and is simply a way to light the actors' face. Plus, every movie does it - which is a good reason not to.
Indeed, the iconography of most big corporations and countries and organisations is often distilled down to a phrase or an icon - there's a direct parallel to be drawn between the Trump plastering his name on his planes and buildings, the Apple logo and the Swastika and the Hammer and Sickle, at least in terms of how a symbol can be worshipped by its followers.
That's where the Xenoxxx Industries logo came from: a corporate symbol that blurs the line between capitalism and extremism. Everything is branded.