It’s An Alien Addiction, not Abduction with Shae Sterling!

16 Sep

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

On Demand, Blu-ray and DVD

Release Date:
September 29

Gravitas Ventures

Shae Sterling is a tremendous talent in New Zealand. He’s worked with international talents like Snoop Dogg and is better known for his music video work with local artists. He’s also collaborated with Stan Walker (The X Factor) and the list does not end there! Plus, he’s the director of the documentary sports racing series High Octane. To become a fully fledged filmmaker, however, means making a proper debut with the crazy stoner comedy, Alien Addiction!

Going into making genre films isn’t without its own unique set of challenges–especially concerning special effects–but I feel he’s done a remarkable job. 15 years is more than enough in one industry to develop one’s skills. A different question is whether this film would play with UFO lore from this region. This country is famous for one instance–The Kaikoura Lights–but as for whether this movie would explore this further or stand on its own is a decision this director no doubt had to figure out. His choice to do sit-com is much needed when the there’s been a lot of similar films released this year.

Actor-comedian Jimi Jackson plays Eric, a ne’er-do-well living with his aunt (Veronica Edwards) and vagrant who one day meets a pair of aliens who crash landed out in the boonies–a nearby hill by his home. He tries to help them gather the equipment (and fuel) to repair their ship and go home. What we get is a romp of the trio trying to get the job done and avoiding the conspiracy junkies (no pun intended) wanting that evidence to prove aliens exist!

In order to learn more about this film, I corresponded with Sterling:

How would you describe yourself to those unfamiliar with your work?

I’m quite an eccentric creative person but also can be a bit of a hermit when working on my projects. I really enjoy music videos because they offer a very pure creative medium. I have many film ideas and can’t wait to follow up Alien Addiction.

What got you interested in filmmaking?

From the age of 15, I decided I wanted to be a director. I’ve always been very inspired by movies, they seem to have everything I desire in one format. I would watch lots of movies over and over again, such as George Lucas films, Michael J. Fox was another actor I was drawn to, and was a huge fan of RoboCop. The soundtrack was always a huge part for me. I think that also was my gateway into film.

I was lucky enough to have a video camera; I got to experiment shooting when I was 9, (which was quite rare in the 80s) and then later in high school I could make short films and edit on VHS.

Do you have any people or works that have greatly influenced your style?

I think the combination of John Williams and George Lucas were my biggest influence. Others include Ridley Scott, Chris Nolan, and James Cameron. Russell Mulcahy (see separate interview here) also inspired me. Some of my favourite films include Life is Beautiful, Lawrence of Arabia, Scarface, Stand by Me and Akira.

From music videos to shorts to your debut feature length work, what has been the most challenging to deal with in realizing a story?

That a good question! I would slowly construct a story from a fleeting concept, something that’s unique, inspiring and interesting. I use music and make a playlist of songs that trigger my creativity, from there that would inspire scenes, drama and emotion. I will spend months piecing them altogether. It’s probably one of the best parts of the filmmaking process, I’m always learning, but I feel like I’m really in my element here because I love it so much.

What makes comedy from New Zealand unique?

I think we have a kind of sarcastic dry humour. I’ve noticed in the last 10-15 years it’s becoming a little more known internationally. Flight of the Conchords did a good job of bringing it to the world. We all use it here in New Zealand, and it’s mixed up with local slang in my film.

How did the idea of Alien Abduction come about?

I was actually thinking about a music video with some aliens robbing banks and then I thought about it further. I also came across Jimi Jackson’s works. I loved his very straight up vulgar wit. From there, I combined these together and I wrote the movie knowing what Jimi could do.

How much UFO research did you have to dive into before deciding on the type of movie you wanted to make?

I’m pretty familiar with a lot of UFO conspiracy and I’m an avid science fiction fan so I didn’t have to do too much research. Although I realized that there was a rabbit hole of science that I could go into with the movie. In the end, I kept it relatively simple and light hearted. This is a satire / drama on a twisted sci-fi concept.

Were there any challenges when casting? (Outside of knowing Jimi would get the lead and the rest are relative unknowns)

Casting took it’s time, but it was quite fun meeting lots of up-and-coming talent. We didn’t have much money to offer, but the commitment was there. Some people I head-hunted down, I auditioned about 30 people for the Thomas Sainsbury role. I was really happy with whom he had, and I love them all very much.

I noticed nearly half the exterior shots have a distinct mountain always in the background. What’s the name of it and are there any UFO sightings associated with it?

The mountain is called Pohaturoa and it has a sacred mountain for Maori people. Many generations had occupied the top built Pa’s. It’s beautiful and really stands out when you drive by. I guess there’s a nod to Close Encounters of the Third Kind here. And no, I don’t think there were any UFO sightings.

Was the facial design of the aliens intentional? I’m sure many viewers can’t help but think that they love smoking dung because of the way they look.

Yeah, my film is a very twisted, out there comedy. [To have] pretty looking aliens wouldn’t have worked. I had an artist draw several options and the butt-head ones were the winner for sure.

Have you seen Mork and Mindy? I can’t help but think you got some ideas from it because of the way Robin Williams played Mork.

I know of that program, but I never really watched much of it. I think the way the relationship works with Rico and the aliens actually came together quite naturally.

Rico himself is part Maori and these people are extremely welcoming people. When I designed the aliens, they were naturally inquisitive and not mean spirited at all–quite playful, really. So mixing those two elements together naturally made a unique and fun relationship, the heart of the film.

Were there any challenges getting Alien Addiction to festivals and finally to home video/VOD?

This was another huge hurdle in the entire process. This is my first film and it’s self funded, I had to wear many hats to get this off the ground. We did a small cinema release in New Zealand and someone tagged a person from a London film festival on his Facebook status. A sales agent then contacted me and from there we joined forces to seek out distribution.

It took me a long time to prepare the film for distribution, too long. I really underestimated how much work was involved to do that! But I will quite happily forget about it now.

Any last words for readers?

I hope you enjoy the film, it’s something new, something different, I don’t think there’s another film quite like it. Alien Addiction will make you laugh, it will open your mind, it may even make you cry!

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