In the summer of 2010, I was at San Diego Old Town Train Station with my pal Danny waiting for a friend to arrive so we could take him to Comic Con. With time to spare until his train was due, we began discussing the kinds of sprawling, high-concept stories we had each been thinking about separately, the kinds of stories we would love to watch on the big screen but had never considered authoring for that purpose.
Looking up from my seat in the car, as the cloudless mid-day sky began to reveal the subtle twinkle of nighttime stars, I considered the classic elementary school logic regarding distant objects in space-- that many of the stars we see today may have burned out thousands of years ago, and the old light is only now reaching our atmosphere in the present day.
But what if that convention were flipped on its head, and someone a tremendous distance from Earth, in the future, were able to watch us in the train station parking lot? I considered that, merely from a technology standpoint, they would probably need a Telescope, albeit a fantastically supercharged one. And wouldn't it be interesting if it required a single occupant, a technician, to operate and maneuver it? This person would be inherently fascinated by Earth, his ancestors' home, especially if the old light were the only memory that remained of his prized subject. I began to picture this incredible contraption in which the technician would both live and work. The Telescope would serve as his vessel to traverse time as well as his toolkit. He would be like an artist up there, capturing pieces and elements of the planet's history.
But what would it even mean to gather this evidence, this proof of life? What would its value be? What struck me most was our own planet's ongoing obsession with uncovering the past. This too is, in the grand scheme of things, an impossible task. Most of our knowledge concerning ancient culture is largely based on the burial grounds and extant structures that we've been lucky enough to uncover. But the details surrounding 99% of their history-- from pieces of papyrus to clothing and traces of food-- have been lost to time. The past is gone, and even the scraps and remnants we can uncover are mere hints at what once was. At the risk of sounding mawkish, everything about the experience of our lives is fleeting, even the act of filmmaking itself.
This notion of "The Telescope" stuck with me for a while, but only existed as an idea. I brought it up to my frequent collaborator Collin Davis who immediately sparked to it and wanted to read an outline. The eerie, psychedelic tone of the world and story was quickly established. We were obsessed with the paradoxically retro-futuristic sounds of funk & soul music from the late 1970s and 80s and sought to incorporate this vibe into Telescope. To us, the technician wouldn't be unlike an underground musician. Alone in space, he would be free to employ his own unique workflow and style. Telescope also presented the opportunity to exhibit pure cinema as a tool to create a universal experience. The technician's lens was a perfect window into his life, and a way for the audience to be immersed in the narrative through his eyes without the need for excessive dialogue or exposition.
When it came time to make the film, we sought the talents of our friend and former classmate Matt Litwiller who shared our vision for creating a big film in a small package. Ironically, this film about one technicians' solitary struggle to record an essential piece of humankind's history took the efforts of many artists and collaborators to bring it to life. Future blog entries will look at the production process in further detail.