Mike Cahill on I Origins
I Origins exists in the world of science fiction yet it stays rooted in themes of molecular biology and heterochromia to the extent you may feel at times like you’re watching a an episode of Cosmos. Director Mike Cahill talked to Free Press Houston by phone in advance of the July 25th opening of the film.
“I was asked to write a how-to filmmaker piece for a magazine and I was referencing a movie that I really love and describing the shots and how the scene unfolds: this is the car crash at the beginning of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blue. And I wrote a first draft and I realized I should just pop in the movie and make sure my memory is correct,” says Cahill.
“And I did and some things I was right about and some things I was wrong about. It was surprising to see what I had remembered and what I had discarded. The mind is a fascinating landscape; it’s not perfect. It’s completely malleable and driven by point-of-view and moods.”
The conversation moves from Kieslowski to Brian Greene’s books on string theory. Cahill is inspired by science and it’s relation to larger issues of faith, as any viewing of I Origins or his first film Another Earth will attest. I Origins starts as a scientific experiment to mutate a species with no sense of sight to have eyes, only to shift to a story about how you can track people through stages of reincarnation using biometric iris scanning.
Some actors have different color irises, as do small amounts of the general population. One such actress is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey who plays an important part in I Origins that binds much of the plot. I Origins also stars Michael Pitt and Brit Marling (who also starred in Another Earth). The story unfolds in big cities and the Heartland of America as well as India.
Cahill premiered the film at Sundance earlier this year where it was subsequently picked up for distribution by Fox Searchlight. More importantly Cahill’s film was awarded a fellowship by the Sundance Film Festival and Dolby Laboratories for a Dolby Atmos® sound mix. That is to say that a regular sound mix on a feature film can easily run six figures. So when you see the Atmos logo in ads it refers to a special sound mix that only movies with massive budgets can afford. This gives the inexpensive, by Hollywood standards, I Origins an advantage on the theatrical front. “I worked with Steve Boeddeker at Skywalker Sound. So suddenly I have funding to do a Dolby Atmos mix, which is a technically wonderful immersive sound mix,” says Cahill. “Instead of mixing in 5.1 we mix in Atmos from the very beginning. You have 3D sound, 143 discreet channels. After that we reduced the mix down to 7.1, then 5.1. You start with the biggest dimension and move down to stereo. No film with our budget has ever gotten this kind of royal treatment,” maintains Cahill. “Now not only is it global, visually big, now it sounds big.”
There are only four theaters in the greater Houston area that even have an Atmos equipped theater (Two in Houston, one in Tomball and one in Pearland.) But its good to know the technology exists.
Cahill mentions one of the technical consultants for the film, Jeff Carter of eyeLock. “You can find a Ted Talk he did. They have brilliant iris scanning technology that can scan your eyes from 15-feet away,” says Cahill. “It’s what you see in Minority Report, that exists today. That technology is not 2024, it is 20-now.”
Audiences who stick around after the credit roll will see a scene. It’s like one of those moments from the end of a Marvel film, obviously establishing a follow-up but on a more intimate scale. “It’s a teaser for a projected sequel,” says Cahill. “If I Origins finds an audience then we’ll move forward.”
— Michael Bergeron