Describing his first film “Love” doesn’t come terribly easy for Will Eubank.
“It’s a little bit of a dark look at how fragile our existence is on this one planet,” says Eubank. “A little bit of Carl Sagan in there, based on hoping to someday look back and go, ‘God, remember when we just all came from that one planet and we almost wiped ourselves out numerous times over?'”
He laughs, realizing it’s a lot to process both for the mind and the mouth. And he can afford to now because on the eve of the film’s premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, he has accomplished something nearly as epic with the story of an astronaut stranded in space staving off loneliness and his only company is a journal penned by a soldier from the Civil War since the ambition on screen is equaled by what happened off. The trailer is here:
“Love” is the unusual product of a four-year collaboration with Angels & Airwaves, whose frontman Tom DeLonge plucked the director from the offices of Panavision and gave him the opportunity to direct 10 music videos based around a concept album they were recording, which Eubank in turn decided to turn into a feature. While this isn’t exactly a new idea – coincidentally, The Flaming Lips’ eight-years-in-the-making “Christmas on Mars” came out during the production of “Love” – it’s certainly rare and Eubank’s dedication puts him in an even more exclusive club, having personally screwed in thousands of nuts and bolts on a replica of the International Space Station in the backyard of his parents’ home for the film’s set on a miniscule budget. As Eubank explains below, he was just 24 when he began “Love” and at 28, says a “totally different filmmaker” finished it, but if there’s one constant it appears that it was the writer/director’s resolve to make a film that’s stands up to those he considers classics in his favorite genre of science fiction. Recently, Eubank took the time to explain how “Love” came together, what it was like working with Angels & Airwaves and how to negotiate with junkyard dealers.
How did you initially get involved?
Almost four years ago in 2007, Tom had seen some of the spec commercials I was doing and posting on YouTube because I was working at Panavision as a digital imaging technician and he just really dug the stuff. He was like, “oh, this stuff is really cool. I want to meet you.” The irony was I didn’t really realize his involvement with Blink 182 or really who he was or what he was about, so I met with him and he was just like, “yeah, man, we want to do this project. We want to do all these music videos. I [thought] that sounded really cool, but from there, I convinced them to turn it into a movie instead.
Since the project was commissioned by the band, did the creative process start with their music?
I work as a cinematographer and as “Love” was happening, I was getting more jobs, so now having worked on more professional situations and real movies, it’s like so funny for me to look back and go, “oh my God, I can’t believe this happened.” It was basically like [Angels and Airwaves] had this album “I-Empire” and [they asked], do you want to make 10 music videos for this? There was one song that just stuck out to me. It was sort of a space-oriented thing and at UCLA, I was doing a lot of cosmology classes at the time, so I [said], “I have this crazy idea – what if someone was on the international space station and they got stuck there?”
[The idea was to] build 10 music videos around that and make it like a movie. And we started down that path – I guess it was 2007 and as the music videos were coming out, they were cool, but it was really boring watching 10 music videos. It was almost so boring I couldn’t even imagine it. So I [thought] we need to rehash this and instead of trying to make a story that goes to the music, what if I just started from scratch? I wrote the script and I showed it to [Tom DeLonge]. He’s [asked] what do you need to do that because we had already spent [approximately] $70 grand and we were already a year-and-a-half in. [I decided I was] going to try to build a space station that we can have control over and shoot in. So Tom basically just gave me his credit card and they went on tour.
I probably spent about $30,000 at Home Depot and a year-and-a-half later in my parents’ backyard, [we had] a big replica of portions that I had taken from photos of the international space station. It’s hard to even explain that process because during that year-and-a-half, there was parts where Tom would call me and he’s like, “Are we still making the movie?” But I didn’t really have any production. It was just me and my little brother when he would finish school, he would come home and we would just continue to build and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger until literally, it was the whole entire driveway – there was tunnels and things covered in six mil visqueen.
What was your parents’ take when you told them you’d be building a full-sized replica of the International Space Station in their backyard?
At this point, I was 24 when I started. I’m 28 now. At that time, I was about 26, so my parents were like alright, our son is living at home, building a space station in his backyard – he works for a rock band or something. [laughs] I was on salary for the first two years and then Angels and Airwaves were like we can’t really afford to pay you anymore, so I was like fuuuck! I’ve got a fucking space station built in my backyard. I can’t really explain what was going on in my head, but at that point, I thought the best thing I could possibly do was finish shooting this thing and then show the band what I have. That’s the coolest part about this project is it really was, for me, a total “if you build it, they will come” thing.
I’ve shot three other films during this time as a cinematographer for hire and it took working on other people’s films to realize what I have with this film is. I used to be out there at three in the morning pushing water off the set and cursing Angels and Airwaves. I was like fuck, man. I have no help. Why am I really doing this? I’m not really getting paid anymore. So I’d be cursing this movie. I’m pulling all the favors from Panavision. My parents think I’m crazy. And now in hindsight, I [realize I] had the wrong attitude at that time.
When I showed the footage to Tom, he was just like, “Oh my God! This is crazy!” Anything that he or I had been worried about or I had been worried about was completely out the window. Tom really gave me like a golden credit card and was just like do what you want to. Make it cool. Having that freedom and being able to do that versus doing a quick straight-to-DVD movie out in Michigan where they’re getting the tax credit and we have 15 days to shoot a cop drama, [it made me] become better as a filmmaker and knowing that language a lot better, but also let me cherish what I did have on this movie [“Love”].
The trailer is very strong visually, but I imagine the fear with a first film like this would be getting caught up on the technical side and not paying enough attention to the story. Was that a concern of yours?
Here’s what I want to say about that: first off, I had the script kind of written before, but while spending a year-and-a-half building [the sets], there was so much time. There was 19,000 furniture staples in this thing and it’s made of pizza bags and so many pieces, it was so monotonous putting all the details together to make it look somewhat real that I had a lot of time to just be sitting there in my head thinking of things that would be happening in the environment. So the actual throughline of the narrative really congealed.