Hi Jay, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Firstly, I’d like to congratulate you on making such an astonishingly rich film – both visually and textually. The film is set in the 1960s and visually the film takes a lot of inspiration from that period – were you influenced by any directors from that period at all?
The 60s were an exciting time for cinema, especially towards the tail end when the Hays Code was finally repealed, and some of my favourite films come from this decade – ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ ‘The Young Girls of Rochefort,’ ‘The Apartment’ – but funnily enough most of our visual references were from Spielberg and Amblin movies like ‘Back to the Future.’ While the movie takes place in the past, we weren’t actively trying to emulate a retro style. If anything, Cinematographer Jerome Stolly and I were both trying to approach it from a modern angle
Where did the idea for the film come from?
I’ve been a UFO buff ever since I’d read conspiracy books as a child and scare myself silly. We had done multiple science fiction projects in the past but never quite broached the subject of paranormal encounters with extraterrestrials and this seemed like a good hook to do so. Funnily enough, it started out as simply a one-take monologue to be done as a scene study for an actor. But my producer/editor/VFX supervisor Roth Rind had the brilliant idea of showing the abduction in full. And that’s how it ended up growing and growing into a full on short film.
Race and the concept of otherness are very important to this film – do you think that America’s attitude to race has changed in the past few years?
I won’t pretend to be a thorough expert in the subject, but from what I’ve seen, there has been a definite change in the perception of race and race relations in recent times. With the current political climate, many people who carry racial prejudice who had been silenced over the years of progress found themselves enabled and empowered again to speak up and spread their views. There’s also been a rise of ‘Anti-PC’ culture that often ends up simply propping up racists and absolving them rather than helping them get over their hate.
What genre would you say the film is in because it could be put into several different genres?
That’s a great question! We’ve found ourselves programmed equally as a drama and a piece of science fiction. But in my eyes ‘The Bumbry Encounter’ is sci-fi through and through, like ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Outer Limits’ before it. What genre cinema has always been good at is critiquing our social and political situations in an allegorical way. It doesn’t just make these critiques more palatable – it also allows it to be re-contextualised in a way that may help audiences see things in a different way. Sometimes it’s just a matter of thinking outside of the common narratives.
What was the casting process for the film like?
Casting was a strange mix of incredibly simple and exceptionally challenging. Ross Turner, who plays the evil Doctor Bancroft, was cast within the first two people I ever saw for the role. He was just perfect right away, and was the sole cast member for nearly a year before we found Lauren and Skipper and actually shot the movie. Despite the huge gap, he remained dedicated to the project and stayed with it all the way through. Lauren and Skipper were both based out of LA, and we were lucky to have them come up to the Bay Area to work with us on the film.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
I hope they have fun, get a few thrills, and walk away thinking a bit about race relations in the US. We did our best to embrace the pulpy aspects while giving respect to the serious bits that reflect real life.
What future projects have you got planned?
We have a few projects that are in the early stages of brewing, but I’ve often dreamed of making the definitive ‘Glover’ movie. But I guess what young boy hasn’t grown up with that wish?
With thanks to Jay K Raja. You can read my review of the film here.