Director / writer Stuart Willis fleshes out a family’s dramatic life or death struggles in the sci-fi epic Payload. A tightly constructed story hinting at a futuristic world more chaotic than at first meets the eye. Another serving of dystopic goodness to warm the soul…

There’s a whole bunch of crew and cast that deserve a round of applause as well. Check out the list on the film’s Vimeo page here.

Short film synopsis and director’s statement can be read as follows:

“In the shadow of a space elevator, Simon Carter must sacrifice everything to save what remains of his family.

An 18 minute epic sci-fi short film.”

Director’s Statement:

“Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art” — Susan Sontag

With PAYLOAD, I set out to make a science fiction film with a soul. At its heart, it is the story of a boy, Simon Carter, who must give up his own soul to save his brother, Dave. I’ve always been fascinated by how “good” people can become “evil” — how our environment and circumstance wields such incredible power over us. Science-fiction, as a genre, is deeply concerned about the world it presents — and, at its best, these worlds are a deep part of the meaning of the film, and becomes characters in themselves.

The world of PAYLOAD drew its inspiration from two very real places: the isolated Australian mining town of Kalgoorlie – full of men and brothels; and the Kazakhstan town of Baikonur – where the locals scavenges the fallen refuse from a nearby Russian spaceport. It was important however that Clarke’s Town (the setting of PAYLOAD) not be an allegory for either town but become its own imagined place. Clarke’s Town is defined only by its function as a spaceport, it is isolated, weathered and indifferent.

Trapped its confines, the people of Clarke’s Town have also become weathered, indifferent and utilitarian. They are caught between being victims and villains. Corruption is everywhere, and everyone is complicit in its power. These characteristics are personified in Kate Henshaw, the antagonistic matriarch in PAYLOAD. For all her surface coldness, there are ripples below the surface of someone damaged fighting for survival.

The Carter family live on the fringes and despite their poverty have something approaching a life — but it is fracturing. Dave is on the cusp of puberty and is beginning to understand that he does not belong. Simon is on the cusp of manhood and is steeling himself for the life that is to come. Their father, Adam, is a once-proud man who has been broken by life, and must accept that he can no longer protect his children.

The Carter family cannot escape the shadow of Clarke’s Town forever. Drawn back into its walls, the town’s indifference overwhelms them, and Simon knows something must be sacrificed to save what remains of his family. But it is not a heroic sacrifice – for Simon is simply doing what needs to be done.

Despite its fictional locale, PAYLOAD is set in Australia. We are a country that is defined by our isolation and whose wealth stems from our reckless exploitation of natural resources. As our wealth dwindles, at what point do we begin to see everything and everyone as a resource to be exploited?

– Stuart Willis, January 2011″

Watch the complete ~18 minute sci-fi short embedded down below.

Payload, 2012

Stuart Willis