Morgan Lariah and Scott Baker are the co-writers and co-producers of the award-winning crowd-funded science fiction/horror movie 5th Passenger. The movie is Baker’s directorial debut, and stars Lariah as the main character. Out on DVD on July 10th from Epic Pictures, the movie also stars Star Trek alumni Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery), Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Armin Shimerman (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager). Exciting Stuff contributor Gail Williams was lucky enough to discuss the release of the movie with them both.
The script of 5th Passenger is award-winning; congratulations on that. As co-writers, that must have been a magnificent boost.
Morgan: Thanks! Yes, getting some recognition did give us a much needed boost at that particular moment in time.
What do you think our readers should know about the film before seeing it?
Morgan: I think that the best frame of mind to enter any film is an open one. We tried to make a film that was entertaining, but also thought provoking. Something familiar, but also entirely new and different. I think we wanted to add to the sci-fi conversation in our own way.
Scott: Its concept was based on my life-long love of sci-fi, with influences from The Twilight Zone, Alien, and John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Movies – especially action-packed ones – have a tendency to be male dominated. Although many women – such as Sigourney Weaver in Alien – may have done much to challenge it, there’s still an imbalance. 5th Passenger has a woman front and centre to the action. How much was the inequality in the forefront of your minds when writing this movie? And do you hope it will influence movie makers in the future?
Morgan: I thought about inequality a lot when we were working on this film – but to be honest, it’s more on my mind today than ever before. I feel like we are now living in a very exciting time of people having their voices heard and sharing their stories. There is so much power when you share your story. It’s cathartic and empowering. It also connects us. Through this connection there can be positive change. I hope filmmakers in the future will look at this film, see what we were trying to achieve and learn from it. Also, I hope what the lead character goes through will be viewed as archaic as sexism won’t be as prevalent.
Scott: I enjoy the diversity in casting, and movies that tell stories from differing perspectives. But most importantly, a huge part of this film is about inequality, and the struggles that we’ll be fighting into the future.
Budget is always a factor in the making of a movie. You chose to fund 5th Passenger through crowdfunding, with Kickstarter funding the filming, with the special effects being funded through Indiegogo. How did that affect your production process?
Morgan: It made the production process a lot longer than I had wanted it to be.
Scott: Low budget filmmaking is always about compromise. You’re not always going to get 100% of what you want. Sci-fi is especially costly when it comes to sets and VFX so we had to be very creative and find cheap solutions to expensive problems.
Films evolve through their making. How close was the finished product to the film you originally imagined? Are there things that turned out better than expected? Are there things you wish you’d been able to do?
Morgan: I think it’s pretty close to what I imagined when we were working on the script. Our production designer, Robert Poe, worked more magic than I thought possible. Also, our DP, Ioana Vasile, did a lot with lighting that I hadn’t imagined when we were writing, which added a lot to the film. If we had the budget, I wished we could have put in some anti-gravity components to the film. I think also, during filming, it would’ve been great if we could have gotten some more takes in, but we were on such a tight schedule that we were only able to film three to four takes at most – generally speaking – before moving on. There just was no time. But it would’ve been really nice to get a few more in there. There are always a lot of things that you wish you could do as a filmmaker, but at the end of the day I was, and am, so appreciative that we were able to make this film.
Scott: I second Morgan’s answer.
The cast of 5th Passenger includes a lot of names and faces that will be familiar to our readers, with many of them having an impressive sci-fi pedigree, specifically the various Star Trek incarnations. How important was that to you in casting, and how do you think it will be received by the viewing public?
Morgan: It really unfolded organically, and at the time, I hadn’t realised how many benefits having these amazing actors in our indie sci-fi would be. I knew they had a lot of fans, were great actors as well as great people – but I didn’t see how we now have an actor from every Star Trek series (other than The Original Series) in the film; how exciting it would be for fans to see their beloved actors in roles that are quite different from their characters in the Star Trek universe; how some of these actors, although they had been going to conventions together for years, had never really acted together, and how unique it would be to see them in a scene together; how supportive and giving of themselves they have been to this film. We were really lucky.
Scott: It was serendipitous that we came to meet so many great Trek actors along this journey. I feel so lucky, on my first film, to have the opportunity to work with such talented and liked actors, and that they were also appealing to the sci-fi fan base was just icing on the cake.
You produced 5th Passenger independently, but distribution is difficult to do without an established distributor. You signed up with Epic Pictures. What makes Epic the best match for you?
Morgan: Epic is a solid company that has a lot of genre content. They have handled quality indie sci-fis before and we felt like they were the best company to partner with for the film. We had a great first meeting with them at the American Film Market and I walked away feeling excited. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to work with them on 5th Passenger.
Scott: Epic really does handle genre films well. We saw the success they had with Turbo Kid and knew they had good taste and could handle a film like ours.
5th Passenger is available now on almost every VOD platform – Dish, DirecTV, Charter, Spectrum, Comcast/Xfinity, Cox, Sling TV, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Google Play and Microsoft/Xbox and also on RedBox – as well on DVD from Epic Pictures.
Here’s the trailer: