If you want to blame (or thank) something for Michael Rymer’s decision to turn his sci-fi thriller Tremula into a television series, you might want to look at 2009’s Moon.
Made on a budget of just $5 million, the sci-fi drama starring Sam Rockwell would become a critical hit, despite only doubling its worldwide box office.
And while production companies scrounged up cash to make other films similar to it, the fact they didn’t have the same fate as Moon made it almost impossible for the Queen of the Damned director to make Tremula as the feature film he wanted. In fact, Rymer told IF the market for such projects is capricious at best.
“I had a real struggle trying to get the money together to make a medium-level feature, because sci-fi is tricky at that level. A few years ago Moon was a hit, and that spawned about a dozen sort-of attempts to do elevated sci-fi. Many of them were quite good films that did not work.”
But Tremula, written by fellow Australians Shayne Armstrong and Shane Kraus, had other issues as well. Including the fact it not only had no true third act, but it also had a monologue that, in film time, would run more than 20 minutes. In one shot.
Rymer, who would later work on shows like Battlestar Galactica and American Horror Story, knew he needed a different approach. So turning Tremula into a television series seemed almost like a given.
“It occurred to me that I had a perfect pilot if I finished the show at the end of the second act, and that the third act, which was much more complex and difficult, was enough to base a whole season of a series on.”
Tremula is about a group of international astronauts training in the Australian desert, preparing for what would be a manned spaceflight to Mars. However, the participants get caught in a time warp and start disappearing, creating a mystery for not only the astronauts themselves, but those at mission control who have to find a way to explain it all to the public.
Yet, this is a time-travel story that is much different from anything else fans typically find in the movies or even in a more longer form like television.
“We’re dealing with the concept of time travel where you can’t change time. Every single time-travel movie ever made, the concept of time is linear, and people go back on that line in order to change the direction of that line by killing Hitler, or whatever they’re going to do.
“And according to science, that is a highly unlikely scenario about the way time works, and the way time travel might be possible.
“But the multi-verse and the concept of using quantum mechanics and the conscious universe – all those sorts of concepts are highly theoretical in scientific circles right now, and fascinating (in) the way they’re basically coming around to concepts that are already contained with many spiritual traditions.
“So it’s a very interesting time we’re living in.”
Rymer, in fact, looks back at his work directing the backdoor pilot that would become Syfy’s signature hit Battlestar Galactica. That series, he said, was able to “crack that set of ideas and present it to an audience in a compelling, exciting way.” However, he has yet to be able to figure out exactly how to do it with Tremula.
“I’m a good filmmaker. I’m not the best populist in the world.”
While he’s not giving up on Tremula, Rymer has ended his sabbatical spent pitching the project to get back to work. He’ll start with the Australian miniseries Picnic at Hanging Rock, a remake of the 1975 mystery directed by Peter Weir that come called Australia’s first big international hit. Rymer will direct the second half of the miniseries, consisting of three episodes.
No cast or timeline has been announced for Picnic quite yet.
Rymer, who also is attached to direct the thriller The Hard Boil from writer Jonathan Meyers, earned an Emmy nomination for directing part of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica in 2009.
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