Two scientists spend their spare time making fantasy / sci-fi short films, and are now embarking on their biggest project so far: Planet X. From planning to post-production, we follow them as they create their greenscreen magic with smiles and head-scratching.
What's this? ANOTHER filmmaking documentary? I must know everything there is to know about making movies by now, eh. In all seriousness, I hope to find more of them before the year is over. "Journey to Planet X" is another in the line of odd documentaries, where we're not going through the typical filmmaking process. In this one we're following the scientists Eric Swain and Troy Bernier who are making a sci-fi short called "Planet X". The two have worked on Eric's shorts in the past, and they have usually been either medieval/fantasy, sci-fi or war shorts. One thing that makes them a bit different from many other shorts is that he used a bluescreen for almost every shot in all of them, as well as using much older technology. With "Planet X" it was important for them, Troy especially, to modernize their filmmaking. They wanted it to be HD, sharp and the bluescreen would have to change - into a greenscreen.
When you see some of Eric's previous shorts you can't help but see the ambition, but at the same time they're outdated and very cheesy. You realize that they will need to step it up to make "Planet X" the sensation they're hoping for. My first advice would probably be to skip that green/bluescreen, but that's not gonna happen. Slowly you go through this documentary jumping between feeling enthusiasm for the short, and also feeling like they might be going down a similar path again. Will the years out of their lives be wasted? Not at all - they're happy with the result, people are highly entertained by it, and it seems like their film succeeds in getting screenings. It's all they can wish for - except perhaps that they didn't intend for it to be funny (but the end result is quite hilarious at times). It's cheesy acting and cheesy use of greenscreen but lots of love and ambition, and I think they should be happy with what they achieved. Perhaps even make another one with the goal to make it amusing!
How does "Journey to Planet X" work as a documentary, then? It's quite a hit, I think. It shows the heart and soul of our filmmakers, but also brings out their weaknesses. You will always learn something from following a filmmaker because everyone has their own ways of doing things. That goes for beginners as well. It's important that a documentary on filmmaking inspires the viewer to go out and create. Or rather that's something that makes it worth watching even if there's nothing else. "Journey to Planet X" successfully made me want to go out and shoot a no-budget sci-fi movie.
I have yet to see "Planet X" ("Planet X: The Frozen Moon") but from what we saw in this documentary I did feel a bit let down that this long journey ended up as a slightly glorified version of their previous productions. You can't ignore that the end result is entertaining, however. And that's the most important thing - if there's no entertainment value then you've really missed the mark. Hopefully the reactions will tell Eric Swain and Troy Bernier to either embrace the cheesiness with comedy, or look into what they can do to improve. "Journey to Planet X" is definitely on the point, though, and that's great because these two filmmakers will get even more acknowledgement from that fact. I hope we hear their names in the future, but even if we don't then we know they will be making at least one greenscreen feel important in the near future!