Tuesday 17th January 2012
In the grand history of the cosmos, more than thirteen thousand million years old, our earth is replicated elsewhere. There's another you out there".
-- Narrator, Another Earth
On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined.
If you could meet another version of yourself -- what would you say? What if you had another chance at a life just like this one, only different - what would lure you, what would scare you; and what, if anything, would stop you?
Mike Cahill's intimate and provocative first feature, Another Earth, tells the starkly moving story of Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), a brilliant young woman searching for a way to right a terrible tragedy. She lives in a world just like ours, except that suddenly, overnight, a mysteriously similar planet -- provisionally dubbed Earth 2 -- has appeared in the sky, like a giant, reflective mirror hanging over us.
For Rhoda, that strange, eerie planet and the parallel reality scientists say it promises, is her last hope. Lost after a shocking accident halted her dreams of becoming an astrophysicist, she has no sense of the future. Driven in life only by the need to confront her past, Rhoda ends up at the front door of the man whose life she irrevocably changed: renowned composer John Burroughs (William Mapother).
Both disconnected, mistrustful and full of doubts about who they are, they fall into an unlikely and risky, love affair. But when Rhoda gets the incredible chance to travel to Earth 2, it will expose the hidden truth between them and raises the question: what if the greatest mystery in the vast unknown is ourselves?
Another Earth, a breakout hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for the best film focusing on themes of science and technology as well as the Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Feature.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, an Artists Public Domain production, Another Earth, directed by Mike Cahill and written by Cahill and Brit Marling. The producers are Hunter Gray, Cahill, Marling and Nicholas Shumaker. The executive producers are Tyler Brodie (PI) and Paul Mezey (Half Nelson, Maria Full Of Grace) with Phaedon Papadopoulos as associate producer. The creative team includes costume designer Aileen Diana, production designer Darsi Monaco, music by Fall on Your Sword, sound design by Ryan M. Price, cinematographer and editor Mike Cahill and assistant director Liang Cai.
Another Earth, which marks director Mike Cahill's feature film debut, explores the realm of speculative fiction while taking us on a journey through the deep and mysterious cosmos within the human heart. Inside the story's fantastical concept of an alternate Earth and an unprecedented space quest, lies the stripped down, starkly moving relationship of two people on a far more personal journey -- one that navigates through remorse, anger, forgiveness, hope and sheer wonder.
For Cahill, who wrote the screenplay with the film's female lead, Brit Marling, the story began when he became intrigued by the idea of doppelgangers, the notion that somewhere out there in the universe there is an exact double of you who shares all of your traits . . . but not necessarily your history. This led to the startling visual concept of a second earth appearing in our sky, forever shattering the notion that we are alone in the universe.
"It all started with the question: What would it be like to truly meet yourself?" Cahill explains. "What would it be like to have all your feelings about yourself externalized into someone you could see in front of you? Would you actually want to meet that person? What would you feel if you did? Would you be able to forgive that person for all the things you know they've done? We took that idea and extrapolated it so it would be the entire world facing the reality of another earth".
That idea then merged with the grittier tale of a promising young woman who has dreamed since childhood of being an astrophysicist but whose whole path is radically changed in the flash of a moment. Now, with Earth 2 out there, she cannot help but wonder if there could actually be a different journey in her life, an outcome that might erase her most unforgivable mistake.
"We wanted to look at the possibility of second chances", says Cahill. "We all have those big moments in our lives where we think: what if things had gone differently? So in the film we ask, what if another version of you took an alternative path, perhaps the ideal path? How would that person be different? Would they necessarily have the better life? We realized that the version of you that experienced your idealized version of life may not have actually had the more profound, deeply felt or meaningful journey. You'd never know unless you had the chance to sit across from this other version of yourself".
Cahill and Marling had already been collaborators on a documentary, but this was a completely fresh challenge, one that would take them down a new path in their filmmaking journey. Rather than follow the usual, timeworn templates, they let intuition, spontaneity and a less-is-more style drive their direction.
"It is a truly unique film", confesses Marling. "I think we were interested in provoking peoples' imaginations, stirring their sense of wonder. It takes you out of your mundane life and thrusts you into a world where anything is possible, including an alternate reality of you. The other Earth became a way to hold up a mirror to ourselves, our culture, our world and force a confrontation".
Cahill is gratified that no one can quite put a finger on what kind of film Another Earth is, because what he hoped to provoke the most with the film is a numinous sense of the larger mystery at play in the universe.
"Is Another Earth really sci-fi? Is it a romantic drama? Is it a story of redemption? No matter what you know about the film going in, I don't think audiences can know what they're going to experience by the time the end credits roll", he muses.
Both Mike Cahill and Brit Marling came to storytelling in unconventional ways. In fact, both had been economics majors at Georgetown University, albeit at different times. Cahill had gone on to become a field producer, cinematographer and editor at National Geographic and when he came back to Georgetown for a film festival, he met Marling and was impressed with her passion for movies. Soon after, they began working on documentaries together, including Boxers And Ballerinas, a film about U.S.-Cuban relations as seen through the eyes of four youths - a boxer and a ballerina in Miami, Florida and a boxer and a ballerina in Havana, Cuba.
From the beginning, they took their own iconoclastic, hands-on approach to creating Another Earth. First, they worked on a treatment for the story of Rhoda Williams and John Burroughs, focusing on a question that Marling sums up as: "What kind of people most need to encounter themselves?" Cahill and Marling then spent months carefully weaving an epic sci-fi concept with a micro human drama in to a fully-fledged script.
Cahill says, "Once the ball was rolling, incredible talent joined on and a group of incredibly smart producers guided us into a full production. William Mapother signed on, as well as other very talented actors, composers and visual FX masters - and together, they took this very small project to the level it became".
Still, Cahill knew he was going where few filmmakers had gone before. "We were trying to merge a high concept with a very independent-minded film and interweave elements of science fiction into a raw drama about redemption. We were very aware of the challenges of keeping that balance", says Cahill.
The challenges were also clear to the producers at Artists Public Domain (APD) -- a unique, non-profit entity that was formed to assist extremely low-budget, creative films come to fruition -- who put their support behind the project. APD producer Hunter Gray recalls his first meeting with Cahill, "They really didn't have any story written. There were three sentences on a piece of paper. Yet, Mike has this ability, when he talks, to bring you on board and make you believe in the craziest of ideas. He really sold us on working on the project and even more so, working with him".
Another producer on the board of APD, Paul Mezey, helped Cahill and Marling. "Paul is amazing at helping develop stories and allowing new filmmakers to really explore their ideas in depth", says Gray. "When working with Paul, Mike would just get so excited. It was pretty amazing to watch".
For Gray, it was the realization of everything he'd hoped APD might achieve. "One of things we always wanted to do in forming this nonprofit was to give people with the kind of energy and vision like Mike and Brit, the support they need to just go and make their film", he says. "We provided a strong structure that allowed them to explore their do-it-yourself attitude. It was exciting to see that happen".
In the end, Gray and the other producers watched as the film went from being a few scenes shot on the fly to a transcendent experience for audiences at Sundance. "I think it became a beautiful piece of artwork", sums up Gray. "It's an impossible movie to describe. It's not really sci-fi, although it is. It's not really a love story, but it is. It's something very unique, which makes it quite special. It's a journey for people to take and to walk out of with a lot of questions".
The story of Another Earth hinges on the destiny of Rhoda Williams, a bright and ambitious young woman who made a devastating mistake and went to jail just as life on earth was about to change forever with the discovery of Earth 2. Filled with paralyzing regrets, she comes home four years later only to give up her dreams of studying astrophysics at MIT for a job as a school janitor - and a yearning for some kind of a reckoning . . . if not on this earth, then perhaps another.
Mike Cahill's co-writer and co-producer Brit Marling, who is also a rising actress, began inhabiting Rhoda long before they even had the first lines of screenplay. She got to know the character so well that her performance, almost silent in places, would be built largely from a symphony of nuances, small gestures and unspoken feelings that manage to crack a window into feelings Rhoda can't yet quite express.
"I always felt Rhoda was a tricky character", says Marling of her visceral approach. "We start out knowing she's done a terrible thing and the question was how then to create her as a woman you really believe is trying to deal in some humane way with what has happened, knowing she can never really change it. I didn't want her to be self-pitying or wallowing in grief. I think she truly believes what she did will never be forgivable, yet there had to be a focused, almost warrior-like energy in her desire to recover in some small way, to do something right".
She goes on, "I kept in mind that she had this bright, beautiful life before everything changed. Now she has to rise out of the ashes and become somehow stronger and more empathic than she ever would have been before". This is only made possible when Rhoda goes to see the man whose life she shattered, the composer John Burroughs. But unable to offer him the apology she intends in their first encounter, she instead becomes his cleaning lady, trying in the most simple, basic ways to bring just a bit of lightness and life back to his heartbroken home.
Taking on the role of John is William Mapother, best known for playing Ethan Rom on the hit television series "Lost" and for his pivotal role in Todd Field's award-winning film In The Bedroom. Mapother was drawn instantly to the story's unexpected scale - a mind-expanding tale that takes place almost entirely in one house between a single man and woman.
"It's a great concept but I really loved the idea that it plays out between just two people. Instead of throwing the story open to a wide scope like you might normally see, the whole thing is refracted in this one relationship", he says. "I think it makes the larger ideas very relatable".
He was also drawn to the challenge of penetrating such a solitary man as John Burroughs. "John has completely separated himself from society, from all interaction with others. At the same time, I think he wants to be moved beyond and past his grief and Rhoda starts to do that", he observes. "One of many terrific questions the movie asks is whether Rhoda is taking an incredible risk going to see John or whether she is asking him to risk more by interacting with her".
Most of all, Mapother liked the final, haunting riddles the film leaves with the audience. "You're left imagining so much and that's part of the fun", he says. "It all becomes part of the bigger conversation that the film spawns".
Once William Mapother came on board, Cahill began a series of free-form rehearsals to build the on-screen rapport between John and Rhoda. "At first I was worried that we would become too close beforehand and lose that mystery of Rhoda and John not really knowing each other once the shoot began", recalls Marling. "But we decided we should rehearse because it was a way for us to go deep into the themes and dig out some of the marrow".
Marling says, "Mike and I would go over to William's house and spend 8 to 10 hours a day just improvising. It was an amazing process. The place that Rhoda and John get to eventually, where there's this natural kind of ease and chemistry between them, is something we created in those rehearsals. Then, we covered that all back up and sort of re-excavated it as we shot the movie".
Adds Mapother, "We charted a lot of the nuances between the two of them during these rehearsals. We had a lot of time to explore and then it was just a matter of playing it for real".
Marling says the process helped her and Mike take the script to a deeper level. "William has this boundless kind of energy and he became as committed and obsessed as Mike and I were", she recalls. "We were all obsessed with not letting a single moment be inauthentic".
Before the main part of the production began, Cahill also made the key decision to shoot the majority of the film in chronological fashion, letting the characters evolve naturally from moment-to-moment and allowing for their relationship to organically grow deeper, then darker, then into the unexpected.
"I always felt it would be very important to shoot the car crash at the very beginning", the director explains. "We created that scene with all the gore and trauma and then brought Brit in at the last minute because I did not want her to see it until the cameras were rolling. It created something raw and alive in her reactions. And then, for the rest of the film, she had that memory to look back on, to keep inside her".
"Shooting chronologically also meant that William and Brit could keep their distance at first and slowly work their way closer and closer", says Cahill. The decision gave more fuel to the actors. "It helped us psychologically and emotionally and it also allowed us to set up things performance-wise that pay off later", says William Mapother.
Restraint became a key to the performances. "With a story like this it would be easy to trip and fall headfirst into melodrama", Marling confesses. "But in life and as a director, Mike is deeply sensitive to authenticity. If anything on set felt forced or not real he would put the camera down, we would take a step back and try to find the truth again together. Mike had us hold a lot of the feeling on the inside so that we were compelled to uncover it in each other".
One of things that Marling and Mapother explored together are the different reactions Rhoda and John have to Earth 2. "John reacts fearfully to it and Rhoda reacts with hope", says Mapother, "and that brings their relationship to a crisis point".
Yet, it also brings them closer. "Neither of them can really talk about their pasts or where they come from. Rhoda can't because it would all be lies; and John doesn't want to. But when they look through a telescope together it's a way to connect, it creates a space for them to be together", notes Marling. "Rhoda sees Earth 2 as an escape: What if I could leave all this behind and start with a blank slate? What if I could have this epic experience that would erase almost everything that came before? I think just letting her daydream in that way is the beginning of her atonement".
Both Marling and Mapother went deep into their character's psyches and the passions that once drove them before their lives came off the rails. Marling dove into research. "I read and dreamed obsessively about space", she says. "I think Rhoda's fascination with the cosmos is not so much about physics or mathematics, although she is really good at those things, but about dreaming and exploring. She has an adventurous desire to get at the hardest questions and to touch the unknown. So I really focused on that".
Meanwhile, Mapother had to learn to play the musical saw, one of John's favorite instruments and one that seems to dovetail with the film's vibe, with its ethereal yet primal sound. "It was very challenging to play", admits Mapother. "When you hold it, it can even cut into your thumb. I wouldn't say I was a natural at it, but I wanted to play at least well enough to be credible".
He also began learning about the creative process of composers. "It was interesting because at the beginning of the film, music is no longer a real part of John's life, so it was kind of a parallel process for me as he starts moving back into music and I started to get deeper into it", he explains.
Though Cahill's expectations of his two main stars were high, both performances took him by surprise. "Brit somehow allows Rhoda's fear and her bravery to co-exist simultaneously. She wants to tell John but she can't tell John and I think that makes her performance breathtaking. William has a formidable screen energy, which we were able to flip on its head for this film. He's very intense and intelligent, which was so important for John, but he also shows a possibility for warmth and charm. The way he goes through his character arc is just mesmerizing".
One of Cahill's favorite scenes is one of its most intimately quiet, when Rhoda tells John the riveting story of a Russian cosmonaut faced with a potential breakdown in outer space - a story, like her own, that is ultimately about inner transformation. "The way Brit delivers this story and the way William reacts, you see that this is the moment that John falls for Rhoda, the moment when he realizes this is a fascinating woman and I love her passion", sums up Cahill. "It is their mutual re-discovery of passion that drives their relationship".
While one-to-one emotions drive the momentum of Another Earth, the story is also centered around the kinds of infinitely huge questions that often spark spiritual, philosophical and scientific discovery: Where did we come from? What is the nature of our unfolding universe? What is possible in the cosmos? For Mike Cahill, who has loved reading about science all his life, this was a fundamental part of creating the movie's distinctive atmosphere. He wanted the film's sound and visuals to mix in such a way that they not only evoke Rhoda and John's personal curiosity about each other, but also that grander, vaster curiosity that has long led humanity to try to tease out the meaning of life, existence and the whole of cosmic reality.
"I love to read about things like the multiverse, about how space works, about the birth of the stars", Cahill says. "So the science in the film was based on all the things that I find fascinating. It was a way of taking my passion and excitement for real astrophysics and then distorting that a bit for the purposes of metaphor".
When Cahill and Marling first began talking about the screenplay treatment, Cahill was in the midst of listening to audio tapes of a book called Pulp Physics, a grand tour of cosmic science by Dr. Richard Berendzen, a renowned astrophysicist who once served as Carl Sagan's teaching assistant and is a director of NASA's Space Grant Consortium. The tapes would become a major influence on the story, as Berendzen brought home such alluring and poetic ideas as the awe-inspiring fact that elements in our own bodies were born eons ago in the distant stars. Even Berendzen's voice, full of the grandeur of the deep architecture of the cosmos, got to Cahill.
"I used to drive around L.A. listening to Dr. Berendzen's tapes and I loved his voice", notes Cahill. "After I met him, he joked to me that one of his students said he had the voice of Darth Vader meets God and there's something to that. There's something so commanding and inspiring about it".
As the film got underway, Cahill wrote the scientist an impassioned letter out of the blue and as soon as they met, a close collaboration was struck. Berendzen would go on not only to consult with Cahill but also to serve as the film's unconventional narrator, as well as the character who introduces the film's central sci-fi premise: the "broken mirror theory", which posits that as soon as the two parallel earths became aware of each other, their synchronicity was broken . . . and the destinies of the people on Earth 2 became different than those on Earth.
"When I met Mike, I was struck by what a young, bright and upbeat guy he was. He had really done his homework and put an enormous amount of thought into what he was doing", recalls Berendzen. "He had listened to my tapes and out of that he had developed a real notion of the romance and beauty of the universe and what an astonishing story it tells. He and Brit didn't even have a script at that point, but that only heightened my respect for them. They were never locked into any pre-conceived notions. They were making something out of nothing".
He also related to the film's central character, whose dreams of becoming an astrophysicist mirrored his own. "I grew up in Texas", he recalls, "where they have a song that goes 'The stars are big and bright late at night' and as a boy, I would often lie with my friends on the lawn and stare at those dots of light and ponder all this majesty. I think Rhoda has the same quality and it's something similar to what the ancient Greeks also had thousands of years ago, when they first stared into the sky and were struck with the desire to know more".
Most of all, says Berendzen, the more Cahill told him about the story, the more he felt it was about something rarely seen in films. "It's about that human sense of wonder, which is so important to me", he says. "It's vital to everything I do as a scientist and a lecturer -it all starts with wondering about the universe. What can you find in it? What can we learn from it? Mike somehow explores all this inside of a drama that is the story of just two people -- and also the story of the human condition".
At first, Cahill and Berendzen just talked about ideas, but soon Cahill started recording Berendzen talking about the workings of the universe and the human desire to reach for the stars, as well as just riffing on philosophical themes of identity and possibiilty, with his trademark passion and awe. Later, Cahill would interweave carefully chosen moments from these recordings throughout the film, often serving as an expansive counterpoint to the close-in emotions of Rhoda and John.
"I never knew what he was going to use but I would watch Mike's reactions and when he started rising out of his chair, I'd really start to hammer on that theme", recalls Berendzen. "May I say that I loved that process. It was so freeform and Mike really allowed for all of that to come out of me. When I saw the final film, I felt he had mixed my words and Brit's expressions together like a choreographed ballet".
Berendzen acknowledges that the film's depiction of a second earth close enough to appear in our sky is a fantastical element that lies outside of scientific understanding - but he also points out there are indeed planets that might closely resemble the conditions on earth, albeit 10 light-years or so away from us and still well beyond our knowledge at this point in time.
"Does every part of this film meet the scientific test based on our current knowledge? No. But I think that is beside the point", he says. "Many of the best films ever made are fantasies. What I like about this film is that it is very much about discovery. It isn't a sci-fi story about special effects or alien battles. This is a film that keeps asking 'what if, what if, what if?' All these what ifs give you a lot to think about and might even inspire someone to pick up a telescope or study the real deal. After seeing the film myself for the first time, I sat in my car in the parking lot for a long, long time, very moved and overcome with thoughts. There aren't very many movies that can inspire that".
Cahill was gratified that Berendzen didn't mind that at times the science in the film blurs into fiction. "I think he saw that this story could be a starting point to get people interested in the stars and physics and science and to him, that was worthwhile", explains Cahill.
One scientific theory that Cahill played with as he worked on Another Earth lies at the very edges of quantum physics -- the multiverse theory, which posits that our universe could be just one of many possible universes that exist in interpenetrating dimensions, one drop in an infinite sea of realities that are continuously being born anew. While the existence of parallel universes can, at this point, neither be confirmed nor denied by scientists, it's an idea that has fueled not only physics but the whole history of filmmaking, from The Wizard Of Oz to Back To The Future to Star Trek. With the creation of Earth 2, Cahill adds his own twist to the tradition of stories about the possibility of human life in another dimension.
In addition to working with Berendzen, Cahill read works by popular physicist Brian Greene, who writes about such topics as string theory, hidden dimensions, quantum mechanics, the fabric of space and time, as well as the possibility that parallel universes exist. In his bestseller Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, Greene writes: "In the end, labeling one realm or another a parallel universe is merely a question of language. What matters, what's at the heart of the subject, is whether there exist realms that challenge convention by suggesting that what we've long thought to be the universe is only one component of a far grander, perhaps far stranger and mostly hidden reality".
Scientific leaps into such hidden realities may be a long way off, but the more people who are curious about what lies out there in the universe the better, says Berendzen and he hopes a film like Another Earth can inspire that. He concludes: "Another Earth is really a film about regret and renewal. But any film that can bridge those two ideas through the wonders of astronomy and move to a note of hope - well, I think that's quite a film".
Space fantasies and shoestring budgets are usually contradictory terms, but Mike Cahill had a pared-down, lo-fi style in mind for Another Earth that made it all about tone and emotion, rather than the need for lavish, flashy effects. Cahill shot and edited the film entirely himself, using the same cameras and equipment he has used to shoot documentaries, allowing for a "live" feeling and also providing him the ability to highlight the tiniest of human detail and quietest of profound moments. Perhaps befitting a film crafted by two former economics majors, Cahill and Marling used economy of style to make every element of every frame spare but essential.
For example, in one early scene, Rhoda returns from jail to her childhood room only to find herself passing by all the pictures of her former, joyous life on the wall and instead, her attention is drawn to a jar of glitter. "It's a beautiful, simple moment", says Cahill. "Something about the glitter reminded me of space, of the unknown, like a microcosm of the cosmos. When Brit sticks her finger in the glitter, for some reason it seemed to capture the innocence of youth and you see more of who this character is".
Even the image of Earth 2 was kept straightforward, almost austere in its pure reflection of our own blue planet, sitting in the sky as if it's always been there. "I want people to feel this second earth is really up there and these are real people looking at it and confronting the idea of it", he says. "Nothing was stylized, it was all meant to be authentic. It had to feel like the story was possible".
As shooting progressed, the design shifted along with Rhoda and John's inner worlds. "The first half of the film is the tone setter", says Cahill. "There are a lot of landscape shots and it's this semi-industrial, East Coast vibe with a lot of tones of blue. It starts off cold and gray. But as these two characters start coming together, the gray clouds part and the view of the other earth comes closer and closer and all the visuals start to warm up".
Cahill was able to be especially free and relaxed in his shooting because the film was made largely in his hometown, using the houses of friends and family. He never saw the limits of a micro-budget as a negative, but the contrary. "Constraints do not limit you, they only foster creativity", he muses.
Another place where a lot of creativity was fostered was in the soundtrack, which was undertaken by Fall On Your Sword, a Brooklyn-based indie rock trio mostly known until now for their distinctive audio-visual shows and for such youtube hits as "Shatner of the Mount" and "Tangerine". Cahill was drawn to their knack for creating bold, modern, playful, sonic atmospheres and loved the idea of matching their music with the wonder, atmosphere and emotion of the story and performances.
"Before getting to work we had some preliminary discussions with Mike about the nature of the story and how it would be reflected in the score. Mike was keen for the score to focus on the emotional and human aspects of the story and subtly tip its hat to the sci-fi story, as the film itself does", say Will Bates and Phil Mossman of Fall On Your Sword. "As a director Mike was very inspiring to work with and really trusted us to do our thing. The first time we played him a cue he just jumped around the studio absolutely delighted. The creative process was really fueled by his limitless enthusiasm. He is also very decisive and knows exactly when something is working and when it is not, which for us as composers is hugely helpful",
To match the tone of the movie which is very minimalist and raw, yet also about very grand ideas, the duo approached the music so that it would intertwine with that tone yet not overwhelm it. "With this goal in mind, we used a lot of real instruments; cello, viola and piano as well as electronic and getting the right blend was the key. When we did use synthesizers, they would be played through amps, mic-ed up from across a room and manipulated to sound more organic in tone. We kept a lot of the imperfections in, the hiss and crackle whilst trying to hold back from layering sounds too much as that tended to overwhelm the scene. This also kept the score more melodic and allowed the themes to develop throughout. As the score evolved the string instruments began to represent Rhoda and the piano began to represent John, which seemed to make sense as he is a composer in the movie", say Bates and Mossman.
"At the time of scoring the movie we had both been listening to a lot of British dub step which weaved its way into our pallet in terms of atmosphere and use of space and sub harmonic tones. The early work of Vangelis, Brian Eno and Giorgio Moroder were also big influences as well as Rachmaniov, Philip Glass and Wendy Carlos", conclude Bates and Mossman. "We spent four months working with Fall On Your Sword", recalls producer Hunter Gray, "and I think the music came together with the visuals to create something more and more unique".
Every little moment added up to the film's startling final seconds, which Cahill says are purposely left wide open for the audience to grapple with long after the lights come up. "It's the perfect pass-off to the audience", he sums up. "I mean, you can conjecture about what is going on in Rhoda's mind at that moment, but the real question is: what going on in your mind?"
Brit Marling (Writer, Produced By and Rhoda Williams) is a rising actress, writer and producer, whose emerging talent made an indelible mark at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as the first female multi-hyphenate to have two films premiere side by side. Marling will next be seen in Sound Of My Voice, which premiered at Sundance in the Next category and at SXSW in the Festival Favorites category.
Director Zal Batmanglij makes his feature debut and once again, Marling starred, co-wrote and co-produced. Sound Of My Voice follows a young couple who infiltrate a cult lead by Maggie (played by Marling). The couple soon finds themselves falling under Maggie's spell, testing their relationship and their sense of reality. The film is set to be released by Fox Searchlight later this year.
Marling recently began production on Nicholas Jarecki's financial thriller Arbitrage, starring opposite Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Laetitia Casta. The film follows a desperate hedge fund magnate (Gere), trying to complete the sale of his financial empire before it's revealed that he is guilty of fraud. A grave error forces him to turn to an unlikely ally for help.
Marling's foray into filmmaking started during her college years at Georgetown University, as she began writing and starring in projects that her friends were working on. This introduction led Marling to take a leave of absence from school, moving to Havana, Cuba to co-direct the documentary Boxers And Ballerinas, which followed young artists and athletes living in the communist country. Marling graduated valedictorian from Georgetown, having studied Economics and Studio Art. Her work experience included a stint as an investment-banking analyst at Goldman Sachs. Realising that acting and filmmaking was what she found most fulfilling, Marling followed her passion and moved to Los Angeles, where she currently resides.
William Mapother (John Burroughs) has appeared in over fifty films and television shows. His recent film work includes A Warriors Heart, Edwin Boyd and the comedy FDR: American Badass. His other film credits include the Oscar-nominated In The Bedroom, World Trade Center, The Grudge, Lords Of Dogtown, The Burrowers, Without Limits, Swordfish and Mission: Impossible 2. His television work includes Lost (as Ethan Rom), Prison Break, CSI, Criminal Minds, Human Target, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Threshold and NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigation Service.
He is a co-founder of Slated, a finance, tech and data company for the film industry. Slated is in beta on an online marketplace for film finance and its service, Festival Genius, runs the online program guides and schedules for over sixty film festivals, including Sundance. Mapother's voice has been heard in animation, video games, public service announcements and documentaries and he is currently writing and producing a film based on an episode of This American Life.
He is a National Director of the Screen Actors Guild, a co-founder of the Flyover Film Festival in Louisville, KY and a spokesperson for the Awareness of Elder Abuse. Prior to acting, Mapother taught grades seven through twelve in East Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He grew up in Louisville, Kentucky and graduated with a bachelor of arts in literature from University of Notre Dame. He lives in Los Angeles.