Alex Garland knows how to tell a good storyThe writer, director and bender of sci-fi genres never approaches the same story twice, always finding new ways to talk about complex issues -- from zombies to AI to aliens.
[MUSIC] Anything interesting in there? No. [NOISE] Having seen a lot of your work, and read some of the screenplays, actually, that are online, probably you don't know that, but the future is a very strange, kind of unsettling place. In your creative world. And I'm curious, I know that you're a fan of B movies. And you call them paranoid sci-fi films that you watch in the 70s, like Soylent Green, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes, Westworld, how that informed your take on sci-fi in your work. Well, I work in [UNKNOWN] I write thrillers and cifi movies and then to some extent try to subvert them. But actually some of those older films were in themselves very subversive. They're typical to usually their anti-authoritarian in some kind of way and suspicious and take all kind of risks Yeah, that's the stuff I grew up on and of course it's found its way into what I do, yeah. Fair to say you've spent the past two decades in sci-fi, but I read that you were a history major, and maybe sort of an indifferent student. Some of the things certainly things like mathematics, in fact pretty much everything, I was in the slow group. When it came to science with physics, biology, and chemistry, I wasn't able to take any of them as exams because my performance wasn't up to it. I had to take this thing called environmental science, which is what they gave to people who couldn't do the real science. And I think I just figured that it was all beyond me, and in many respect it is all beyond me except as a lay person I can be interested in it. And in my 20's I began to hear things that related to science such as, it would be like a little detail, the faster you go The slower time pauses. And that kind of thing puzzled me. It didn't with any sense of time that I had. So I started reading. But really, as an uneducated lay person, that never really stopped. I'm now 47 and I've been Been trying to get my head around collapse of wave function, whatever it is, best I can and which isn't very much but I understand why it's interesting. So yeah, that's true. And then I tried to put it in the narratives as much as possible because There is something strange about the way the world is functioning at the moment, where there's a massive disconnect. They're we're disconnect everywhere, it almost everywhere you look between people who have and don't have or know and don't know. And one of the areas is science, and it's an increasingly rarefied group. And, the knowledge gap is scary, and I don't think helpful. So, I guess I try to include it in the narratives I write. Ever thought of doing a movie in VR? I'm a big video gamer. I love video games and so I'm aware of VR. I've got the PlayStation VR headset. And a friend of mine has got Oculus Rift. He got it set up and running cuz he's super smart and this was maybe before it was commercially available. They had a development kit for it or something like that and I think it's amazing. I think its application, probably this is the kind of audience that would correct me. Its application seems more suited to video games than to filmed narrative and it's not It's not because of anything other than nausea actually. In a video game, you're controlling the camera and so you don't get the seasick thing where the boat moves in a direction you're not expecting and you start to feel terrible. What I have found in If anything, like a cut scene, where the camera moves in a certain kind of way, it's difficult. You get a visceral response. You get an inner ear type problem, a nausea problem. And a kind of stomach type problem [INAUDIBLE], that sort of latching feeling. I don't know how to direct the gaze in that kind of VR and I don't which you do in film easily with lighting and forecast and stuff like that. I'm not sure how you do that in VR but mainly I'm not sure how you move the camera without making people wanna throw up or take their helmet off. I want to ask you about Ex Machina. So, sorry if we discuss spoilers for people who didn't see it, but too bad it came out in 2015. You said you felt huge affection for Ava, and it's her story that you were writing and her journey you were most concerned with telling, and the character of Caleb Smith is meant to be us, the audience, watching And learning as he learns what's going on. And so I was curious about why was that the story you want to tell? Why was she the focal point for you? Because the film had two separate Sense pf concerns I mean one of it was [UNKNOWN] and [UNKNOWN] intelligence and human intelligence and that's kind of a [UNKNOWN], but there was another set of interest in as well and it were I think loosely speaking it say attached to gender initially, so you have a machine looked female and, How is the gender attributed? Is it something that is contained in a physical form? Or is it conferred upon the machine by other people? Why would the word it feel inappropriate? To the machine, which would imply conferred. Or is it simply an appearance? And so initially there's a gender discussion but then it becomes something as well, which was literally just about objectification. Which is this young Kid, Caleb, is set a task. Does this machine have an interior life? It's a very, very straight forward question. He is asked the question and the audience is asked the question at the same time. So he, in that respect, is a surrogate for the audience and At a certain point the machine stops looking like a machine when the machine first appears it is very clearly [UNKNOWN] machine. But the machine aspect is increasingly hidden. And as the machine aspect is hidden the question stops being asked. So now that might not be true for every audience member but But effectively there is a twist at the end which is the machine does have an interior life. Now that would not be a twist if you had continued to expect that the machine had an interior life. So why was it in there? Because it was the preoccupation of the film. I just wrote two scripts back to back, actually. One of them is a kind of tech thriller which is set here actually, in San Francisco. I'm coming back in a few weeks to kind of look around and try and find locations and that That kind of thing, hopefully, all things being equal we'll shoot later in the year so that's great. But I've got two children and they've never seen anything I've worked on, it's always to violent, or druggie or whatever. And so I thought I would try, before my daughter gets too old, to do one kid's movie. She's ten. If I can get it done within the next two years, she'll be interested. [MUSIC]