Last year, director David Weiner made a documentary called In Search of Darkness, an epic celebration of 1980s horror films. His new project, In Search of Tomorrow, will do the same for 1980s sci-fi, compiling tons of interviews with the people who made these now-classic films. We’ve got a sneak peek!
First up, we’ve got a clip from In Search of Tomorrow. It offers a look back at the making of—and the lasting impact of—Predator, featuring interviews with Shane Black and Bill Duke, who co-starred in the 1987 alien action film. (Black, of course, also co-wrote and directed 2018 reboot The Predator).
We also had the chance to talk with In Search of Tomorrow director David Weiner all about the project, which is currently in production and has already met its crowdfunding goal. Our email interview follows.
Gizmodo: In Search of Tomorrow comes after the success of your similar documentary project focused on horror (In Search of Darkness). Did you always have an idea that you might want to make a sci-fi version? What made you want to dive into this subject next?
David Weiner: Monsters, aliens and superheroes were my breakfast, lunch, and dinner growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the blockbuster wake of Jaws, Star Wars and Close Encounters, genre filmmaking exploded for a more general audience by the end of the ‘70s, especially with the added distribution avenues of the VHS/home video boom. There were so many imaginative and memorable films released during that time. With such a wide-ranging scope of topics and sci-fi subgenres, a deep-dive documentary about those films was just too sweet of an opportunity to pass up. Like In Search of Darkness, In Search of Tomorrow will be a four-plus-hour spectacle. The project is the brainchild of my executive producer Robin Block, and the subject fits perfectly into my wheelhouse as a lifelong fan of sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies.
Gizmodo: I’m picturing the filmmaking process for films like these to be a bit like assembling a giant puzzle, with all the interviews and clips and so forth. Was it any easier this time around? How did you decide which films to focus on?
Weiner: Indeed, it’s very much like a jigsaw puzzle, asking the right questions and then assembling the best bites to tell our story with the help of around 60 interviewees. We are at the beginning of production on the documentary, with several interviews in the can and many more still to do. When it’s all ready to be assembled, of course it’s a time-consuming process, but an easier one as I’m working again with my editor Samuel Way, who did such a superb job with In Search of Darkness making four-plus hours fly by. And it’s quite an enriching process when you can add so many cool clips from the films being discussed to provide a powerful visual reference and pull on our nostalgia heartstrings.
Tackling an entire decade with hundreds and hundreds of genre-favourite films can be a daunting task. In determining which films to focus on, the hardest part at first was deciding what exactly fit into the definition and scope of sci-fi. In addition to such ‘80s sci-fi staples as The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T., Aliens, Predator, RoboCop, Blade Runner, and The Terminator, we’ve chosen to include so many wonderful subgenres—post-apocalyptic films like The Road Warrior and Steel Dawn; time-travel films such as Back to the Future and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; mad scientist films including Weird Science, The Fly and Re-Animator; animated gems such as Akira, Heavy Metal and Transformers: The Movie; Cold War films such as WarGames, Firefox and Blue Thunder. Lots of amazing films. I can’t wait to tackle ‘em all.
Gizmodo: Did you film all new interviews or will there be some overlap from previous films? Who were you most excited to talk to? Which interview was the most surprising? Are there challenges in trying to get new stories about older films?
Weiner: We secured the talent of close to 50 interviewees in time for our Kickstarter, which runs through May 17 on 80sscifidoc.com, with many more big sci-fi names to be announced. It’s not that much of a challenge to get great anecdotes when you have a good hour to sit down exclusively with talent. There’s time to follow tangents and see where the rabbit hole goes, often revealing wonderful, untold stories.
Of the interviews I’ve done already, I quite enjoyed chatting with director Paul Verhoeven about his unique approach to RoboCop and Total Recall amid his amazing and varied genre-driven career. And sitting across from Sean Young to discuss her point of view making Blade Runner, Dune, and even the Disney dino movie Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend was such a thrill. I even filmed her reaction opening up a pack of vintage Dune trading cards. How cool is that?
Gizmodo: Why do you think sci-fi films, specifically from the 1980s, have made such a lasting impact? What was it about that era of genre filmmaking and that time in history that produced so many classics?
Weiner: The lid was off in the ‘80s in terms of marketing genre magic to the masses. And the timing was right to combine the unlimited imaginations of filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott with state-of-the-art visual and special effects. That often proved to be the right recipe for box-office success, along with the ability of indie producers like Roger Corman and Charles Band to bypass the big studio gatekeepers and release films straight to video, as well as capitalise on sci-fi audience excitement with fun-yet-derivative theatrical releases such as Battle Beyond the Stars and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn. Many of these films were direct responses to the socio-political topics of the era, while others were pure escapism. Both approaches produced memorable movies that were the perfect time capsules of ‘80s filmmaking.
Gizmodo: Today we’re sharing a clip from your segment on Predator, which is one of my all-time favourite ‘80s sci-fi movies. What are your favourites, and why?
Weiner: These films are my comfort food, my security blanket. The well-known ones, the forgotten ones, the eclectic ones. Everything I’ve mentioned already fit the bill. It’s impossible for me to choose even a couple, as I love all sorts of sci-fi movies for so many different reasons. From Empire to Flash Gordon to Repo Man to Saturn 3, I love to revisit the box-office champs, champion the underdogs, and deconstruct why some films hit while so many others miss—especially when the marketing and merchandising still hooked me. I love sci-fi movies big and small, and can’t wait to revisit them all, recontextualize them for contemporary audiences, and introduce many of these ‘80s classics to movie fans for the first time in In Search of Tomorrow.
In Search of Tomorrow’s Kickstarter campaign, which has already met its funding goal, runs through May 18; you can learn more information about the project and the fan community that Weiner and company have built around it—including virtual watch parties of some of the films featured in the doc—right here.