Writer And Director Luke Sparke Talks ‘Occupation: Rainfall’ [Exclusive Interview]
The director of the blockbuster sci-fi film answers all of our questions.
Following on from the success of his acclaimed 2018 sci-fi action thriller Occupation, filmmaker Luke Sparke returned to direct the sequel, Occupation: Rainfall, which is now streaming on Netflix. To celebrate the release of the film, we interviewed Sparke about Occupation: Rainfall. He offered us a detailed insight into the process of developing the highly-anticipated blockbuster sequel. You can read the full interview below, but keep in mind that it does contain some spoilers, so you might want to hold off until after you see the film.
Occupation: Rainfall sees Dan Ewing returning as Matt Simmons, a human soldier who is tasked with locating a mysterious artifact dubbed ‘Rainfall’, which may hold the key to defeating the alien invaders. The film also stars Daniel Gillies, Jet Tranter, Brad McMurray, Mark Coles Smith, Ken Jeong, and The Book of Boba Fett actor Temuera Morrison. We awarded it a score of four out of five in our review, and called it ‘a hugely entertaining viewing experience’. This is one sci-fi action blockbuster sci-fi and action fans shouldn’t miss.
Dread Central: Did you always plan to make a sequel to Occupation, and what made you choose to continue the story from this point?
Luke Sparke: I actually didn’t set out to make a sequel to Occupation. It was going to be just another film in my slate, and then I was going to move on. I like endings that are a little open, so I always wrote it with the heroes keeping the good fight going. That was always there. It wasn’t until I was in the editing process that the idea for a sequel came to me. It was a scene where Temuera Morrison beats an alien’s head in after speaking to the Amelia character about worlds never being the same after they are invaded or colonized. That aspect and the alien point of view spoke to me in the edit and formed the basis of continuing this story with alien characters becoming more involved. That led to the hero alien ‘Gary’ in Occupation: Rainfall.
DC: One of the most striking aspects of Occupation: Rainfall were the blockbuster-level effects, which looked as impressive as anything in major Hollywood productions. Can you talk about the process of creating these impressive visual sequences?
LS: It was a steep learning curve, because the film is actually within still the definition of an ‘Indie’ film, just on a huge scale. We had lots of conversations with pros on tips and ideas. Then we set out to find a team that could tackle all this. Lots of freelancers joined and then some bigger VFX houses in Australia were a little free because of the first Covid lockdowns so they joined, too. But it still came down to me and my VFX supervisor signing off on everything, learning and giving ideas and even doing as much as we could in-house. We stayed up to the early hours of the morning to get everything done.
DC: And how did you go about filming the physical action sequences?
LS: Because we were an ‘indie’ with a huge script, we had to come up with every idea in the book to get the filming done. One of the big ones was to shoot the film in ‘blocks’ and film out certain cast members or sets. Then we’d break and come back months later with more funding or a new cast, etc. That in itself was a huge task for everyone involved with lots of planning into that. Again, I was making the shooting schedules at night for the week ahead. My two producers were doing ten jobs in the office. One of the cast—Zac Garred—was acting in it and helping produce. Our other co-producer was doing the assistant director job and VFX supervisor in one. Every crew member by the end was pitching in to help get it done. It was really tough work, but it was the quality of our final crew and cast that got it all done.
DC: Occupation: Rainfall also boasts some impressive creature designs, including horse-like aliens which were used as steeds by the main characters, and a giant monster which tries to destroy everything in sight. Was it an enjoyable experience to participate in designing these fantastical creatures before creating them on-screen?
LS: It was! They were all part of this world I am trying to build. The Vox (alien horse) came in the later script drafts and first they were just riding horses, which I thought would be fun to see, an alien on a horse, but later decided it would be even more fun to explore their wildlife on Earth. I kept the design guys going with ideas until they were what I saw in my head, but it’s also great to let creative people explore their own ideas and see how you can incorporate all that. Then we pre-visualized those scenes so the cast and crew could see what was going to happen.
DC: Many of the cast members from the previous film, including Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison, and Trystan Go, all returned for Occupation: Rainfall. Was it a joy to be able to work with them all again, and can you talk about the new cast members as well?
LS: I envisioned this as a first chapter in its own story, and right some wrongs that may have been in Occupation: Rainfall but I wanted to bring back as many cast and characters as I could, since it was the same world. So it was fantastic when the majority came back to have another round on the battlefield. Everyone slipped back into their characters or talked about what could or has changed for them. The new cast like Ken Jeong, Daniel Gillies, Lawrence Makoare, Mark Coles Smith, Jet Tranter and more really made it easy for me to focus on the big picture stuff. They had watched Occupation: Rainfall and just ‘got it’ for what I was trying to pull off and where they would fit in this ensemble.
DC: You also explored themes of morality in times of war throughout the film, which must have been quite a challenging topic to address?
LS: That was a big part that drew me to continue this story. I’ve spent many years, nearly my whole life really, studying history as part of my family business and heritage so it really interests me and is always pretty close to the front of my mind. History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The first thing I wanted in the first film’s ending is not some cliché trope where you destroy some command ship, and all the armies just fall over. War is messy. So I looked at the end of WW1 and the handshake treaty to end that, only to have WW2 a few decades later. And citizens of Germany and Japan had already moved away and pledged themselves to the allies. Applying that to Rainfall, I opened the film with the war still raging and not looking good, but aliens have been joining our cause and it’s growing. That was important to me.
Another big factor then was the different sides to look at. You have the Amelia character championing for inclusion in the ranks to make a new future, and a top Wing Commander just looking to do whatever it takes to save humanity. It’s been really interesting seeing the reaction to those two sides. People were coming up to me after the screenings and stating which side they agree with. Some very interesting insights!
DC: Would you like to see more blockbuster films like this coming out of Australia?
LS: Of course, I would! It was another big part in getting this done – to show something like this is achievable if you really want it and that there is an international market for films like these with an Aussie cast. I’m really proud the film has done well around the world, and I hope there is at least one Aussie director that sees this and makes something big of their own – even if you have to do the heavy lifting yourself as an Indie.
DC: Lastly, Occupation: Rainfall ends by setting up a sequel, so can you talk about the upcoming third film in the franchise?
LS: Is it the third film in the franchise or the 2nd in the Rainfall series? I guess you’ll have to wait and see… What I can say is where we left it now, the Alien high command has the ultimate weapon in their hands, so that’s not good for the heroes. I’m planning on opening the world more, you know kinda like the Die Hard films when they get a bigger location with each film. So the world will expand, the lore will expand. We’ll see new characters along with the returning cast, and more creatures. It’s going to be a lot of fun. A celebration of Sci-Fi!