Interview: RIM OF THE WORLD Writer Zack Stentz on Alien Invasions and Summer Camp - Dread Central
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Interview: RIM OF THE WORLD Writer Zack Stentz on Alien Invasions and Summer Camp

This Friday, it’s up to four teenagers to help save the world from an alien invasion when Netflix premieres their latest film Rim of the World!

Directed by McG (Terminator Salvation, The Babysitter), the film follows a group of teens who band together at summer camp when an alien invasion strikes. Armed with a key that can stop the invasion, it’s up to them to put aside their differences, face their fears, and kick some alien ass!

Starring Jack Gore, Miya Cech, Benjamin Flores Jr., Alessio Scalzotto, and Andrew Bachelor with music by Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead, Happy Death Day 2U), the film was written by Zack Stentz, whose work has powered such titles as Thor, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fringe and the upcoming Lore and Big Trouble in Little China adaptations.

Below is our interview with Stentz about Rim of the World and what he needed to do in order to make the film feel authentic, believable, and a helluva lot of fun!

You can add Rim of the World to your Netflix Playlist here.

Dread Central: Let’s start at the beginning: what inspired the writing of Rim of the World?

Zack Stentz: I grew up in the 1980s during the golden age of kid/teen-centric adventure movies, and I was sad that Hollywood wasn’t making them anymore, so I wanted to give my own kids and their peers the kind of experience that I had. And my own kids go to summer camp up in the San Bernardino Mountains and as I was driving down Rim of the World Highway after dropping them off one summer, I looked down on the amazing view of Southern California and imagined what it would look like if it were a war zone. And that image was the kernel that the entire story grew from.

DC: As a writer, how do you put yourself in the mind of a younger generation so as to write them accurately?

ZS: Luckily as a parent, I have a lot of young people and teens tromping through my house, so I’m somewhat aware of how their lives are very very different from my own childhood in the 1980s. But at the same time, I tried not to make them so of-the-minute that any references they made would be dated in a year or two. With any luck, the characters will feel simultaneously contemporary and timeless to the audience.

DC: The four main characters come from a wide variety of different walks of life. What does it take to make sure you write these characters with respect and acknowledgment of their differences?

ZS: In 2019, half of all children in the USA are people of color, so it felt important to reflect those demographics in our four heroes. I’m lucky enough to have friends and family from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds to help me in getting the voices of the characters right, but the young actors themselves also gave a lot of valuable input in shaping their characters.

DC: What kinds of freedoms do you feel you are granted when writing in the sci-fi realm?

ZS: Science fiction gives you free rein to put your characters in larger than life, life or death situations that are both thrilling and fun to watch and also revealing of character. It also lets you play with a lot of fun toys on set– Dragon capsules, F-22 fighters dogfighting with aliens, cars crashing, and so on. It feels appropriate that when writing a bunch of 13-year-olds, I get to indulge my own inner teenager.

DC: Often times, alien invasion movies are done with expansive set pieces. Starting things off in a summer camp makes things feel more intimate. How do you balance the small against the large?

ZS: We didn’t have 150 million dollars to make this movie, which was never supposed to be a gigantic action spectacular anyway. Writing for television taught me a lot about relying on character and story most of the time, while deploying hits of action and spectacle in strategic pops. When we go full Independence Day, we do go big– we have alien dogs, Marines, flipping Humvees, and at one point a 2 minute, Children of Men-style continuous take. But for most of our running time, the movie is four kids on the run, talking to each other, solving problems, and becoming the heroes they never though they could be at the beginning.

DC: The trailer makes the movie look like heaps of fun! What scene did you have the most fun writing?

ZS: I really loved writing the entire third act, because I wrote it as an homage to my favorite Star Trek movies and episodes. Our four characters are in a smashed command center, and each of them has to accomplish a different task to get things working again and defeat the aliens. Our composer Bear [McCreary] even picked up on this vibe without me telling him and delivered a very Wrath of Khan music cue for the sequence!

My other favorite individual scene to write was the one where the kids are resting in Gabriel’s apartment and telling each other their life stories. It felt very important to have quiet, emotional scenes in the middle of the mayhem, action, and comedy, and that one is my favorite. I know people are expecting comedy, action, and some good scares from the trailer, but I think they’re going to be surprised at how emotional the film is willing to be.

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