Following the screening of Aussie director Josh Tanner’s short The Landing at Screamfest 2014, I’m going to predict that it will not only win for “Best Short Film” at the Fest, but also for “Best Live Action Short” at the 2015 Academy Awards. You heard it here first.
Revolving around a man who returns to the Midwestern farm of his childhood on a desperate mission to unearth the horrifying truth of what landed there in the summer of 1960, The Landing was produced and co-written by Jade van der Lei and Tanner and directed by the latter. It stars Henry Nixon, David Roberts, and Tom Usher.
Filmed in 2013 in Australia over the course of eight days on the Arri Alexa camera for approximately seventy thousand US dollars, The Landing was inspired, Tanner told us, “From a dream I had where I was unearthing a buried spaceship in the middle of farmland. I became obsessed with the idea of the suppression of a UFO landing by the farmers on the land which it came down on, opposed to a government cover-up. It was a great seed to build a story around and figure out when and how it got there and whose perspective it would be told from. I was inspired by a lot of the great paranoia sci-fi of the 50’s and unabashedly Spielberg, Kubrick, and Terrence Malick.”
Of the writing process for the seventeen-minute, forty-four-second film (which previously won “Best Short” at Sitges 2013 and “Best Foreign Short” at LA Shorts Fest; both are 2015 Academy Awards qualifying wins), “It was a long process of about a year and a half from first draft to final shooting script,” Tanner offered. “We went months between drafts mainly because we were so daunted by the immense effort we knew we’d have to go to to pull off making a period piece set in another country. We had people suggesting that we change the setting to Australia, but we were stubborn in our belief that the story needed to be set in the US, and we stuck by that.”
As for the design of the film, the sixth he’s directed, “It was a Frankenstein process, and the production design and VFX went hand-in-hand,” he told us.
“We ultimately depended on VFX to stitch together disparate locations around Australia to build the film’s Midwestern US setting. We re-purposed the abandoned Kent Farm set from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, which filmed in Australia in 2005, and considered this the starting point. With a barn the only remaining part of that set, we had to use matte painting, set builds, and other digital trickery to create the farmhouse, add golden fields of wheat, and pull it all into one hopefully seamless location.”
Tanner is currently writing a feature adaptation of The Landing and also a war-themed supernatural thriller titled Contact Lost.