By Mia Trachinger
Roxanne is a government agent who works as a live body contagion to immunize urban populations. Jesse is an anti-contagion activist, whose office is breeched by Roxanne’s team. Led by Roxanne, the contagions try to contain the workers inside the building, chasing them down in an attempt to mass-inoculate, while Jesse, caught in a cycle of fear and illness, soon learns that there are no easy answers.
At the time ITVS asked me to submit an idea for a FUTURESTATES episode, news stories chronicling public fears of the H1-N1 vaccine were rippling across the media. Americans from across the political spectrum — from the left to the right — were skeptical about the government's motives for urging citizens to get the vaccine.
This hesitation made me wonder about our nation's comfort with scientific research and our latest medical advances. I began to feel that the more we advance in science and medicine, the more we're afraid of its power and the less we seem to trust it.
It seems our society is at a point where we view healthcare as both helpful and predatory.
In Exposure, I'm imagining a near future where the relationship between medicine/science and society has broken down even further.
Since this appears to be an ongoing dynamic in our country, I've tried to create a piece that will foster dialogue about the situation. On a personal level, I feel both for those hesitant and for those who are advocates for immunization. In order to move forward, each side's concerns needs to be heard and addressed.
To better illustrate the story, I came up with two lead characters: the inoculating government agent Roxanne who, despite trying to do the right thing, is chronically misunderstood; and Jesse, a rebel active in the anti-vaccine movement, who begins to understand the toll of his actions. Their paths only intersect once — at a key juncture in the story – but that meeting will change Jesse's life forever.
— Mia Trachinger, Writer/Director
Many of the issues surrounding preproduction involved how to communicate the world of Exposure and of the near future.
One of the early conundrums concerned what the Contagion Agents would wear. How could we differentiate them from the office workers, so the audience could tell who was chasing whom? Wearing dark suits was our first choice – but how to make them feel "otherworldly"?
Our costume designer Marcelle Chamlee suggested making harnesses. She had made one for another show and brought it in. They were enough with the suits to accord a degree of "officialness" and "efficiency" to the Contagions without taking us out of the story. Marcelle added buckles to them and we created justification for the different strappings for Agent tools, etc. Production design made government badges and "cameras" for their headsets (adding pen tops to the earpieces), and Contagion costuming was locked.
The look of the gas masks went through several iterations. I had written the scene for a basement and we found an amazing machine room to shoot in. It was actually an attic but had that hidden-away feeling that we were looking for. There were random diagrams and obscure graffiti notes written on the grey steel ducts – there was even a little circular door on the duct for the Contagions to hook into.
It was really perfect. Aiyana Trotter, our production designer, came with a suitcase full of tubing, different masks, and metal knobs to attach to the ducts, and after trying them all out I decided on a selection. Julie Kirkwood, our DP, shot stills and videos after we blocked it and we were good to go with the scene.
Then came the realization that we were shooting the bulk of the film an hour away and couldn't justify driving across town for just a few shots — no matter how important they were.
Our principal office location didn't have a basement, an attic, nor a machine room. All the machines for the building were outside. This seemed like an obstacle at the time since the opening sequence is all about containment and not letting the office workers escape to where they're safe from the immunized air.
We checked out an area outside that had a panel of machines and thought of walling it off with flats to create a room — but it was important that nothing about the scene feel fake and so I decided against it.
Instead, we chose an infrequently used ventilation area located at the back of the building. Aiyana came again with her suitcase full of gas mask goodies and we framed up the shot to feel clandestine and foreboding.
I'm happy with the way the scene turned out. I love the reveal of the Contagions infiltrating the office ventilation system. It was one of those situations where being forced by circumstance to go through several possibilities created a great result.
— Mia Trachinger, Writer/Director
Singled out by The Hollywood Reporter as one of “Five New Talents to Watch,” Los Angeles native Mia Trachinger earned an MFA in Directing from the UCLA School of Film, Theater, and Television. After making several award-winning short films, Mia wrote and directed the feature film Bunny, which went on to screen in film festivals around the world and earned two Independent Spirit Award nominations and the Maverick Spirit Award at the Cinequest Film Festival. Trachinger’s sophomore feature, Reversion, made its world premiere at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and won the Indie Express Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Noted as an exciting new voice in cinema by IndieWIRE, Aaliyah Williams secured domestic and international distribution for her first film, Sundance darling The Young and Evil with Strand Releasing, Pecadillo Pictures, and Bildkraft. She produced BET’s groundbreaking web series Buppies and is currently a creative consultant for Fox Digital Studios and the recipient of the 2010 Project: Involve Barbara Boyle Award.
Leonardo Nam — Jesse
Born in Argentina and raised in Sydney, Australia, Leonardo Nam began his career studying in Sydney at the prestigious Actor’s Lab under Annie Swann while appearing in numerous local theatrical productions including Shakespeare In The Park. Known for his performances in The Perfect Score and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Nam also had a lead role in Half-Life. He appeared in Vantage Point and He’s Just Not That Into You.
JoNell Kennedy — Roxanne
Veteran performer JoNell Kennedy’s has appeared in theatre, film, and television. She has a recurring role as the coroner on the CBS hit show, The Mentalist, and has been featured in such films as Dreamgirls, Guess Who, and Me And You And Everyone We Know. She will also appear on NBC’s The Cape.
Peyton McCormick — Nicole
Hailing from West Chester, Ohio where she was immersed in dance and theater, Peyton McCormick was crowned Miss Ohio Teen USA in 2006. After graduating high school McCormick moved to California to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Upon graduation she moved to Paris, France to work for Disney. Residing in Los Angeles, Peyton continues her training at The Actor Space.