By Lisa Robinson
The web is no longer secure, but NeuroLock™ can encrypt data using the human brain. Iris struggles to choose between unemployment and a job as a “neuro-messenger,” a career with unwanted side effects.
Hollow came out of thoughts I had about my everyday internet experience, in which data seems to stream into my brain as if through an intravenous drip. I open my laptop and suddenly email, web searches, random advertising, and social networking all roar in, filling my mental space like a noisy highway and leaving less and less space for fragile developing thoughts and fleeting memories. It’s essentially reshaping my brain’s transactions and, one could argue, ultimately changing who I am.
I obsessed over this idea, this web‐brain experience, and it tumbled forward, shaping into a character named Iris, a young woman who is trying to survive in a future world where this kind of data exposure is peaking. I imagined the future web as more aggressive and personal, having lost most of its anonymity and privacy. This felt like a small stretch from today, as our growing dependence on the web will almost certainly be paired with challenges to its overall security. Corporate and government surveillance will expand, as well as tracking and profiling systems. As all prosthetic devices (computers, cell phones, etc.) become vulnerable to hacking, powerful interests will find other ways to secretly move information. I was irresistibly drawn to this imaginary future with new industries, new opportunities, and unlikely “heroes.” As scientific understanding of the brain will progress, Hollow extrapolates that technologies will enable us to erase and introduce detailed information. This individual encryption may be the last respite of anonymity. “Neuro‐messengers” will function like “data mules,” a futuristic parallel to drug mules. Young unemployed women will find themselves becoming data transport vessels and selling their brains in order to survive.
Iris is exploited, partially because of her economic and immigrant status, to become a “neuro-messenger.” But despite this tragic setup, Iris kept reminding me of her youth, her resilience, and her choice. I became intrigued with figuring out how to honor this loss and gain, respecting her compromise, and seeing within this big picture, one woman’s small but powerful choice to secure and create her own future. She may be a pawn in the hands of powerful interests, but she is a victor in her own personal survival. That dichotomy seemed compelling and real to me.
—Lisa Robinson, Writer/Director
Hollow was shot in July 2012 in Brooklyn and Queens, New York.
Casting: As with many films, one of our biggest challenges was finding the perfect cast, in particular for our two young leads, Iris and Zana. Not only did Iris need to be talented and a soulful presence on screen, she also needed to play an immigrant with a credible accent. Our talented casting director Emer O’Callaghan introduced me to the wonderful Angelic Zambrana, who I had seen in Precious. I was thrilled that Angelic saw Iris’s journey as a story of empowerment, not just a story of victimization by a manipulative system. This understanding was crucial. Angelic has a magnetic quality that quietly radiates tremendous depth and her instincts for Iris were beautiful to watch.
Zana needed to be both dazzling and at times deeply troubled. Emer introduced me to Louisa Krause, who I had seen in Martha Marcy May Marlene and Toe to Toe. I could see from her previous work and from our discussions that she was fearless about diving into the bright and dark corners of this kind of character with abandon and talent. On set, she was tireless about bringing electrifying energy and trust of the material to every scene, exploring and realizing a wonderful Zana.
Visuals: Hollow’s look was conceived as a film more about mood than geography, feeling rather than facts, and a certain kind of minimalist approach to the future world that is not that different from today. The world I imagined for the future is both familiar and at times unusual. Our talented cinematographer, Ashley Connor, was key in helping me frame this world. Ashley’s work has a beautiful intuitive sense and a kind of dance with what’s happening emotionally on the screen. She’s always thinking outside the obvious framing and lighting choices, looking to reframe familiar spaces in ways we haven’t seen before.
The costumes, the production design and visual FX were also shaped with the governing idea of “familiar but unusual.” I wanted things to feel organic, a mixture of old and new. I worked with many incredibly talented people and their assistants who tirelessly crafted these elements. Erika Lillenthal, costume designer, created the clothing world as a kind of microcosm of these two main character’s personalities, how they aligned and differed from each other. Nadya Gurevich, production designer, created a kind of decaying but beautiful cave for their apartment filled with artifacts from their past history.
Tschudko Design and Thom Pictures created visual effects such as the “data stream” that were compelling and with some organic qualities, but also intercut seamlessly with live action footage. Editor Alex Camilleri and composer Xander Duell helped to weave all of these elements together into a rhythm that attempts to engage the ideas of “familiar” and “unusual” on a basic, almost unconscious level.
I was also fortunate to have two dedicated producers, Corey Deckler and Yael Melamede, who brought great resourcefulness to the process and a continuous passion for the story.
—Lisa Robinson, Writer/Director
Lisa Robinson co-wrote and co-directed the feature film Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, which premiered at SXSW in 2011, screened at more than 20 festivals, and played theatrically in more than 15 cities. She also co-created Sparks, a web series about humans and technology that was syndicated by the Sundance Channel. She has written and directed short films that have screened at film festivals around the world, including Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, Telluride, Edinburgh, and Clermont-Ferrand.
Yael Melamede is a co-founder of SALTY Features, an independent production company based in New York. Her producer credits include Small, Beautifully Moving Parts; the Oscar-winning short documentary film Inocente; Brief Interviews with Hideous Men; The Inner Life of Martin Frost; and My Architect, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.
Corey Deckler is a New York City-based producer and production manager. His film credits include Dreaming American; Small, Beautifully Moving Parts; At Any Price; Family Games; Adult World; and Innocence. Most recently, he served as unit production manager on Goodbye to All That. In addition to his work in commercials and music videos, he is also the producer of the 2011 short film, Faith, which has screened at film festivals nationwide.
Angelic Zambrana – Iris
Angelic Zambrana knew at a young age that she wanted to be an entertainer. After studying with Susan Batson at Fordham University, she was cast in Illegal Tender, one of the first studio-released films to feature an all-Latin cast. Other film and television credits include Fighting, Empire State, Precious, Musical Chairs, Sleepwalk with Me, Liberal Arts, and HBO’s Girls.
Louisa Krause – Zana
Louisa Krause’s feature film credits Martha Marcy May Marlene, Young Adult, Toe to Toe, The Return, The Babysitters, and The Speed of Life. She won Best Actress at the 2012 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival for her starring role in King Kelly and recently wrapped Bluebird and You Can’t Win. Her theater credits include Iphigenia 2.0, In a Dark Dark House, Rocket to the Moon, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Currently, Krause stars in the Off-Broadway play The Flick.