By Joe Turner Lin & Justin Marshall
Refugees from the dystopian future are immigrating to the past, and citizen watch groups have formed to stop them. On his first “border patrol”, teenage Jackson must choose between his father’s principles and his own sense of humanity.
My parents emigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s and I was raised with the narrative – some might say “mythology” – that America truly was a Land of Opportunity: a place where many different colored threads are woven together to form a tapestry stronger and more vibrant than had those threads been all spun from the same field of cotton.
Born and bred in New York City, this “melting-pot” cliché was further solidified by my multicultural friends and peers. It seemed obvious to me that America was a place that gathered its strength from its diversity, that historically, all of the growth times came out of the waves of immigrants that lapped up onto our shores, looking for a better life: Italians, Irish, Chinese, Mexican….
But as I grew older, I began to see that not all of my fellow Americans shared this perspective. While in my youth I clung to my righteousness, over time I began to realize that my own condemnation of such black-and-white opinions was a shallow simplification itself. I was left wrestling with both sides, struggling to find compassion for an intolerance that I did not understand.
When ITVS invited me to apply for FUTURESTATES, I was thrilled because I personally love the science-fiction genre, in whatever form it takes – whether it is a narrative that asks the big existential questions or simply entertains. But I was truly excited because of the mandate to use the genre as a vehicle for social allegory. As I began thinking about potential concepts, my mind kept wandering back to a story session I’d just had a few months before with one of my closest friends from film school, Justin Marshall.
Justin had been working, on and off, for the better part of a year, on a treatment for a feature film. It was a bigger budget film with some action set pieces, some smart twists and reveals, and of course this great high-concept idea: time-travel immigrants who came from a destitute future looking for a better life in the past. It was something that resonated with me immediately for a whole host of reasons. But I suddenly realized that there was a perfect confluence of events, and if Justin were generous enough to lend me his idea, we could build a much more intimate story on his foundation. A father and a son in a green but fading near future began to emerge. The son’s first “border patrol.” A loving sister. A woman from the future. A brutal choice.
We applied, and we made it through the first rounds. Then the second. Draft after draft, major plot changes, characters coming and going, scenes lost to the depths of our hard drives. Eventually we were fortunate enough to get to tell a story that I hope has a clear point of view, but does not vilify. It is a story that says something about family, about compassion, and just possibly about hope in our shared Land of Opportunity.
—Joe Turner Lin, Director
Less than a month after finishing the script phase, we went into full pre-production mode. Contracts had to be finished, key crew had to be found, and rewrites continued. Not to mention paying the rent.
Slowly, pieces fell into place: my producer was leading daily production meetings from coffee shops across Manhattan, auditions were held, videos were watched, callbacks came and went. Costumes were debated, props were built. At last, we were ready. It was Thursday. We would start the next day.
Somehow I thought it would be a good idea to go see the Batman marathon – The Dark Knight Rises was about to open. During the movie I got a phone call. I excused myself – it was one of my lead actors. He was very, very ill. I told him that his health was the most important thing, that we’d figure things out in the morning. Not to worry. I hung up the phone and promptly began to worry.
So began a shoot that by all accounts should have spiraled into disaster. Two different cube trucks broke down the first morning. The actor was driven up to our location outside of Woodstock, New York very slowly by our amazing and generous AD. Because of intense rain, I arrived in the art van with the writer and our production designer nine hours late. Thunder and lightning struck as we prepared to hike into the forest. We switched to a cover set – our one day of interiors and our only big lighting day. We paid the kill fee to change the weapons armorer’s scheduled day, spent all morning getting the grip and lighting truck up from Manhattan, took hours setting up the lights and then: the generator didn’t turn over. The camera stopped playing back on the one Steadicam day and the monitor turned out to be useless. And yet despite all of it – or perhaps because of it – we made each and every day. The crew stayed in great spirits. The cast bonded. I was forced to lead in a way I have never experienced before. It was the hardest, most fun thing I’ve ever done.
Post-production had its own issues. After obsessively getting render after render of the VFX shots, sitting with the music composer for days, and bringing bottles of whiskey as peace offerings to our amazing and overworked color grader, I arrived at FedEx ten minutes before the last shipment went out, slapped on the label, and it was done.
I know all films are like this in some form or another. I work directing and producing branded content and corporate documentaries. But whether it’s because of how resonant the story is to me, or because of where I am in life, or just because it was so damn hard, it really cemented the conviction that this is what I am supposed to be doing on this earth. I am truly grateful to everyone at FUTURESTATES and ITVS for giving me that gift of clarity and purpose.
—Joe Turner Lin, Director
Joe Turner Lin
Joe Turner Lin received the Arthur Krim Award, HBO’s Young Producer’s Development Award, and Columbia University’s Best Producer for his Student Academy Award-winning short, Jesus Henry Christ. His thesis film, Seibutsu (Still: Life), was a national finalist for the Student Academy Awards and won the Grand Jury Prize at the San Diego Asian International Film Festival and the Chinese American Festival of Film and Culture. Since film school, he has worked on more than 80 feature-length and short films, television, commercial, and music video productions, from National Geographic to Universal Motown Records. He is preparing to direct his first feature, Pick.
Justin Marshall received his MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University, where his feature-length thesis screenplay One Hit Wonder was designated a Top 5 Faculty Selected Script and later optioned. He has since written or co-written numerous screenplays and television pilots, many of which have been optioned, sold, or in development. These include Caroline By Committee, winner of the Special Teen Jury Prize at the 2007 Nantucket Film Festival, and Franny Wright & The Alien Invasion, Quarterfinalist at the 2011 Slamdance Screenwriting Competition. He is a member of the WGA-East and lives in Brooklyn with frequent collaborator Mary Haas.
Director of Photography
Zak Mulligan started his career in New York after studying photography at Arizona State University. His latest narrative feature, Obselidia, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where he won the Excellence in Cinematography award. Other film work includes Future Weather, Passing Herald Blumenthal, A Piece of America, and You’re Gonna Feel Funny After. He also has extensive commercial credits and has shot music videos for a variety of musical artists. Mulligan just concluded principal photography on the narrative feature I’m Not Me, which is also his debut as a writer and director.
Peter Fackler is a film producer and director of photography whose work has been shown nationally and internationally at film festivals (Sundance, Hamptons) as well as on major television networks (National Geographic, Bravo, Travel, Discovery). He has helped projects to win awards, including a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Kay Anna Lee
Director of Photography
After graduating from Brown University with a degree in visual arts and urban studies, Kay Anna Lee worked as a fashion and technical designer for Express, The Gap, Ralph Lauren and Polo Jeans. She production designed her brother’s graduate thesis film, which won a Student Academy Award and led to more work on numerous NYU and Columbia short films. Her feature film credits as production designer include Blue Caprice, Unconditional, Sahkanaga, Dear Lemon Lima, and most recently, Black Dog Red Dog. She worked as a set director for the film Untitled.
Noah Galvin – Jackson
Noah Galvin’s favorite credits include Yosemite (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater) and David Cromer’s Our Town (Barrow Street Theater). He played the Fool opposite Billy Porter’s King “Mama” Lear and received a Kevin Klein Award, a Cincinnati Entertainment Award, and an Acclaim Award for his role in Ace: The Musical. This fall, he will be originating the role of Pippin in The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed Opera House).
Nick Sandow – Greg
Nick Sandow appears in Edward Burns’ new feature film, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, and has appeared in the films The Sitter, The Accidental Husband, Living Out Loud, Swimfan, Return to Paradise, Connie and Carla, and Resurrecting the Champ. His television credits include recurring roles on Boardwalk Empire, Blue Bloods, How to Make It In America, and Third Watch, as well as the movies For One More Day and Strip Search. Sandow’s theater credits include Late Fragments and Baptism By Fire. He directed Henry Flamethrowa, Dark Yellow, Chicken, Riverdale to Riverhead, and the feature film Ponies.
Jessica Rothenberg – Maya
Jessica Rothenberg is a proud Colorado native. Her regional credits include the Nicholas Martin and Kate Burton production of The Cherry Orchard (Huntington Theatre), as well as Kevin Moriarty’s Hair (Hangar Theatre). She can be seen in the upcoming feature film The Art Of Love.
Jesse Bongiorno – Audrey
Jesse Bongiorno has had a love of theater and performance her entire life. Acting in small regional theaters during the summers, she is building the experience she needs to potentially pursue a career in the field of film and television. Promised Land is her first film.