In the week leading up to the film's premiere, several of the film's behind-the-scenes crew members will answer some questions about the process of making Stevie's Aliens. Making a low-budget short film is hard work, and no one knows that better than Sidney Butler, one of the film's producers. Involved from the inception of the project, Sidney oversaw the logistics for the entire film, which often meant she was literally driving actors and crew members to and from set.
1. What drew you to this project?
I was drawn to this idea, because like Austin I grew up on E.T. and Spielberg movies and am obsessed with space and the universe. Austin and I both didn't see black people represented in the genre and wanted to explore what it looked like to have black people at the center of this story. Also Austin is my boyfriend so I had no choice. (HA. KIDDING.)
2. What was your proudest achievement in pre-production?
Finding the house that worked to create Austin's vision was a satisfying achievement. We reached out to over 30 houses and only three got back to us with interest. Austin, Caroline (our other producer), and I drove down to New Jersey to look at them one Saturday, and on our way, one of the places changed their mind. One of the places we visited was a townhouse connected to another house which wouldn't have worked, but the house we chose was perfect because it had three distinct bedrooms, and it was big enough to house our whole crew. The owners were really nice and accommodating of our all-night shoots, and it was basically like a big sleepover. But it really fit that 80's suburban vine and it's great when you can find exactly what the director wants.
3. What were some setbacks you faced?
Raising enough money was a huge challenge. We applied to many Tisch grants and didn't receive any for production so our budget was tight and when you're shooting a sci-fi movie, the budget of the film matters A LOT. We had to make some compromises and schedule around them -- for instance, we could only afford to have Steadicam for a few days, but we actually managed to get more shots with it than we originally planned.
4. What was the most difficult part of this film to bring together?
Getting a crew of 14+ people in and out of New Jersey at any given moment. Most of the people on our crew were only there for one or two days, all different, and to organize what trains and buses different people were taking in and out was a miracle. Alexei, one of our Best Boy Electrics, was lost in Grand Central and didn't really speak English so I had to walk him through getting to Port Authority and on a bus to New Jersey over the phone. So when he finally made it to set it was so exciting! Luckily our other producer, Caroline, had a car from the city and could drive people back to NYC at strange hours of the night!
5. How did you wrangle everybody in the Airbnb?
There was one night where we had too many people for the number of beds we had. Originally we were going to split up the crew and have people stay at Austin's house, but we wrapped at 5 am and decided to just squeeze everyone into the Airbnb, so that night not everyone had a bed. It was fun but chaotic, but we felt like it'd be better for morale if everyone was together! But after we ran out of beds, for some people it was like, they'll figure it out. And they did!
6. How did you arrange craft services?
Austin's family friend Sianni was an amazing help with this! She was starting her own catering service and wanted to cater the entire shoot for a flat fee. This was awesome because we got to try out new foods we wouldn't normally have on set, like stuffed peppers and chicken parm pot pie. She was also flexible with working with our late nights and strange dinner times. We really didn't eat out from restaurants but were able to have home cooked meals everyday whether it was from Sianni or Austin's mom and grandmother. It saved money and boosted morale.
7. What is the plan for after the film’s First Run release?
The film's trailer is going to be showcased on Film Shortage. We'll try to submit to the big festivals like Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca but also really take advantage of the niche festivals that cater to us as filmmakers. So festivals in New Jersey, where the film was shot, and black-led festivals and also sci-fi festivals. We have a lot of options which is great!