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Afterglow: What happens after we defeat alien invaders? (Sci-Fi Short and Interview)

Afterglow (2009) is a science fiction short film written and directed by Andres Anglade. It is a story told by a militia officer reporting to his superiors about an incident during his alien patrol. In this world, humanity has repulsed an alien invasion, but it’s still possible part of the enemy remains on Earth. The officer’s job is to find them.

Afterglow has been shown at several film festivals and San Diego Comic-Con, and won the 2009 Director’s Choice for Short Film Category at the Rincón International Film Festival in Puerto Rico. This is director Anglade’s first professional film.

Andres Anglade is of Puerto Rican and German heritage, and currently resides in California. I had the opportunity of interviewing Anglade which was fun because he’s very much “one of us.” He loves science fiction and telling stories through a visual medium. We talked about the short, where he got his inspiration and his work on Battlestar Galactica and NBC’s Community.

Where did you get the idea for Afterglow?
The basic idea came from one simple question “What would happen if an alien invasion happened right now?” What would you do? How would you act? That’s essentially the genesis of the story behind the film. But what I really wanted to explore was how people dealt with an alien invasion after the invasion. They invaded. We won. What comes next?

So Afterglow is from a “common person” point of view instead of the major players?
Yes, exactly. I’ve always been a fan of seeing how “regular” people react to large scale events. I’m also a fan of not showing the big event, but letting people’s imaginations run wild and let them envision what may have happened.

What type of science fiction inspires you?
I’m inspired by a lot of [genre films where] there are moments that you forget they’re science fiction. One of my all time favorite sci-fi films is the original The Day The Earth Stood Still. And with that film, sure you have the classic flying saucer landing on Earth, but the exploration of people’s emotions and reactions to it is so well done. That film holds up today and I always tell people to watch it. A more recent film that explores a new world [that] way was Children Of Men. It was able to explore individual lives in and around much larger issues.
Don’t get me wrong, though, the little kid in me still loves to see the action spectacle and will go see films where stuff blows up, but the ones that inspire me also touch upon the relationships we have. The Abyss is my favorite sci-fi film, and again it has moments where you forget you’re watching a sci-fi film. But the action is spectacular and [director James] Cameron makes us really care about the characters.

Andres Anglade at the Science Fiction Museum

In Afterglow, people are highly suspicious of each other after they defeat the aliens. Is Afterglow an allegory of how we treat others in a post 9/11 world?
We do now live in a world of suspicion and that was definitely a theme I wanted to explore. But again, the most important things for me were the characters. I wasn’t trying to touch upon the issue of torture; it was more of trying to explore the most horrific way someone could just snap after a tragic event.

How did you finance Afterglow?
For financing, I saved up money, and Executive Producer Melissa Scotti helped raise around $3000, which was awesome. And all of that combined was still not enough, so the rest went on credit cards. The final budget for the film ended up being around $12,000. But I also called in a lot of favors. That’s what’s great about being around a film-loving/making community of friends. We all like to help each other out.

Does Afterglow have a future (part two)?
I wrote a few scripts for a webseries and pitched it around, but nothing ever happened. I’m glad it didn’t work out, because looking back at them, the scripts need work. I’ve tried several times to turn it into a feature, which I still want to do, but I have to find the right story to tell. There are so many to tell in that world and I want the right one. I don’t want to settle.

How was winning the Rincón award in Puerto Rico?
It was such a great festival. Doug Lantz [Festival & Programming Director] and everyone involved were so accommodating and generous. Winning the award was surprising and unexpected. Unfortunately I left the day of the awards ceremony, so they gave me an impromptu ceremony out at dinner the night before. It was great!

Tell us about the work you did for the Battlestar Galactica shorts and NBC’s Community. Were you a fan of these shows before you worked on them?
I worked at a company that did all the special features for the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of BSG. Those two special features [Cylons – The Twelve and The Journey] were something that was kind of thrown at me by the producer with an impossible schedule. We managed to turn those in and because of the hard work I put in I was given producer credit on it. It was rough, but I got to know the company editor on it really well, Brian Kelley, and he ended up doing the color correction for Afterglow.
I did watch BSG. It was amazing. I do have to admit, though, a friend tried to get me to watch it way back and I couldn’t get through the mini-series. A few years later I gave it another shot and once I saw [season one, episode one] ‘33’… once you see that, you’re in. I actually got some of my non sci-fi friends into that show.
I’m currently the post coordinator for the show Community. I work with the post department and I love it. I was a fan of the show before I got the job and everyone I work with is really cool. I couldn’t ask for a better crew.

What’s next for you?
Right now I’m in pre-production for my next short that I plan on shooting in Puerto Rico next summer. The script is done, we’re raising money, location scouting, prepping VFX [visual effects] and all the fun stuff.

Watch Afterglow below or here and check out its Facebook page for behind the scenes photos!

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A Latino POTUS on NBC’s The Event? Science Fiction Rocks

The Event First Family Of all the new shows this season on American television, the one I looked forward to the most was NBC’s The Event. Not only is it science fiction and potentially conspiracy related, but it has a solid cast and a Latino First Family (!!!).  So did I like it? Why yes I did! After watching the first two episodes, I found it has the mystery of The 4400 (which has some similarities) and LOST before we started to wonder if the writers knew what they were doing. Unfortunately The Event is flashback heavy- it makes the storytelling unnecessarily convoluted.  I’m hoping that this frenetic jumping around will simmer down soon because it will get old fast. The story doesn’t need more help in being complicated.

[Skip this paragraph to avoid spoilers] So what’s it about? Well so far, a group of individuals with advanced physiology and technology are kept prisoner in an Alaskan facility at Mount Inostranka (meaning foreigner/alien in Russian). After 60 years, the U.S. President learns of these people (let’s call them the Inostranka Group). He tries to get them out but events in the first two episodes change his mind. The Inostranka Group has people outside, and, tired of waiting, are poised to react, possibly violently. Usually these stories have an average character who gets thrust into the middle of things- someone to root for. In this case it’s Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), a guy who just wants to propose to his girlfriend but all this conspiracy stuff gets in the way.

The Event features a U.S. President of Cuban descent, President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood), the First Lady Christina Martinez also of Cuban heritage (Lisa Vidal, Puerto Rican) and their son, David (Sayeed Shahidi). There is  another Latino actor in the series besides Vidal- Gonzalo Menendez (of Cuban heritage). He plays an Air Marshal called Gonzalo MenendezDan Taylor- a minor character listed in 4 episodes on IMDB. Not sure what is up with his accent but I wanted to mention him since he’s had small parts in at least three other genre works- 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Island, and Sliders. All we know about this character is his job, his weird accent, and that he wears a wedding ring. At least he has a name, so who knows? We may see more of him in the series.

Apparently there’s been some controversy about Blair Underwood playing a Latino character of such stature (major character, primetime network TV). I admit I would have preferred a Latino actor because of the shortage of good roles that are custom-made for a Latino. But Underwood is doing a good job so far, and he definitely looks the part. Sure when he speaks Spanish he’s probably going to have a terrible accent that will make me cringe, but so do many second generation Latinos raised in the United States. Plus, the character is a bona fide Afro-Latino which is super rare on TV. Most Latinos on television or in movies are white or light skinned, and that goes for Latin American productions too.

Out of curiosity, I looked up other fictional Latino U.S. presidents. Here they are:

  • Jimmy Smits (Puerto Rican) as President Matthew Santos (Mexican American) in The West Wing
  • John D’Aquino (Italian American) as President Richard Martinez in Cory in the House

In written works (now added to my reading list!):

  • President Juanita Alvarez in Sunstorm by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter (President in 2037)
  • President Joseph Armando in Mars by Ben Bova (first Hispanic president, elected sometime in the early 21st century)
  • President Maria Juarez in: The Light of Other Days by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter (First female President of the United States, for at least one term (2037-2041))

So according to this brief research, President Elias Martinez is the first U.S. President of Latino heritage on a science fiction TV show. But if you’re thinking sci-fi movies, then look no further than President Camacho of Idiocracy:

President Camacho Idiocracy

Yeah, that's right

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Joshua Gómez talks Morgan Grimes in Chuck

Here is a recent two-part Sci Fi Wire interview with Joshua Gómez, who plays our favorite Chuck sidekick Morgan Grimes.  If you haven’t been watching Chuck, you’re missing out on some geeky goodness.  Chuck is about a Nerd Herd tech (think Geek Squad) who involuntarily has a program called the Intersect dumped into his brain. Chuck becomes a CIA and NSA agency asset with top secret information that helps solve spy cases. He is awkward at his new role, especially at the beginning of the series. Joshua plays Chuck’s funny and endearing best friend and coworker. He gets into hilarious situations at the Buy More store along with the rest of the geeky and socially awkward employees. Joshua has acted in other genre titles like Invasion and voiced several video games.

The interview has some Chuck scenes, but if you’re caught up to season 3, episode 9 (Chuck vs The Beard) you should be spoiler-free.

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