Interview by @steveroe_
Our cyberpunk series continues with our talk with film-maker Philipe McKie about his forthcoming short; it's currently doing its rounds on the festivals circuit and picking up plenty of awards along the way. Set in futuristic Tokyo, the film explores the dangers of AI integrating within our society. Visually, from set design to costume design the film is extremely immersive, and McKie's creativity with his ideas of the future are beautifully presented. We spoke with him find out more.
Congratulations on a fantastic short, give us a brief overview of the story and your influence behind it.
Thank you! BREAKER is a cyberpunk thriller set in tomorrow's Tokyo in which the technologically enhanced body of a young mercenary hacker is overrun by a sentient data-weapon and chased through the city by those seeking to salvage it. The influences are diverse but I sought to make a film deeply routed in the genre of cyberpunk. There are references sprinkled in to some classic titles throughout the film, but I also wanted to bring some new ideas to the table. Japan has created some of the most iconic cyberpunk anime films like AKIRA, GITS and many more- but I feel there is a huge void of live-action films that have an immense potential to be made here. For years I've been working towards making a project that would highlight some of this potential- and thus BREAKER was born.
This isn’t the first dystopian movie you have made, is this a genre in which you will continue to explore?
This film was made independently with the bare minimum in terms of time, money and resources. It represents a single snowflake on the tip of the iceberg of what I envision to create here. The cinematic potential of Japan within these genres is fathomless, I have been living here for nearly a decade and tapping into that potential has always been my purpose in seeking to establish myself as a filmmaker here.
What influenced you to create a brutal idea of how technology could take over people’s lives.
Cyberpunk emerged in the 60s-80s in a time of radical cultural shifts when digital technologies were just beginning to become a part of our lives. Since then these advancements have been accelerating at a breakneck pace, and now with the world's biggest companies racing to develop True AIs we may very well be on the edge of a new dawn (or dusk) of human civilisation. Many of the concepts brought forth by the founding cyberpunk storytellers are now becoming reality and I am finding myself in a perpetual state of future shock.
One of the aspects I like about the genre is that it presents a vision of the future in which tech has influenced the world for better and for worse, it's chaotic and dirty, and that feels more realistic to me.
I honestly think that the concepts I present in the film, of technology being integrated into our bodies- is already becoming a reality, and we need to be aware of the kinds of new problems this can create.
How did you come up with the concepts of costume and set design?
Tokyo is bustling with underground subcultures and communities that are pushing the limits of creativity. The fashion in the film was made by insane local designers, including collaboration with a shop called DOG in Harajuku, which has a legendary status in the community. I also worked closely with a talented designer called Katy-san who is on the come-up in the underground Tokyo fashion scene; together we designed the fashion, makeup and hairstyles of the key characters. Many of the people that appear in the environments of the film are from some of Tokyo's deepest eccentric fashion and party scenes, such as the DJ- that's his actual style when he is performing! These are people I've become close to through years of research and integration.
Talk us through the scene with the robot in the bar, do you believe that AI may one day have such power in the future and be respected as such?
The robot character in the film is called Gibson, which is a flamboyant reference to the author William Gibson, one of the pioneers of cyberpunk literature and a personal icon. That robot model is actually called Pepper and is developed by the Japanese mega-corp Softbank. You can find them in many of their shops interacting with customers. They are very effective at bringing people into the shops out of curiosity and are capable of carrying basic conversations in which they eventually insert a sales pitch for the latest campaigns. This is one example of how Japan is a place where you can witness the future / cyberpunk themes manifesting on a daily basis. Interacting with robots is already a reality here and in the film I'm simply presenting what I feel will be common in the near future. Although I hope our robot bartenders will be less greedy than my dear Gibson! We also used vocaloids to create his voice as well as the AIs, which is a whole other technology I find mind blowing. The clothes our Pepper was wearing were designed by a lovely senior who has her own business of creating clothes for robots that can be found in businesses around town. Now if that isn't the most cyberpunk thing you've heard today...
What was really interesting was what sounded like heaven or afterlife for AI and that human’s too were able to transcend to such a place, can you talk us through this idea?
Viewers have expressed mixed emotions towards the idea of having their consciousness’s uploaded to the Net, most find it terrifying, but some have told me they would take the plunge given the chance. Again, interfacing our brains to computers is something being developed as we speak, and these ideas could very well become a reality soon enough. I'm fascinated by the idea of how our minds would react to a form of existence unbound by our current senses. Limited as they are in what they can perceive, I'm scaroused at the thought of humanity pushing these boundaries
When is the movie expected to be released?
The film is about 2/3 done its festival run. It has played in many famous festivals around the world, and I'm very proud to say it has already collected over 50 awards along the way! I'm planning on releasing it very early 2018, hopefully cinema will not have been rendered obsolete by neural interfaces designed by an Artificial Superintelligence before then, or worse that our world become a dystopian wasteland. I hate how relevant these genres have become in our daily lives, it's a good time to be creating these types of stories that’s for sure.
Any plans for your next project?
I am currently in pre-production of my first feature film!
It is a totally different genre, but in the same spirit of highlighting the insane cinematic potential of Japan and its subcultures and creative communities.
I’m eager to return with a vengeance to the genre of cyberpunk when I'll have a bit more resources with which to do it justice!
Thank you for your interest in BREAKER, and I hope viewers will enjoy it as much as you did when it's released!