The classic movie and TV series “M*A*S*H” focused more on the people directly affected by the Korean War than the actual fighting. In a similar vein, Jabbar Raisani’s “Alien Outpost” looks at soldiers who have been fighting an otherworldly invasion force for far too long.
Raisani, who co-wrote the screenplay with Blake Clifton, said neither of them had made their own film before.“We knew up front that we weren’t going to get a massive budget,” the director explained when reached by phone for an interview. “So we started thinking ‘What can we do that has the sort of scale and grandeur we want, but keep the budget down and tells the story from a limited POV?’”
Set in 2033, “Alien Outpost” is told from the perspective of two filmmakers embedded with the soldiers of Outpost 37. Ten years after the alien Heavies arrived on Earth, the soldiers are still fighting, but their money and support are almost gone.
“We really wanted it to feel like this is two documentarians in the future, that they wanted to tell a story. And they have a narrative that’s important to them,” Raisani said. “Much like our war documentarians nowadays, they usually have a narrative they are trying to tell. That was what we thought was the perfect blend between something that allowed us to think really big, have big ideas, but allowed us to keep the scale limited.”
Mapping out the details
“Alien Outpost” has a natural and organic feel to it, but Raisani said everything was very planned out. “One of the things we knew going into this was we would need to be very, very prepared and know what we needed ahead of time. We didn’t have a lot of time on set; we didn’t have a lot of days to shoot this. It was shot in 24 days,” he explained.
Raisani and Clifton spent four months in South Africa, longer than anyone else on the shoot. They wrote the script based exclusively on the locations they were going to be filming in. “There wasn’t that need for interpretation on the set. We could really get through the shots quickly,” the director offered.
The film features up-close, personal, and very candid interviews with the characters. The documentarians ask them about their lives before and after the Heavies landed. “I knew that with the amount of characters we had and the way we were going to cover this, we needed moments where we could just be with individuals. You could really identify with them as humans and as characters,” Raisani said.
Before they shot anything else, Raisani and Clifton wrote a series of interview questions that they actually went and shot. “We actually got the backstory of each character, and where each character was from. We had a series of five or ten questions, and each guy would answer them very differently based on who they were as a character. We shared that with the actors to help them develop their backstory,” Raisani said.
Actor Joe Reegan’s character, for instance, was originally from San Antonio, Texas: “And he said ‘No, I really don’t feel the character is from there.’ It was a combination of hearing what the guys thought and what they thought of their characters as well.”
“Alien Outpost” is now playing in theaters and on VOD.