Original sci-fi world with timely political themes: The film imagines a gig economy organized around a boom in quantum computing where predatory corporate forces threaten everyday workers tasked with the work needed to lay this new quantum infrastructure in rural areas. This work takes the form of laying cable through huge swaths of forests, connecting massive cubic transistors. The film portrays human laborers who are forced to work without basic protections and are often robbed of their routes by automated cabling robots. These themes are central to some of the political discourse surrounding the 2020 presidential campaign, raised by Andrew Yang and others, about the threat of automation and the issues faced by gig economy laborers around the world. They are also part of the growing awareness of the exploitation of workers subcontracted by big tech giants like Amazon, kept on timers and forced to sacrifice basic physical comforts in order to compete for their paychecks.
A twist on the sci-fi genre: Lapsis is a genre film, using sci-fi in similar ways to shows like Black Mirror. But instead of focusing on a glitzy, high tech, white-collar world like so many other sci-fi films and shows do, Lapsis is blue-collar sci-fi. It’s a gritty story of the messy exploitative underbelly that tech companies often rely on to uphold their glossy facades.
Noah Hutton as first-time narrative director, bringing this world into focus: Noah wrote the original screenplay for Lapsis and rounded up a team of collaborators to make the world of the film come to life in upstate New York last summer. His vision included an army of automated robots, so he sought out a robotics lab at UPenn that had just the right solution for Lapsis. Working on a tight schedule with a diverse cast of over forty speaking parts, the weather gods cooperated and the film was shot in twenty-six days.
Noah Hutton as writer, director, composer, AND editor: Noah is a swiss army knife of talents. Directly after production wrapped, Noah started editing and scoring Lapsis. Noah has scored all his films, including his shorts, his previous two documentary features, and his upcoming documentary feature presented by Sandbox Films, In Silico.
A personal film: The ailing younger brother storyline is personal and autobiographical for Noah, and so the decision to cast his real-life brother, Babe Howard, as the younger brother character, Jamie, helped to ground the character building in authenticity and elevate the story’s stakes.
The making of the film mirrored the message of the film: Director Noah Hutton distributed a production handbook (which is publicly available online and open-source), adapted from the lab handbook of CLEAR, a queer, feminist, radical ocean plastics lab in Newfoundland that Hutton previously made a short documentary about for The Atlantic. On the set of Lapsis, the production handbook enforced a set of policies meant to increase the equity amongst members of the crew. This included sharp policies on sexual harassment, no unpaid labor, and building in all full-time crew to the backend profit structure of the film.
Diverse cast: Cast featured over 40 speaking roles and nearly 150 total roles including background. The production fulfilled SAG’s diversity incentive and included two trans actors playing non-trans characters in key supporting roles (Ivory Aquino as JO and Pooya Mohseni as NOORI CAPAHARDI).
Production: Lapsis shot 26 days in upstate New York and in Queens. The production was on time and on budget. The entirety of the film’s budget was independently financed.
Visual aesthetic: Lapsis is unique in the sci-fi genre as it contains zero SFX. The world is built entirely practically to be presented in-camera, with key props emerging from the collaboration between Noah and Alexander Linde (Production Designer) and expertly constructed by the production design department. As a result of these creative choices, Lapsis has a retro-futuristic design, and a big, epic feel in spite of its low budget. Original animations for the CBLR training videos, check-in kiosks, and GPS devices were created by Emmy award-winning animator Paris Glickman.