Science fiction encompasses a broad range of stories. From blockbuster space adventures and transforming robots to more cerebral cautionary tales that hold a mirror to the path we as a society currently walk, the genre appears limitless in its potential. Writer and director Travis Milloy, a Minnesota native, is trying his hand at the latter with his latest project, Infinity Chamber, out in limited theaters today and coming to Amazon and iTunes on September 26.
The film tells the story of Frank Lerner (Christopher Soren Kelly), who finds himself stuck in an automated prison cell and must outsmart his computerized captor in order to find out what’s become of the outside world. Milloy, known in Hollywood as the writer behind the sci-fi horror film Pandorum, starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, reached out to me to discuss his latest film as well as his own personal journey into the film industry.
Joe Praska (TCG): For readers who aren’t familiar, can you tell us about your Minnesota roots?
Travis Milloy: I grew up in Brainerd, a small town in central Minnesota, attended college in Minneapolis, and worked in the film/TV industry in the Twin Cities for several years, so everything I learned and everything I was a part of in the beginning of my career had roots in Minnesota. I was heavily involved with independent filmmaking in Minneapolis—being part of that world greatly affected me as a storyteller and filmmaker. As a kid, I ran around the woods of Minnesota making home movies, and I made my first feature in Minneapolis and St. Paul back in the ’90s. The state will always be my first and favorite back lot.
TCG: I loved Pandorum. Did you ever intend to further the universe you created in that film? If so, is there a possibility any of those ideas could come to fruition?
Travis: Thank you, and yes, it’s been discussed and we’re currently making plans to try and do a cable series based on Pandorum. When we were making the movie, I had outlined ideas for prequels and sequels, but because the movie didn’t do that well financially, the notion was set aside. But over the years, the fan base has grown, and there is interest in revisiting that world.
TCG: On to Infinity Chamber, I understand you both wrote and directed the film. I see that you did that once before, with the film Street Gun. Could you speak to what it was like directing the films you wrote? What was it like to bring those characters to life?
Travis: It’s a surreal experience. You put it on paper, but when these words are spoken and actors bring their own nuances and personalities into the characters, there’s nothing quite like it. Sometimes it’s not what you envisioned, sometimes it exceeds what you imagined; that’s part of the process and something I find exhilarating.
TCG: In Infinity Chamber, it seems like you aimed for a slow-burn, thoughtful science-fiction film. Did you draw any influence from other works in the genre?
Travis: Absolutely. I think that’s unavoidable. I draw inspiration [from] and am influenced by every movie I’ve ever watched. I can’t really think of a specific movie, but I was definitely inspired and influenced by other writers and directors—from Stanley Kubrick to John Carpenter, from Stephen King to Michael Crichton. I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, so directors who had the most influence on me were people like Walter Hill, Peter Hyams, and Ridley Scott.
TCG: On that note, are there any particular films that inspired you to go into writing or filmmaking in the first place?
Travis: If I had to choose one that had the biggest impact on me, it would have to be Jaws. As a kid, the movie terrified me, and what I found fascinating was how that movie scared the world. It literally altered our society in how we felt about going swimming. The fact that a story and a movie could affect an entire culture was so mind blowing to me. To create a story and a world that could have that much affect on myself and the rest of the world was probably the first trigger that made me want to be part of this art form.
TCG: Could you speak to some of the science and technology pieces behind Infinity Chamber? Particularly the central ideas of Howard, the AI-run prison, or memory-based criminal investigation—did you do your own research on how to bring these ideas to life? Did you have any science consultants?
Travis: I was looking for a story that I could produce at a low budget, something self-contained, low number of actors, et cetera, and I saw a news story about how some prisons in America were saving costs by becoming automated. By having automated systems, it would require less guards and personnel, and being obsessed by my own devices, but I believe doing this movie made me much more aware of it and really put things into perspective. I believe the advancement of technology is twofold—it has amazing benefits and improvements to our world, but it also has some frighteningly negative consequences, depending on how we decide to utilize it or how much we decide to depend on it.
TCG: Can you share any plans for future projects?
Travis: I have several scripts that other directors are preparing to direct, so I’m really excited to see those come to life, and I’m working with other writer-directors to help develop their projects. Whether I’m writing, producing, or directing, I just love the world of filmmaking, so being a part of it on any level is what drives me. I’m starting preparations to launch another movie project, been writing new scripts—the only question is what story to tell. It’s tough because it’s a huge commitment, years of work and lots of time and energy, so I guess you could say I’m gun-shy. The script has to be the right one.
TCG: Is there anything else you’d like to share to Twin Cities Geek readers about Infinity Chamber or any of your other works?
Travis: We’re a very small movie when it comes to Hollywood standards; we made this movie with a fraction of the finance and resources that most movies have, so I’m just hoping it will find an audience. Thanks so much for the interview and helping us try to do that.
Infinity Chamber has a limited premiere in Los Angeles today and will be available to stream or download on Amazon and iTunes video on demand beginning September 26. For more information on the film, visit InfinityChamber.com or follow it on Twitter or Facebook. You can also follow Travis Milloy on Twitter at @TravisMilloy.