Virtual reality and video game adaptations are hot on everyone’s tongues at the moment, meaning Charles Baker’s debut feature THE CALL UP is poised to make a comment on these matters, where today’s digitally enhanced society consumes digital media more than ever before.
We recently had a chat with one of the film’s stars, Ali Cook, and today we managed to ask Baker a few questions about his riveting indie sci-fi thriller. To be discussed: the joys of bringing one’s passion to life, the effects of virtual reality in today’s world, and why THE CALL UP is miles better than HARDCORE HENRY!
ScreenRelish: Can you tell our readers what this film is all about?
Charles Baker: A group of online gamers receive a mysterious invitation to trial a state-of-the-art virtual reality game. Arriving at an empty skyscraper they step into high-tech gear that brings modern warfare to life with dazzling realism. But things quickly take a turn for the sinister. Once the group are attacked by enemy combatants, they realize that this is no game. Make a mistake here and you pay with your life.
ScreenRelish: What made you want to produce this film?
Charles Baker: It brings together two of my greatest passions – cinema and gaming. It’s the love child of CALL OF DUTY and TRON! And I was really excited about visually representing the concept of augmented reality. Being in two environments simultaneously and going back and forth by raising and lifting a visor. I knew this would be visually arresting and fun.
ScreenRelish: The visuals in THE CALL UP are strangely, yet gorgeously, understated. How did you create them?
Charles Baker: Thanks! Even though film is about computer games and CGI, most of the effects were done in-camera. There was hardly any bluescreen. The game’s computer effects are so good they’re ‘real’! I love practical effects. One of my favorite thriller-horrors is THE THING – the Carpenter one, of course. The computer generated wartorn world was created simply by redressing the white sterile office. We used real machine-gun fire and prosthetics for the wounds. The main place where I used CGI was in the initial transformation sequence (where the post house did a brilliant job). This helped sell the rest of the film’s practical look as CGI.
ScreenRelish: Much of THE CALL UP feels like a comment on our growing fondness for VR. Would you agree?
Charles Baker: Yes, VR takes immersion to a whole new level. Who wouldn’t want to test out a game like THE CALL UP? You can enter a world in which anything is possible – you can be whoever you want to be, wherever you want to be – a waking dream. As a kid I’d never have imagined that this would be possible in my lifetime – the technology represented in the film really isn’t far off. I believe VR is going to be a game changer in much the same way as cinema changed the world over a century ago. However, the question is does VR have a practical purpose or is it about pure escapism? Could it even have a more sinister use?
ScreenRelish: What would you say THE CALL UP offers that other contemporary video game movies don’t, such as HARDCORE HENRY or WRECK-IT RALPH?
Charles Baker: The main difference is that in my film there are two worlds that co-exist. I was really interested in the spark that’s created by going back and forth between the two. The characters in the story are caught between a nightmare shoot-’em-up that kills you, and in the real world a helmet and suit that kills you as well. So there’s great tension because they’re not safe in either world, and they just have to push on forward and struggle through the levels to get out.
Check out the trailer and poster for THE CALL UP below, and find out more via the film’s website here!