Aurora Fearnley won Enter the Pitch with her film idea,Pulsar, in 2014. Starring David Gyasi and Jessie Buckley, the film is inspired by the story of Jonah. It tells the story of a peacemaker who, after rejecting his final mission to save a war-torn planet, believes he is cursed when his spaceship is struck by a solar storm.
As an ambitious sci-fi film that explores themes like prejudice and tolerance alongside huge visual effects, Pulsar is a short film that packs a punch.
Enter The Pitch (ETP):Pulsar is an epic-scale sci-fi but it's also a short film. Was it challenging to bring this scale into the timeframe of a short film?
Aurora Fearnley (AF):I knew that it was always go big or go home with this idea. Once the project was greenlit, I knew I had a lot of work and commitment ahead to bring the ambition of the film to the screen. I believe an audience will settle into the story’s world from the film’s opening. So I knew that we had to set up the scale and intention of the film from the start.
ETP:What do you think is the biggest lesson you've learnt from making Pulsar?
AF:Working with a top VFX team has taught me a huge amount about the process both in prep and post for shooting a sci-fi film. The rule here is you need more time and you need more money than you think for VFX to look top quality and consistent.
ETP:What made you realise filmmaking was a career you wanted to pursue?
AF:Wanting to make films and tell stories has been in my makeup for so long that I don't have a moment or event that put me on the path. I was acting as a kid, writing plays as a teen and directing before I was in university. I feel that it’s always been there, from earliest childhood memories.
ETP:How did you go about creating a fresh, new idea using a story that many people know so well? Is that hard to do these days?
AF:I think it comes down to who is telling the story and how they choose to tell it. The unique elements that we respond to usually come from the storytellers’ own experience or life and therefore we’re often seeing original material.
ETP:Would you say that your original vision for Pulsar has changed a lot in the process of filming?
AF:Both the producers and I knew from the outset it would be a journey of compromise. I made the decision to work on the script with a VFX line producer overseeing. The writing was hard, getting the story contained and stripped to its core. In my head there was an entire universe surrounding the story world, but the narrative is kept simple.
ETP:You’ve said that the inner struggle of Jonah appealed to you. Do you hope the film can offer a kind of moral lesson?
AF:The deep and universal truths of Jonah aren’t connected to morality but to humanity. It is his faults and fears, that inner struggle of Jonah, which is relatable to everyone who wants a second chance.
ETP:Finally, what advice would you give to someone considering entering The Pitch?
AF:Forget that it is a competition. Instead, look only at what excites you and a story that truly connects to something you want to say as a filmmaker.