Stressed by everyone from the cast of FX’s Devs to the creator Alex Garland, during both the panel and press room at New York Comic Con, was the spirit of collaboration on set — a collaboration so fruitful that the Ex Machina and Annihilation director still thinks there are more stories to tell with the same team.
When Flickering Myth asked Garland about the value that collaboration brings to his productions, he pointed out that he typically works with the same behind-the-scenes crew across different projects.
He said, “The visual effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst, also was visual effects supervisor on Ex Machina and Annihilation, we know each other really well. Rob [Hardy], the director of photography, we can finish each other’s sentences. We’ll walk into a room and we’ll immediately start talking about, ‘Oh you can put a camera here or there.’”
Sonoya Mizuno was the only actor in the main cast of Devs who had worked with Garland before — on his first two directorial efforts. Everybody else, including actors Karl Glusman, Nick Offerman, Allison Pill and more, was new to the mind-bending world of the science fiction-focused filmmaker.
“So, then there’s this nice thing, which is so you’ve got a crew which has worked together a lot and then a bunch of actors arrive who don’t know the crew, but by the end of it everybody knows everybody,” said Garland. “That’s just a lovely thing, that’s a lovely thing.”
Despite some having labeled Garland an auteur, which can sometimes carry around a negative connotation — perhaps of a demanding director barking orders at their crew — he himself is committed to making a set a pleasant place to be.
“I can never understand why there are filmmakers who seem to go out of there way to make film sets an unpleasant place. Like they scream, they act like fascists, they’re non-collegiate. It’s almost like they take a perverse pleasure in making it as unpleasant of a process as possible. I just, I like everybody I work with. Actually, I really like. I mean I really like. I mean these two people I really like [Pill and Mizuno], and I really like the crew and it’s a pleasure. So the reason is it’s just a nicer way to live a life.”
While even the premiere of Devs is still a few months away, with an expected air date sometime in spring 2020, on the panel, Garland revealed he is already thinking ahead about how he can bring the cast and crew back for more.
“What I really want to do, Devs is a one-off, but what I want to do is to try this again with exactly the same cast, with a completely different story, and I think that might be an interesting thing to do,” said Garland. “And now, hopefully, they are part of the collection of the crew, and it’s got a sort of forward-looking family vibe about it, I guess.”
The cast revealed that they knew about Garland’s plan to make the show an anthology of sorts and unsurprisingly were tight-lipped on further details, but seemed to indicate that they’d be on board for whatever story were to come out of the writer-director’s mind next.
“All good actors, all of them, always make it better than you thought it was going to be,” said Garland when asked by another reporter about how actors surprised him with his own material. “Again, that’s what’s great about collaboration. You get this amazing, sort of, an emergent property of all these people, which is then the film or the TV show … If I was controlling everything, and this is not false modesty, it would just be less good. It’s just as simple as that. And it’s also that’s part of the pleasure.
“At the end, you get a frame. You get a frame of film and you’ve got screenwriter, actors, director of photography, the gaffer doing the lighting, the composers, the visual effects artists, all of these people, it’s like an orchestra hitting the most elegant beautiful harmony … fucking spectacular. Spectacular.”
When asked by Flickering Myth what keeps her returning to Garland’s projects, Mizuno replied, “I think for an actor, it’s really nice to do something meaningful and it’s not very often that you come across writing like his. So there’s that. And there’s something about his work and his writing and his [characters], which is kind of subversive and strange, and it’s something that I’m just drawn to in other creative people, I think.”
Devs is an eight-episode miniseries that also stars Zach Grenier (The Good Wife), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Lady Bird), Cailee Spaeny (Bad Times at the El Royale) and Jin Ha (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert).