Grand Theft Astro - on the Set of Solis

PrintE-mail Written by Roger Crow

It's a Friday night at GSP studios near York, and Steven Ogg has almost finished his first week on the Solis shoot.

The tale of Troy Holloway, an emotionally broken man on a collision course with the sun, is the sort of lean, mean sci-fi adventure that should grab genre fans and those who love tales of survival.

Even if fantasy movies leave you colder than a T-1000 covered in liquid nitrogen, based on Ogg's performance alone on day one of filming, this may convert new fans while pushing the Canadian star into the big leagues.

The movie, written for him by Brit writer/director Carl Strathie, may boast impressive production design by Moon’s Tony Noble, but there's no danger of it stealing the show from its leading, and only man.

For someone weaned on classic, gritty sci-fi movies like Alien and Outland, it's a privilege to be the first journalist allowed on set. And naturally it's a treat to see the magic come alive as the breakout star of GTA V, and more recently Westworld and The Walking Dead, gives the performance of his life.

I grabbed a few minutes with him after a long day, and though Steven might not have been attracted by the sci-fi element, he loved the fact his character was so complex.

Watching a scene unfold with Holloway trying to fix a tech problem reminded me why Ogg was such a compelling sight. (By coincidence I'd recently watched a Walking Dead scene in which he stole the show, and had spent months loving his turn as mo-capped Trevor in GTA V).

There's things that would be the easy choice,” he explains. “So I'm like ’How do I take this (scene) that looks simple and add layers; add flavours to it so it's not one simple flavour?’

On day one, I watched Steven ‘floating’ through a frozen tube, which looked exhausting. I won't explain how he was apparently levitating but it was a stunning sight.

Writer Roger Crow with actor Steven Ogg 

I wondered how physically demanding the shoot had been in the first few days.

So far, because this week we've just been doing that (tube floating), which is good because it's a baptism by fire,” explains Steven. “I'm going to be sitting in a chair a lot (for part of the shoot). Which is great because it's exciting to do this kind of stuff. Flying around on wires, and crawling through that [frozen tube], which is fun.

He adds: “You get little aches, and you use muscles... It doesn't matter how fit you are or how much in shape you think you are, when you put your body in different positions all day on and off...” he exhales, summing up the literally breathtaking nature of the role.

Steven looks as lean as a marathon runner, but it's clear the shoot can take its toll mentally as well as physically.

I probably had a 10-minute window yesterday where nothing could be right with me. Like ‘This [prop] is rubbing on my leg; the earpiece is falling out; I am sitting here and nobody is telling me anything. What's going on?!’ And that little moment... not even 10 minutes; maybe three minutes where everything is falling apart within, and then you take a deep breath and go ’This is SO cool!’ And being grateful, and just appreciating, and everyone here is so great,” he enthuses. “Yeah, you get a little achy, but so f****** what? You're making a movie, in a spaceship!

Ogg dominates the film so he has to carry every scene.

Some projects you might be only working for three or four days on and then have three or four days off. This isn’t that. This is just me, which again is part of the excitement. It's all about me. If it sucks, it's because I'm sucking. I have the ability to make it better or worse depending on my job; how well I do it.

For Carl Strathie, Solis is proof you don't need to spend years at film school to get a feature off the ground. Just some good ideas and a refusal to settle for a nine to five job.

I wanted to be a film director from (when I was) a kid,” he explains during a break. “But when I was making stupid films with my friends I was always like: ‘Make it more serious’.

Watching documentaries like the making of The Lord of the Rings movies inspired Carl to graduate onto bigger projects.

I thought ‘Peter Jackson didn't go to film school; we now have digital (film cameras). What if I save up and just make films?’

So he and Charlette Kilby became a two person film unit, making eight short movies.

She was producing and I was writing and directing,” he explains. “She was always my first A.D. and sound, and I was cameraman.

With each film they attracted more people, so it went from just Carl and Charlette in 2008 to many of the crew that are with them today.

 Writer director Carl Strathie and Producer Charlette Kilby

Like fashion, film styles tend to go in 30-year cycles, so little wonder the clunky throwback feel of films like Alien and Aliens feels right for Solis in 2016-17.

I like the fact the sets are physical. For example, if you push a button it lights up.

Yeah, we went down the more rudimentary route rather than the glitzy sci-fi,” explains Carl. “Like Prometheus, with the touch screens; it's great and it looks good and it's probably accurate, but I prefer the clunky… as if the film is made in the ‘80s.”

It's still early days on the shoot, but it's clear Ogg is too formidable a personality to be overshadowed by the impressive hardware surrounding him.

There's obviously still plenty of work to do, but Strathie is so chilled on his debut feature it's hard to believe he's making such a complex movie with one of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars.

Then again, after three years of trying to get the film off the ground, it's clear this is the fun bit. He's already planned every minute of screen time on paper and with a team of designers. The storyboards alone would make a great coffee table book.

Holloway’s destination might be a raging inferno, but star and crew are cooler than Neptune. As you've probably gathered, we can't wait to see the result.
Header photo by Bart Sienkiewicz

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