Noah Hutton Discusses His Sci-Fi Comedy Drama Lapsis – SXSW Filmmaker In Focus

The 2020 SXSW Film Festival is almost here! We can’t wait to have you here to celebrate another year filled with movies, high-caliber talent, and unique performances. In the mean time, take a look at the films in our lineup a little bit better with our Filmmaker In Focus series.

Check out our Q&A with director Noah Hutton as he tells us about his film Lapsis, which will World Premiere in the Narrative Feature Competition.

“I think this film has a spirit that feels absolutely infused with the SXSW vibe. It has a fiercely independent, off-kilter spirit that was created by a group of people who completely dedicated themselves to building its world from scratch, with a lot of good luck and blessings from the weather gods along the way.” – Director Noah Hutton

In your own words, what does this film mean to you?

Noah Hutton: This is a story about a struggle between human workers and technology-for-profit that depends on collective action. And those political dimensions of the story were reflected in how we made the film.

We tried to stay acutely aware of relations on set while making the film, and to do so, we adhered to a production handbook which is available as an open source document on our production company’s website, which focuses on equity, humility and solidarity, supportive openness, and an orientation to process. So in this way, the film’s meaning to me is found in its on-screen material just as much as in its methods.

What motivated you to tell this story?

NH: I think the financial sector, which governs so much of the society we live in, is incredibly abstract. Even after the 2008 collapse, we accept its ways as normal, but the logics and inner workings of futures markets and Wall Street speculation are abstract fictions in and of themselves, and too often deeply harmful ones.

I wanted to create a world that materializes these abstract forces of the financial world in the very real, very tiring and very hard labor of real people trying to make a living in a precarious gig economy. So the film takes place in what we call a “parallel present,” which feels both familiar and new. This gave us an opportunity to explore the way our world is now and the places our world might be heading. The central characters in this world came from a personal place, and the decisions they’re faced with are the ones that motivated me to make this work. Do I look out for myself and my family first, or do I sacrifice something in the short term to join a larger fight?

What do you want the audience to take away?

NH: A lot of the sci-fi I see is what I’d call “white collar sci-fi”, focused on an elite few in a privileged class, making use of futuristic technology. Conversely, this film is blue collar sci-fi. I want the audience to wonder what the impact of new technologies might really have on working people.

Now, the corridors of SXSW are usually chock full of technological futurists. So I want this film to enter conversations not by glorifying technology as a panacea, but by centering the experience of working people affected by those technologies.

The film thrusts its main character into a world in which quantum computing has taken over, but the core struggles are still age-old. I’m interested in someone seeing this film and then the next day going to a panel discussion in the conference on the possibilities and potentials of quantum computing, and then I’d like to hear their combined take away afterwards.

What were you doing when you found out you were coming to SXSW?

NH: I was at dinner with my family. I had taken out my phone to try to show someone which disney character I had landed on that Instagram filter. I happened to see the SXSW email, and then I rudely interrupted everyone’s conversation to announce the good news.

What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?

NH: I think this film has a spirit that feels absolutely infused with the SXSW vibe. It has a fiercely independent, off-kilter spirit that was created by a group of people who completely dedicated themselves to building its world from scratch, with a lot of good luck and blessings from the weather gods along the way. I like that audiences at SXSW can be made up of people from different worlds beyond just the film industry, so it’s a dream festival to premiere a film that deals with technology, automation, and the political realities of the gig economy.

Do you have a past experience at SXSW that impacted your decision to come back?

NH: I have truly grown up at SXSW. This is my first narrative feature, but I’ve previously shown my first two documentary features here, starting in 2009, and then in 2015. I was 22 that first time around, showing a documentary I had made about the oil boom in North Dakota.

I was overwhelmed, but had a great time in Austin despite getting hit hard by a massive cedar pollen bloom that year. Nonetheless, I kept coming back, and have been fortunate to find a home here to keep showing work, and this time feels like the first time all over again now with a narrative film. I love the festival, I love the people who run the festival, and people I’ve met through the festival will be part of my life forever.

Add Lapsis to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2020 filmmakers!

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Lapsis – Photo courtesy of film

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