What if you could access and download the extraordinary abilities of others as if they were part of a database? That's the intriguing question explored in the new sci-fi thriller MindGamers, co-starring Tom Payne (who plays Jesus on The Walking Dead) and Sam Neill (In the Mouth of Madness, Jurassic Park). With the film coming out in theaters on March 28th, we caught up with co-writer / director Andrew Goth to discuss working with Payne and Neill, the real-life relevance of his latest film, and much more.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Andrew. What attracted you to MindGamers and how did you collaborate with Joanne Reay to come up with this story?
Andrew Goth: Joanne was already into the field of quantum theory and consciousness. I love science, but I’m not that bright. We had to find an entertaining premise that did not exclude a paying audience and that would work on many levels. Some of the real science that has been done, like the transferal of motor skills in rats, allowed us to bring to the story exciting possibilities that everyone can appreciate. What if you could download the skills of a gymnast? What would happen if we could download everyone's skills, all at once? Working this way was the attraction for me.
With virtual reality increasing in popularity, MindGamers has an added layer of relevance. Was the real-life potential of this type of technology on your mind when you were making the film?
Andrew Goth: Neuroscience is a fast-growing field and BCI (brain-computer interface) is already well-established. The newer area is brain-to-brain connectivity. If you Google this and see what’s already possible, it’s pretty mind-blowing (almost literally…). I’m very aware of it and excited by it.
The visual effects in MindGamers are incredible, and you found really intriguing ways to incorporate them into your story. What type of a visual style did you set out to instill in MindGamers?
Andrew Goth: Although the film has a lot of VFX shots, I wanted to keep the world feeling real and very near future. I like working in the widescreen format. The balance is to make sure the reality remains in this stylized world. I did reference some graphic novels with John Pardue, my DP.
Do you have any favorite movies that influenced or inspired you while making MindGamers?
Andrew Goth: There are films and filmmakers that inspire me, not necessarily just for MindGamers, but they have an impact. Sergio Leone was never afraid to deliver giant shots that dwarf the characters, and I work with that in my mind. Filmmakers like David Fincher and Bill Friedkin mess with audience expectations and take things to the limit. I look to that also.
MindGamers stars Tom Payne, who is now widely known as Jesus from The Walking Dead. What was it like working with Tom to bring Jaxon to life?
Andrew Goth: Tom was totally committed to every aspect of the film. He absorbed the science and trained hard for his fight sequence, so he was there in both body and mind. He made my life very easy.
You also direct the amazing Sam Neill in MindGamers. What was your experience working with Neill, who really gets to soak up the screen as Kreutz?
Andrew Goth: I count myself as very lucky to have gotten Sam for the role. Off screen, he was one of the most chilled actors I’ve worked with, but on screen, he dialed up the evil with perfect panache. He doesn’t get to play the bad guy so often, and I think he enjoyed dipping into his dark side with Kreutz. Saying that, he did play the Devil in The Omen III.
When you look back at your time on set, is there a particularly memorable moment that stands out?
Andrew Goth: There are many, but I’d say that one in particular was when Dominique Tipper (who plays Maddie) came on set to show us the run-through of her fight sequence. She’d never done any action in a movie before, so we were all prepared to take it slow and step by step. But she just walked out and blasted her way through four minutes of non-stop combat and totally killed it. The whole crew broke out into spontaneous applause. Do not mess with that woman.
With MindGamers coming out soon, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease?
Andrew Goth: I’m working on a thriller set in Los Angeles. It’s inspired by true events, but the story almost defies belief. So wish me luck with that one.
To learn more about MindGamers and to see if it will be playing in a theater near you, visit the film's official website.