The director of the hit sci-fi film answers all our questions.
Following the success of his acclaimed 2018 sci-fi action thriller Occupationfilmmaker Luke Sparke returned to direct the sequel, occupation: rain, which is now streaming on Netflix. To celebrate the film’s release, we interviewed Sparke about occupation: rain. He offered us a detailed insight into the development process for the highly anticipated blockbuster sequel. You can read the full interview below, but keep in mind that it contains spoilers, so you might want to wait until you see the movie.
occupation: rain sees Dan Ewing return as Matt Simmons, a human soldier tasked with locating a mysterious artifact dubbed “Rainfall”, which may hold the key to defeating alien invaders. The film also stars Daniel Gillies, Jet Tranter, Brad McMurray, Mark Coles Smith, Ken Jeong and Boba Fett’s Book actor Temuera Morrison. We rated it four out of five in our review, and called it “a hugely entertaining viewing experience”. This is a sci-fi action blockbuster that fans of sci-fi and action should not miss.
Dread Central: Have you ever planned to do a sequel to Occupationand what prompted you to continue the story from this point?
Luke Sparke: Actually, I had no intention of doing a sequel to Occupation. It was just one more movie on my list and then I was going to move on. I like endings that are a bit open, so I always wrote it with the heroes keeping the good fight going. It has always been there. It wasn’t until I was in the editing process that the idea for a sequel came to me. It was a scene where Temuera Morrison punched an alien in the head after talking to Amelia’s character about how worlds are never the same after being invaded or colonized. This aspect and the extraterrestrial point of view spoke to me in the edit and formed the basis for continuing this story with increasingly involved extraterrestrial characters. This led to the alien hero ‘Gary’ in Occupation: precipitation.
DC: One of the most striking aspects of occupation: rain were the blockbuster-level effects, which looked as impressive as anything in major Hollywood productions. Can you tell us about the process of creating these impressive visual sequences?
LS: It was a steep learning curve, because the movie is actually still within the definition of an “Indie” movie, just on a grand scale. We’ve had lots of conversations with pros about tips and ideas. Then we set out to find a team that could tackle all of that. Lots of freelancers joined, and then some of the bigger visual effects houses in Australia were a bit free because of the early Covid lockdowns, so they joined too. But it was always up to me and my VFX supervisor to sign everything and learn and give ideas and even do whatever we could internally. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning doing everything.
DC: And how did you go about filming the physical action sequences?
LS: Because we were an “indie” with a huge script, we had to come up with all the ideas for the book to get the shoot done. One of the most important was to shoot the film in “blocks” and film certain actors or sets. Then we would take a break and come back months later with more funding or a new cast, etc. This in itself was a huge task for everyone involved with a lot of planning. Again, I was doing night shooting schedules for the coming week. My two producers worked ten jobs in the office. One of the actors – Zac Garred – starred there and helped produce. Our other co-producer was doing the job of assistant director and VFX supervisor in one. In the end, every member of the crew pitched in to help make it happen. It was really hard work, but it was the quality of our final team and our cast that made it all happen.
CC : occupation: rain also boasts some impressive creature designs, including horse-like aliens that were used as steeds by the main characters, and a giant monster that attempts to destroy everything in sight. Was it a pleasant experience to participate in the design of these fantastic creatures before creating them on the screen?
LS: It was! They were all part of this world I’m trying to build. The Vox (alien horse) came in the last drafts of the script and at first they were just riding horses, which I thought would be fun to see, an alien on a horse, but later I decided it would be even more fun to explore their wildlife on Earth. I let the designers continue with ideas until they were what I saw in my head, but it’s also great to let the creatives explore their own ideas and see how you can incorporate it all. Then we previewed those scenes so the cast and crew could see what was going to happen.
DC: Many of the cast members from the previous film, including Dan Ewing, Temuera Morrison and Trystan Go, all returned for Occupation: precipitation. Was it a joy to be able to work with all of them again, and can you talk about the new cast members as well?
LS: I envisioned this as a first chapter in its own story, and righting some wrongs that may have been in occupation: rain but I wanted to bring back as many actors and characters as possible, since it was the same world. So it was fantastic when the majority came back to have another round on the battlefield. Each slipped into their character or talked about what could or has changed for them. The new cast like Ken Jeong, Daniel Gillies, Lawrence Makoare, Mark Coles Smith, Jet Tranter and many more really allowed me to focus on the bigger picture. They had watched occupation: rain and just “understood” for what I was trying to get out of and where they would fit into this set.
DC: You also explored themes of wartime morality throughout the film, which must have been a pretty difficult topic to tackle?
LS: That’s a big part of what pushed me to continue this story. I’ve spent many years, almost my whole life in fact, studying history as part of my family business and my heritage, so it really interests me and is still pretty close to my mind. History does not always repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The first thing I wanted in the ending of the first movie wasn’t a cliche where you destroy a command ship and all the armies fall. War is messy. So I watched the end of World War I and the handshake treaty to end it, only to have World War II a few decades later. And German and Japanese citizens had already moved away and engaged with the allies. Applying that to Rainfall, I opened the movie with the war still raging and not looking good, but the aliens have joined our cause and it’s growing. It was important to me.
Another important factor then was the different sides to look at. You have the character of Amelia who champions inclusion in the ranks to create a new future, and a high Wing Commander who is just looking to do whatever it takes to save humanity. It was really interesting to see the reaction from both sides. People would come up to me after the screenings and tell me which side they were on. Some very interesting insights!
DC: Would you like to see more blockbuster movies like this come out of Australia?
LS: Of course I would! That was another big part of getting there – showing that something like this is doable if you really want it and that there’s an international market for films like these with Australian distribution. I’m really proud that the film did well in the world, and I hope there’s at least one Australian director who sees this and does something big on their own – even if you have to do the heavy lifting. work yourself as a freelancer.
DC: Finally, occupation: rain ends with setting up a sequel, so can you talk about the upcoming third film in the franchise?
LS: Is this the third film in the franchise or the 2nd in the Rainfall series? Guess you’ll have to wait and see… What I can say is where we left it now the alien high command has the ultimate weapon in their hands so it’s not good for the hero. I plan to open up the world more, you know kinda like the die hard movies when they get a bigger slot with each movie. Thus, the world will expand, the tradition will expand. We will see new characters with the returning cast and more creatures. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. A celebration of science fiction!