Catching Up With William Eubank, Director of The Signal

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The Signal is one of those sci-fi movies that you have to be really careful when explaining or else you might spoil the whole thing for people. What I can tell you is that it is an eerie piece of sci-fi cinema that follows three friends (Brenton Twaites, Olivia Cooke and Beau Knapp) on a road trip. They are following a mysterious signal by a computer genius. When they finally reach the signal, some freaky stuff happens (most likely alien abduction stuff), and the three of them find themselves in a hospital being studied by Laurence Fishburne and his team of hazmat-wearing prodders.

When talking to director William Eubank about the making of the film, he divulged a lot of interesting information. It’s good. Really good. Unfortunately, I have edited those parts out because it would just spoil the entire movie for you and would ruin all the WTF surprises the movie has for you. However, the cinematographer-turned-director did say a lot of other interesting things such as his huge idea for his next sci-fi film, his fear of alien abduction, and the things that unleash his inner-fanboy.

Paste: You’ve been showing the film at festivals and special screenings all over the country. How have the reactions been?
William Eubank: What blows my mind is that the scope of the audience is really unique—even age-wise. I always tell people I’m sort of making movies for the teenager version of me to a certain extent. An older couple came up to me in Philadelphia. They were just going on and on and on about it. They loved it so much. They felt like there was things in it that reminded them of older science fiction that they liked. I was like, “Whoa.” To be hitting people that you’re not even really thinking about is a good feeling. It’s always interesting. I think it just depends on the targeted audience.

Paste: Have you always been into sci-fi?
Eubank: I love sci-fi, but my next film is probably not going to be remotely sci-fi. My be-all end-all film that someday I’ll make is major sci-fi. I’m not going to come back to it until I can have the money to do what I want to do. It’s so cool man. It’s honestly one of those ideas that I can go to sleep at night knowing I got one in my pocket. I have an idea that is so crazy…

Paste:’s and idea that you can’t tell anyone?
Eubank: It’s so crazy dude. Anyways, that’s what I’m building up towards. Sometimes I get scared. I got scared with Interstellar. I was like, “Hey, he’s got it. He’s got my idea.” I got a hold of it, and it was way different. It has nothing to do with what I’m trying to do. In fact, it made me kind of smirk and think, “I still got the good one.” (laughs) I have such a crazy thing people are going to trip out about.

Paste: I watched the film not knowing much about it, and it did have this old school Kubrickian feel to it. It’s also one of those science fiction films that was a happy medium between mainstream Star Wars sci-fi and something very conceptual like Under the Skin.
Eubank: Thanks, man. I think that’s who I am inside, and I think that I’ll constantly battle that. I think my next stuff is probably going to be a little more mainstream, but still always trying to get to that heart or that soul at the same time. I think as you get more money to do more things, you’re always going to get into a realm where you have to be maybe a little more commercial. In my first film, Love. It was very conceptual. I’m a fan of the commercial stuff, too. I love that stuff. At a certain point some of the conceptual stuff gets me weary, and I just want to see somebody break out and do something big. Like I said, I grew up watching cartoons, and I still love a lot of that stuff. Dragon Ball Z is one of my favorite things ever. I kind of giggle when I see somebody get crazy.

Paste: Have you always had a fascination with alien abduction? Or have you been scared of it?
Eubank: Are you kidding me? I grew up, and I saw Fire in the Sky! That affected my life as a kid. I was not scared of anything paranormal, ever. I was not scared of ghosts. I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I definitely believed in aliens. The thought of being plucked out of the fish bowl and taken somewhere else is really scary … really, really scary.

Paste: Did you use anything to inform the tone and the characters of this film?
Eubank: The characters are just people that we write. I identify a lot with Nic—it’s Nic’s story. A lot of it is driven through his perspective and whatnot. In terms of the tone of the whole story, because I came up through cinematography and I came up through the visual side of film-making, I’m usually looking at films that I feel I want to emulate in a certain regard. Kubrick is obviously right there. THX is right there, too.

Paste: It’s very stark.
Eubank: That stuff really gets me. I like organic stuff, too. I love movies like Like Crazy or Catfish or even Hanna—that type of film. The very start of the film I wanted it to feel sort of organic, indie and raw, and then for it suddenly to break into this very strangely static tempo’ed in the second part of the film. The third part it just breaks out and goes crazy.

Paste: CGI is a must when it comes to sci-fi filmmaking, but there’s still something very appealing about practical effects. Would you make a whole film with just practical effects?
Eubank:If I could, if I could. There’s a lot of scenes where we do practical stuff because I think it’s just believable. Digital stuff goes through so many iterations of design and development, you end up with a muddied version of what you’re going for. That’s why digital effects often look cheesy sometimes. We did have a lot of digital effects. I tried to keep them down to a minimum. You just felt like you were watching something raw, not like a bunch of crazy shaky camera stuff.

Paste: You mentioned you’re a fanboy of sorts. What are you fanboying about right now?
Eubank: I am going to go see the new X-Men movie. I do love all the Marvel stuff. I really do. I thought Captain America was a lot of fun. I have fun in those movies. I like to eat popcorn and drink a giant soda. That’s my favorite thing. I’m looking forward to Transformers, I got to admit. I’m geeking on all of that stuff right now. I just have a lot of fun in that stuff. I like it when people spend a lot of money on big, crazy things. I like watching Godzilla stomp around with stumpy legs. I’m excited about filmmakers like Gareth Edwards who will go do a small monsters movie and then do a big monster movie.