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HomeCosta RicaDirector Gustavo Cosenza Talks About Costa Rica’s New Science Fiction Film: Orbita...

Director Gustavo Cosenza Talks About Costa Rica’s New Science Fiction Film: Orbita Prima

The newly released feature film Orbita Prima currently in Costa Rican movie theaters  represents an ambitious step for Costa Rican cinema. I personally enjoyed  the film very much, finding myself lost at times within its complex story threads,which fortunately at the end of the film all make sense. The complexity of the story, the style in which the threads are woven together and wrapped up left me feeling I had experienced something thought provoking and inspiring. Not all science fiction movies achieve that or for that matter, even make the attempt.

The characters in Orbita Prima are compelling and often funny, effectively transmitting  a unique Costa Rican style and syntax, though the film makes no specific reference to any country. This human warmth is a welcome contrast to the brutal, technologically manipulated future portrayed in the film. The fact that Orbita Prima was made at all is an achievement and reflects admirably on Costa Rica’s homegrown film industry and professional acting community.

I had the opportunity to converse with Gustavo Cosenza, the film’s director and screenplay writer about the challenges of developing and producing an independent feature length science fiction film.

Orbita Prima is a very stylish production with production values and atmospheres that evoke Dark Mirror, Oblivion and Interstellar. Were those kinds of films influential for you?

Definitely, these influences are super present in Orbita Prima, I have always followed these kinds of stories that move us out of this world and help us travel into another reality. It’s also important to be aware of what kind of stories are selling well in the markets, what people are watching and why they are watching this. The way some of these sci-fi or fantasy movies connect with the audience is very unique.

Where did you derive the inspiration to tell this story? What message do you hope viewers will come away with after watching it?

My dad is a pilot; space and adventure have always been in my family. Since I was a kid I remember seeing rockets lift off, I haven’t been able to see one in person but the sole realization that a human is being pushed out of this planet is amazing. It’s  a showcase of what we as humans have achieved. Orbita Prima was born out of these ideas, out of these images, and thinking about what it would take for us, as humanity, to evacuate the planet.

I think in Latin America the definition of family, love, and unity is quite unique. We have been through a lot over our history, and this has created a strong identity and a special way of thinking. I think Orbita Prima  is a Latin American story that tries to highlight the importance of family, love and unity.

One of the strengths of Orbita Prima is the quality of the actors who all give solid, compelling performances. Please tell us something about the casting process and the interactions between the actors and crew while filming the movie.

An open casting call was done a couple of months prior to shooting the film, we received over 250 people in two days and it felt great to have such a great response in that regard. We did a second call with our selection and did some camera tests, to see the chemistry between our actors. After that we made our selection.

The majority of lead and supporting actors are theatrically trained, they all come from different theater schools in Costa Rica. We wanted this for Orbita Prima because we already knew we needed to do a lot  in very little time. Our production days were very intense in challenging locations, fighting against the weather, the elements, and sometimes the ocean. Our actors were absolutely wonderful to work with, they were always ready to go no matter if they had little sleep the night before or we had little time because a giant storm was approaching, or the sun was setting, they were always ready and super professional. The kids we had on set were also super talented and they had a special challenge to be able to work with professional actors and actresses but they managed to pull off  great performances. There is so much potential in these young talents.

What were the greatest personal  and technical challenges you faced in making this film? What was your favorite and least favorite part of the entire process?

I have been working for the last 12 years on video production for brands and organizations but this is a whole different thing, especially as a first film. The sci-fi genre has some very specific challenges for everyone involved. We  needed to create an alternate reality and convince our audience that it was real so there were so many details that had to be taken care of. The solving of more than 600 special effects was especially challenging because we wanted them to complement the story and help us get our audience involved in  the story with good-quality images, but our time and budget were limited. Our VFX supervisor Jackeline Villalobos had to plan out a strategy to figure this out. We were 7 people and it took us 14 months to make this happen. 

I think everyone that took part in this project learned so much along the way. This is my favorite part of this whole process, everyone managed to have the right mindset to get it done. And my least favorite is maybe not being able to keep some of the props and sets we built for the movie, but they were too big and bulky to keep. It was amazing what Carlos Madrigal, our set builder, put together in a week. It was a hexagon-like structure where you could walk through and see a beautiful window, based on the famous International Space station window where you can see the Earth from space. I think this set looked terrific in the film so it made it all worth it.

Are their plans for an English dubbed version for the film?

Orbita Prima is currently represented by our US sales agent in all the most important markets in the world, so it’s quite possible that we’ll have a dubbed version and even a theatrical release in the US. We’ll keep you posted on this.

Are you planning to make more science fiction films? What project(s) are you working on now?

Orbita Prima  has been such a journey for me that I’ll probably need some time shooting another kind of movie, to apply everything I learned from this first experience. I do have one film script in an early stage that has zombies in it and another one that is more of a coming-of-age film, but with a fantasy twist. But I’m open to everything. If an opportunity comes up on another sci-fi film I’ll probably go for it. It’s great to be able to create our own Latin American film genreS and I think we can offer a fresh take on stories to the world.

Do you have any advice for young filmmakers interested in making their own science fiction films?

Just go for it. Yes, plan it out, yes save money and prepare yourself mentally, technically, and physically, but just go for it. Something I always suggest to upcoming filmmakers is to go to markets and film festivals around the world. Just go there and try to absorb what the industry really is, enjoy your time there, and always be learning and talking to people. I did this and learned so much, and met so many amazing and inspiring people. It is a must if you want to get into this. 

Any other thoughts you would like to share about Orbita Prima?

Just to invite everyone to theaters while we are still there. This movie was made to be seen on a giant screen surrounded by sound and music, created by an amazing LA-based Costa Rican composer named Andres Soto. (The soundtrack can be heard in Spotify). 

And thank you for this story, it’s great to be able to speak to our English speaking audience in Costa Rica.

Orbita Prima’s trailer can be seen here:

The film’s soundtrack can heard here:

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