If you watch any war documentaries—you can feel the realism of the firefights and soldiers during conflicts. Now just add invading space aliens to a war.
Director Jabbar Raisani brought a sci-fi alien war on Earth in a documentary point of view in “Alien Outpost.” The film follows documentarians filming a group of soldiers defending a military outpost from aliens in the Middle East.
Latino-Review had an exclusive phone interview with the first-time director and “Games of Thrones” special effects supervisor on bringing the sci-fi war documentary to life.
Latino-Review: Let’s start with this—how you came up with the concept of “Alien Outpost?”
Jabbar Raisani: Sure. I come from a military background. My dad was twenty years in the Air Force and he was a colonel when he retired. The co-writer, Blake Clifton, also came from an extensive family military background through the army. He and I are well adverse in the military and military films. I also love anything sci-fi and action—particularly with aliens. I’ve seen films like “Battle: Los Angeles” and other military sci-fi films.
I thought, “Man, no one has taken a real documentary and add a cool sci-fi element to it. What if we took a military documentary and added aliens?” That was really the inception of the idea.
Latino-Review: Yeah, that was an interesting tact that you went with a documentary feel. Why didn’t you just make a regular standard action movie?
Jabbar Raisani: Part of it is the budget. It’s my first film that I’ve directed. I got the budget that I’ve really wanted. It’s a story told in the documentary POV—so I knew all I had to do is to cover from their POV—the two documentarians. It was really from a practical point of view.
With the budget, I certainly had the limitations so if I could limit myself in the number of shots allowed then I knew I could bring the costs way down.
Latino-Review: Although you did it in the documentary POV, the special effects didn’t feel like a low-budget special effects.
Jabbar Raisani: Yes, I knew that’s one of the places where I would put my money in the special effects. My background is in the special effects [area]. I most recently supervised the effects on “Game of Thrones” season five. I also did work in season three and won an Emmy for that. The visual effects themselves I knew I could get it to the caliber I needed.
I worked with at a certain studio for two and a half years where I met Eddie Yang and spoke with Steve Wang. The two of them are practical effects geniuses. So I asked, “Do you guys are willing to make this creature for this movie?” They were really enthuse and they were the guys who do the top tier stuff in the industry. I oversaw the visual effects of it.
Latino-Review: Wow. It’s pretty impressive. I did wonder though. I wondered if the aliens have laser guns and we ended up without any laser guns. [Chuckles]
Jabbar Raisani: It was hinted in the newsreel footage, which will be stated in the prequel. They came in and decimate our abilities to create new weapons. It was a targeted strike. It would leave us with the tech that we had. The only things that we were able to develop are those red rounds. It’s one of the ways we are able to bring them down.
Latino-Review: Yeah, I saw the red rounds use in the movie. Being on a limited budget on a small film, could you talk about the setting you chose for your storyline? The setting appears somewhere in the Middle East.
Jabbar Raisani: If you look at actual military documentaries, [the regions of] Pakistan and Afghanistan are really varied. I’ve been to Pakistan twice. The landscapes really change drastically. I went through a lot of documentaries and pulled a lot from these real films of these places. We found a place on where we could come close and only make it last more by changing the landscape.
So we shot in South Africa, in which had a lot more grass than Afghanistan and Pakistan. So to create the outpost, we had guys with weed whackers. For three or four days, we just whacked all the grass in the area where we were shooting to create that look and feel.
Latino-Review: With this being your first film and with a special effects background, what was supposedly the greatest challenge for you then?
Jabbar Raisani: One of the challenges for me was just being at the top of the pyramid. Being usually a special effects supervisor, you always had a director to report to. In this case, the producers really trusted me and told me at the end of that “it’s really your creative process and vision.” It really was the first time where there was no one to answer to.
At first, it was really scary and then you just go with your gut. Just follow your instincts. At the end of the day, everyone wants to know on what they should executive. I had a good team in place. There were people I could trust. I didn’t know what the other half of the departments did. All I had to do was ask. I didn’t know anything about makeup so I just asked her, “What do you think of this? What do you need for this?” I had to rely on the people who I’ve surrounded myself with. That’s the best thing you can do.
Latino-Review: It had a lot of military lingo and actions throughout the entire movie. Although you came from a military family yourself, did you have to go with outside consultation to make sure that everything is all correct?
Jabbar Raisani: For the most part, I had to ask Blake in terms of the writing and the lingo. He hits it really on the nail on that stuff. The only outside help we used was with one of our stunt guys came on as a military advisor. So Blake Clifton was on the camera and I directed with the actors—so Mick [Milligan] helped [with the other military stuff]. He was working with the actors with their bodies, movements, motions and being a team. We had the guys do four days of boot camp together. From the morning to the end of each day, they were crawling around with real weapons and real gear to work together as a unit.
Latino-Review: Obviously for “Alien Outpost,” this is just one story. In your head, is there a prequel or sequel you wanted to do some day?
Jabbar Raisani: Absolutely. It’s a quadrilogy really. There are two films that followed this [movie] that will make a trilogy. And then there’s a prequel as well, which is the alien invasion.
Latino-Review: Would you follow with a documentary style or would you follow it with something completely different if you had a chance?
Jabbar Raisani: No, part of it will be on how the audiences react to it and on what they love. My instinct is to go with the regular format film for the next one. It’s just to change it up and make it fresh.
Latino-Review: This movie being your first feature film—it sounds like you definitely want to do this again.
Jabbar Raisani: Absolutely. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but also the rewarding as well.
Latino-Review: From here on out, you’re waiting to see the results of “Alien Outpost.” Could you talk about some of the future projects that you might be working on?
Jabbar Raisani: I optioned a series of books written by Jeremy Robinson of the Jack Sigler series. The first book is called “Pulse,” and it’s the first screenplay I’m adapting right now. Independently of that, Blake Clifton and I are already working on our next project called, “Tracers,” which is a sci-fi thriller.
Latino-Review: Just out of curiosity, what is the lure of science fiction with you?
Jabbar Raisani: I really like world building. With sci-fi, I can have all the characters, all the drama, and the entire thing I like from a standard show. Then I could add on something towards a new world which is very interesting and appealing.
Latino-Review: I thank you for this conversation. It’s very informative.
Jabbar Raisani: Thanks for talking.