Interview

Director Andrew Patterson discusses 'The Vast of Night'

Although most theaters have been closed for the past two months, Americans have begun to re-embrace a classic moviegoing experience: the drive-in. If you’re lucky enough to have one near you, you might have recently caught The Vast of Night, a finely crafted science fiction drama from first time director Andrew Patterson. If not, you’re still in luck. The film is set to debut on Amazon Prime this Friday.

“We started with an idea, probably in 2010,” Patterson tells Moviebill. “It was just a single line that said, ‘Black and white. UFO. New Mexico.’ It was at that point for four and a half or five years before we started developing the script.”

Framed as an episode of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits-esque series, The Vast of Night takes audiences to 1950’s New Mexico where an eager and brilliant young switchboard operator Fay (Sierra McCormick) discovers a strange audio signal that soon has her teaming up with a young radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz).

“[There is] actually a stylized, heightened way that movies have made us feel and we believe they are honest and true,” says Patterson of working with his young stars. “What I do is try to knock all of that off and get them back to natural human behavior. When you do that, a movie lives outside of its window of production beautifully. You can watch a movie from the sixties or from the forties where they aren’t acting like everybody else in that window of time. My top priority is to get my actors to shake off anything that would resemble acting style and then to find honesty in their characters so that they can stay fresh for a 12 hour day.”

That’s one of the reasons that the film is likely to win over even the most sci-fi hesitant audiences. It’s less about the story’s extraordinary circumstances and more about the characters going through them.

“I think that we get cross paths in real life with all sorts of different types of people,” Patterson continues. “Most of those types don’t show up in movies. We were hoping that we were giving a chance for different personalities to show up and in ways that we typically don’t get to see from, you know, an eighty year old woman to a girl that’s probably smarter than everybody else around her, but who has to sort of play ball with the norms of the time. [She’s paired with] a guy that, on a long enough timeline, turns out to sort of be less the protagonist than he starts out to be.”

Directed from a screenplay by James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, Patterson is quick to cite Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 Watergate thriller, All the President’s Men, as a major inspiration for The Vast of Night‘s cinematic style.

“[That one] probably had the deepest effect as far as me learning that you could build an exciting pursuit that’s built around phone calls and pieces of information,” he says. “…[But] you could take any of the Richard Linklater films, like ‘Before Sunrise’ or ‘Before Sunset’. Basically, anything that takes place at night and that deals with a relatively short timeline. There was also a big influence on the visual style, a film from 2014 called ’71’ by, by Yann Demange. If you look at that movie, you can see a lot of influences we had for this one.”

Check out the trailer for The Vast of Night in the player below and catch it this weekend on Amazon Prime:


Silas Lesnick is the Senior Editor of Moviebill. He has been covering entertainment news out of Los Angeles for more than a decade. You can reach him via e-mail or on Twitter.

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