Approached by Jarred Land, President at Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, to put their Monstro 8K camera through it’s paces, director of photography Christopher Probst decided to put it through some strenuous testing by using it in “several varied lighting conditions and harsh production environments”. The result is Epoch, a visually impressive science-fiction/horror short, Land made with long-term collaborator Rich Lee.
If you’re reading the log line for Epoch and thinking it sounds like something you’ve seen before, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Narratively, Lee’s 14-minute film isn’t the most original, although considering it started off as a project to test a camera, it’s got a lot more story than you might expect.
A little slow in starting, Epoch follows a lone survivor across a post-apocalyptic wasteland as she searches for supplies, though the short picks up pace and delivers a strong twist in its final third, you can’t help but feel like this is a journey you’ve experienced before.
Where Epoch excels though is in its aesthetic. Visually the film is outstanding and the sense of scale Lee, Land and their crew achieve with their world building is akin to what you might expect to find in a feature film.
When discussing, with my Short of the Week colleague Jason Sondhi, whether to feature Epoch on our site, we felt it was important the “great” in the film outweighed the “not-so-great”. Jason described the production design in Lee’s films as “the best he’s seen in a genre short in forever” and its hard to disagree with this statement.
Cinematography, location and post-production all combine to create a truly stunning vision of a world desolated by a cataclysmic event. Shot in a closed former iron mine and a handful of other locations around the Salton Sea and Indio, California the locations feel perfectly picked for the production (especially the strange “concrete brackets” used in the city environment), but a lot of credit has to go to the VFX team for turning them post-apocalyptic.
In the past, I’ve been quite vocal about science fiction shorts that favour style over substance and although Epoch feels like it could easily fall into this category, there are times that style just feels too imposing to ignore. So whilst I could be accused of hypocrisy in that sense, try and look past this short’s narrative weaknesses and enjoy it for the atmospheric, aesthetically-pleasing piece it is.
If you want to find out more about the making of Epoch, be sure to check out this fascinating thread from Probst on the reduser.net forum