‘Things Will Be Different’ – Director Michael Felker on the Surprising Family Origins for His Twisty Sci-Fi Thriller

Horror

Chances are high, if you’re here, that you’re familiar with the names Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the filmmakers behind Spring and The Endless. Prepare to add one more name to that list: Benson & Moorhead’s longtime editor Michael Felker, set to make his feature debut with upcoming sci-fi thriller Things Will Be Different.

Things Will Be Different is world premiering at the SXSW Film Festival on March 11, and the film was produced by Benson & Moorhead.

Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy star in Things Will Be Different. They play siblings Joseph and Sidney, who are on the run from the law at the start of the film. Then, the mysterious farmhouse they are staying in inexplicably transports them through time. A cryptic force emerges and traps them on the strange plot of land, giving them a lethal ultimatum in order to escape.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, Bloody Disgusting spoke with writer/director/co-editor Michael Felker about parlaying his editing work into a heady sci-fi feature that nestles seamlessly into the cinematic universe that Benson and Moorhead have created.

The idea for Things Will Be Different came organically to Felker, who drew inspiration from his family. More specifically, Felker made this movie for his family.

“I am the son of a very nerdy engineer film lover,” Felker explains of his sci-fi origins. “My dad raised me on a bunch of movies growing up, mainly sci-fi because he’s an avid sci-fi reader. He’s an avid sci-fi movie lover. Anytime I’d see him or hang out, since I was 10 years old, we’d go see a sci-fi movie. Then if it’s one that’s got a lot of world-building or a lot of sci-fi, puzzly questions, we’d just go get coffee afterwards and just pick it apart and have our own theories and everything.

“So, I think it was about two years ago, we just got out of Everything Everywhere All at Once, and we both loved it, and we went and got coffee afterwards. I was in the middle of trying to conceive a movie that I want to do at our abandoned family farm in Michigan. I was like, ‘Dad, I want to do a cool sci-fi movie at the farm. I’ve got some ideas.’ I started pitching him some stuff, and that’s how Things Will Be Different became born, I guess. That’s a bad way of saying it, ‘was born.’ It was mainly a movie for him. I just wanted a movie that he would enjoy and pick apart with me or with anyone he wanted to over coffee afterwards.”

While the film originated from talking with his dad, it revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister. That, too, was informed by Felker’s family.

He shared, “I do have an older sister. In fact, not to go into too much spoiler territory, but me and my sister have matching Triforce tattoos on our arms. There’s a tattoo thing that happens in the movie that is very specific to me and my sister. Because we don’t see each other very much. She has a whole other career and lives back in our hometown in Alabama. And I live in California. We don’t talk very much, but when we do, we text each other. If we’re having a bad day, we just take a picture of our tattoos and say, ‘Hey, miss you, love you,’ and then we text it right back. So definitely, this movie was also a deep way of saying and finding connection and missed time with my sister through this movie as well.”

Family extends beyond blood relatives, too, with his long-time collaborators Benson and Moorhead not only encouraging Felker to make this movie, but they also jumped on board to executive produce and offer any help needed.

We’re all very close. I’ve been with them since working on their first movie, Resolution. I’ve edited all their movies since then. I talk to them all the time. I mean, hell, I’m shooting them texts now, and they’re shooting on a show. The biggest thing is I always wrote a lot of scripts during my downtime in between editing, and I would always send it to them because I would just be like, ‘Hey, let me know your thoughts or whatever.’ And they would always get back to me right away with like, ‘Here’s what we think. This is cool. Eh, this is not our thing, blah, blah, blah.’ We did that for years. Then finally, when I wrote this script, I sent it to them, and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to go make this thing. Give me your blessing,’ is basically how I said it. They always give me great advice. They read it, and they immediately got back to me, [producer] Dave Lawson and they were just like, ‘Not only do we think it’s a really great script, but it actually feels like a Rustic Films movie. We want to be on board immediately.’

“So, they came on board as EPs right away, and they basically were like, ‘Whatever you need. You know us. We know you. We trust you. Just let us know what you need, and we’ll drop it from wherever we are.’ They’ve been the best partners still. They’re the best creative partners still because they’ve just been so supportive even to this day on the movie, and the movie wouldn’t be where it is if it weren’t for them.”

Felker also teases some of that extended family in quick cameos here, and that tease comes with the surprising reveal that we’ve likely spotted Felker before on screen.

“Dave Lawson and Aaron Moorhead’s also in the movie as well. They have a very small cameo because we almost had them on the shoot, and then schedules be what they may. So we found a way to get them in. But for us, I was an extra in Resolution. I was an extra, that may have been kind of cut, in The Endless. I don’t know if I was in Synchronic. I was in Something in the Dirt as myself at one point in that movie, not to spoil that part too much. We are always using each other as resources.”

Felker also drew surprising inspiration from a very different genre when charting the course for this time-bender.

A big reference movie for me was Blood Simple, which has a very similar engine trajectory, where it’s like a character makes this decision, whether it’s the smartest decision or it’s the most passionate decision, and all chaos breaks out to the point where you don’t know where that movie goes either. I love that movie. The best sci-fi are the ones that discover the unknown, and it’s not so much what you take back with you, but what you reach out for and maybe discover or maybe find some new theory. That really leaned to the storytelling techniques, to the point where every time I watch it, I’m just like, ‘Man, I can’t believe we went there.’ If I charted this out and knew knew too much, this wouldn’t have been where I would’ve gone, and it would’ve been safe. And safe is where you find the tropes, where you find time-travel stuff that you’ve seen all the time. I wanted to steer away from that, and that means sometimes being blind to the tropes during my process.”

The biggest question heading into SXSW’s world premiere is, has dad seen it yet?

“He has seen a very early rough cut because I wanted his notes, and he was over the moon. He was so over the moon. We talked about it for hours after, and he gave me very small, little tweaks that we did. It’s funny because he’s seen my shorts, and he goes like, ‘Yeah, that was fine.’ But this one, he watched it and went, he was like, ‘Holy cow!’ He sent me a ton of emails that were just one-liners all over the place. When that happened, I was like, ‘Oh, the rest of this is just playing with house money. Whatever happens, the movie’s a success.’”

Expect to hear more about Things Will Be Different soon.

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