“My mantra is what James Cameron always says, ‘If you’re not breaking new ground or trying something new or pushing boundaries, what’s the point of doing it?’ That’s what I like to always have in the back of my mind. As much as it’s a fun rollercoaster ride, it’s also something that I wanted to plant my flag and say, ‘we can make something for the world stage here, all in Australia by Australian people.’”
There’s a lot on the line for Luke Sparke and his team on Occupation: Rainfall. At a time when Hollywood is shooting an unprecedented number of productions on our shores, whilst cinemas are starving for blockbuster content and Australian films are outperforming expectations at the box office, pundits will be watching closely how this ambitious sequel to the flawed but ballsy Occupation is received by audiences. There’s no denying that the production team have created a core base of fans through grassroots work and the earlier film, but will it be able to break out?
The aforementioned outperforming Australian films are being released by old-hand big companies, with Screen Australia marketing backing, whilst Occupation: Rainfall is handled by indie Monster Pictures, in, by far, their biggest release to date (200+ screens).
“We start two years after the invasion in Occupation,” says Luke Sparke about the timeline of the sequel. “You don’t have to see the first one to see this one. I rebuilt it from scratch. I think I went in knowing that it’s going to be more ambitious. I wanted to make sure it was easily accessible for people who haven’t seen the first one. Obviously [Occupation] being on Netflix, both here and the US, the audience grew exponentially through that, but I still wanted to make sure that people walking off the street could sit down and understand it as its own piece.
“There’s been a two year ground war and we’re getting to the end of what the humans can come up against and what they can do,” he expands on where Occupation: Rainfall starts story-wise. “We start on a bit of a downer, the end of the tether of humanity and Sydney. Some aliens and the different factions are working with different factions of the aliens, some for, some against, which is why the trailer says choose your side. It’s a very heavy theme in this film. Are we going to work with the enemy, and in the end, who is the enemy?”
That question may also apply to Occupation: Rainfall itself, with some crew members hitting social media and this very website with allegations of non-payment midway through production. All of that has seemingly been resolved, though, and is undoubtedly par for the course when you’re an indie underdog trying to pull off the impossible.
“Nearly two years of my life has been in the editing room with all the visual effects and getting them right. We’ve got nearly 1600 visual effects shots and to put it in context, Star Wars: Rogue One had 1700.”
And unlike Hollywood, which often outsources effects work to third world countries, Sparke employed locals to get the job done. “We got freelancers around the country who were working remotely during Covid in Australia, but we were also able to tap into great visual effects houses in Sydney with people who have worked on Marvel films, which was fantastic and unexpected.”
So, how is Sparke going to top Occupation: Rainfall? “I have numerous contracts across my desk right now to do our next one here in Australia, especially because of Covid, but my main focus is on giving birth to this film. We had such a small team, I’ve had to do like a lot more than what a usual director would have to do. I’m still here, working on trailers and TV ads and posters.
And how about Occupation III? “Depending on how this one goes and depending on what people think of the end of this film, then potentially, yes.”
Occupation: Rainfall is in cinemas January 28, 2021