Brett Marty and Josh Izenberg Discuss Their Short Documentary, ‘The Search for Earth Proxima’

Brett Marty and Josh Izenberg, co-directors of The Search for Earth Proxima, explore the vast ideologies of technology, science, and nature while breaking free from decisive norms of each field. Having founded Speculative Films, Izenburg and Marty hope to achieve just that, help speculate with film.

In their documentary short, The Search for Earth Proxima, these two filmmakers investigate the possibility of other forms of habitable planets through interviews with scientists, and cinematic imagery of space.

Can you each start off by telling me a little bit about yourselves, and how you began using film as an artistic and informational outlet?

Josh: I majored in screenwriting in undergrad, so I’ve been interested in storytelling for some time. My path took me from writing alone, to writing and directing my own low-budget feature, to writing and making shorts, to finally making a documentary, “SLOMO,” which was the first film I worked on to get wider acclaim. (Though, Brett and I did collaborate on an award-winning 48-hour film called Albatross that played around the country.) Good stories are good stories, regardless of genre or format, whether it’s science, sci-fi, or something else entirely. It’s really about the underlying idea.

Brett: After college, I edited a feature doc for a local photographer. Afterwards, I wanted to cut my teeth on the other areas of video/filmmaking, so I jumped into commercial work. After half a dozen years in advertising, it was high time to make the transition back to film and longer-form storytelling. In 2015, I did my first (bigger) narrative project with “YOUTH.” We’re pretty excited to be at the beginning of a couple narrative and doc feature projects, and a science series potentially for broadcast.

Both of you have seemingly used different aspects of filmmaking to kick-start your award winning, successful careers, Brett as a commercial director and Josh directing a low-budget feature. How did you two meet, and where did the idea of creating Speculative Films emerge?

Almost a decade ago now, we met while working on a music video for a musician friend of ours, and immediately began dreaming up different ideas for short films. Speculative Films came out of a mutual interest in making films — both in a fictional and non-fictional format — that examined how science, nature, and technology would affect the future for all us.

Some of the best films come from collaborated efforts, like movies from the Duplass or Coen brothers. In what ways is working together better for filmmaking, and what aspects, if any, do you each find difficult? Do you feel that your ideas can be neglected in the wake of the other’s, or is there a nice balance of negotiations?

Film is inherently collaborative, whether a project is “officially” co-directed or not. Everyone on a crew or team steps into roles beyond what they initially planned on — especially when working with lower-budgets, or in the documentary world. We’ve found a nice negotiation where we each taking leading roles when it plays to our strengths and interests and supporting roles in other cases. We work well together, and it’s generally been a huge advantage rather than an impediment, which isn’t always the case with every partnership.

Your films, such as “The Search for Earth Proxima,” focus on how humankind interacts with and studies technology, science, and nature. What interests you about these relationships, and why do you feel it’s necessary to share with your audience?

Scientific breakthroughs are going to directly affect what our lives feel like going forward. Science has always had a major effect on humankind. Yet, most of us know very little about it — only the broad strokes. We’re interested in the power of science to both inspire, at its best, and disrupt, in other cases, our culture and society. So basically, it’s really important, and explaining it in a way that’s entertaining and illuminating for people is something that drives us.

The Search for Earth Proxima, is about the pursuit of other habitable planets, and the scientists who are working to propel their discovery forward. Do you think we, as a human race, will ever occupy another planet? How do you think film would survive (or not) in an environment other than Earth?

Depends on what you mean by “occupy.” Yes, we will probably occupy Mars, and maybe other planets in our solar system in the not-too-distant future, in some way — whether it’s in biospheres or space stations. Whether we develop more serious communities on Mars or really ever set foot on a planet outside of our solar system assumes that we’ll both make some major breakthroughs in how fast we can travel, and that humankind will survive for the next millennia or longer. I don’t know how anyone could really predict that, but it’s nice to have hope. As far as film goes, I think the real question is, will film survive here on Earth? Or will it be replaced by another form of information dissemination and entertainment? You can bet that if we do make it to other planets, we’re going to need a whole lot of good entertainment to deal with some pretty boring stretches in deep space.

In your short documentary, Astrophysicist Ruslan Belikov states that the discovery of Earth Promixa will fundamentally “shift people’s perception of what the cosmos is.” Additionally, many of the interviewed scientists express their thoughts of expanding space interest amongst mankind with these findings. How, if at all, do you think film is able to “shift perception” and achieve similar results? Of each facet, narrative, commercial, and documentary, which has more potential to connect with audiences and communicate more effectively?

Moving images, clearly, have immense power to influence public perception. It’s an incredibly emotional and informational medium, hitting us with visuals and audio — including music. Editing is a major tool, too — the juxtaposition of images to make a greater point. I don’t think there’s any hierarchy amongst commercial, narrative, or documentary films. They can all be equally powerful if used in the right way.

What other subjects would you like to explore in future ventures? What projects can we be on the lookout for, from each of you?

We’re currently exploring more broad ideas in science — including Artificial Intelligence, as well as aging, memory and dementia. We’re also developing narrative films that imagine the darker side of some scientific and political developments that are happening right in front of our eyes.

Thomas DeVito

Thomas, who studied English at SUNY Oswego, is an aspiring screenwriter and a Contributing Writer for Monologue Blogger. When not typing away at his computer, he can be found watching the latest films, or reading the newest bestseller. Unfortunately, he is unrelated to Danny DeVito.

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