Short film, State Zero, showcases new talented director

Andrée Wallin

DUST is a recently developed platform for distributing films in the science-fiction realm. They provide an outlet for up-and-coming directors and, at the moment, seem to be open to new talent looking for a destination to submit their shorts. While still young, the website’s description suggests they intend to make their mark. There is a lot of potential and the goal — like everyone else today — is to create original content.

Should they continue on their current path, DUST could easily become a top destination for sci-fi work. Their intention to provide quality shorts should be taken seriously by traditional networks and distributors, because it could provide a source for the next great storyteller. One of the site’s artists is visionary Andrée Wallin, the director of the 15-minute film, State Zero.

His career skyrocketed in recent years and doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. He created concept work for the movies Oblivion and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with rumors that he also provided art for the untitled sequel. Suffice it to say, his talents have been recognized — evidenced by the list of clients on his website — and he now has turned his attention to directing.

State Zero is set in a world where an outbreak of some sort occurred. The first scene, set in a secretive lab, suggests it was man-made. From there, we’re taken to Stockholm, where it’s obvious it’s been ravaged by the disease. We’re treated to scenes familiar to sci-fi fans of an abandoned city that’s been quarantined and is now overrun by nature, with plants and vines claiming the buildings and vehicles left behind. Not a soul is in sight, and we can only assume the only inhabitants are infected.

Visually, it’s all very impressive, and it’s clear Wallin draws influences from video games like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us and the 2007 film I Am Legend. His attention to detail from the city itself to the aircraft carrying a patrol squad, as well as their uniforms and weapons, displays the realism he strives for. Unlike Star Wars, this slice of science-fiction steers away from fantasy and attempts to feel more grounded. We’re thrust into this world and are convinced by it.

The introduction of the four man squadron we follow for the rest of the film shows that Wallin is also capable of crafting and directing a narrative. The camaraderie and banter between the characters draws comparisons to James Cameron’s Aliens, giving us a sense of their dynamics — mainly through the perspectives of the commanding officer and the rookie.

Story-wise, State Zero is a little thin, with the soldiers sent in to reconfigure a communications link at a tower. No details are given as to how it went down in the first place or what the importance is. It makes us question the scale of the outbreak and if the entire world has suffered, or only this region in Sweden. Even the soldiers themselves are not entirely convincing. There’s no sense of identity and their dialogue blends together. There are also several moments where the acting could definitely be sharpened, as it was noticeable enough to pull one out of the story.

It’s obvious, though, that Wallin’s intention with State Zero outweighs these minor complaints. This film is treated more as proof that he’s capable of directing moving images, not just creating concept art. His craft is undeniable, evidenced by the level of tension and uncertainty in the movie. We feel very much in the moment. And, once again, the level of production can’t be overstated. It rivals the visuals and costuming seen on television, which is an incredible feat.

So while this is his first piece, I don’t expect this to be the last time we hear of him. And if you and your crew go the sci-fi route for your own production, maybe consider DUST as an outlet.

Andrée Wallin’s production company is known as 81 Entertainment and is based out of Toronto.

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