You can catch an Arizona-filmed post-apocalyptic flick at downtown's Screening Room this Saturday, June 30.
Wastelander follows Rhyous, an ex-soldier who wanders the desert searching for his lost home and family.
The movie’s writer and director, Angelo Lopes, was living in Hawaii when he started working on the script, but he moved to Arizona in early 2012 to start filming. He came with some filmmaking experience and a career as a cameraman on local TV news.
Much of Wastelander was filmed at a one-acre property northwest of Phoenix, which the owners made available to Lopes’ team when they took an interest in the movie.
“We built a lot of our sets there,” he said. “They also had a barn, and we used the barn for a lot of the interiors.”
Because of the limited space for shooting interior scenes, filming took a long time. “We’d build a set. We’d shoot everything there. We’d tear down the set. We’d build another set,” Lopes said.
Outdoor scenes were filmed at various desert locations throughout Arizona, but Lopes made an effort to avoid showing saguaro cactus and other artifacts that might identify the post-apocalyptic set as the pre-apocalyptic Sonoran Desert.
While Wastelander certainly evokes Mad Max with its wasteland treks and bands of mercenaries, it was more directly inspired by the video game series “Castlevania.” Lopes was playing “Castlevania: Lords of Shadows” on his XBox when inspiration struck.
“This is about one guy that has got a mission, and he’s going from Point A to Point B, and it’s just what happens along the way,” he said. “I was like, ‘I need to make a movie like this.’”
The focus on one main character was not just an artistic decision. It also allowed Lopes to focus on one main actor, Brendan Guy Murphy (as Rhyous), and a smaller supporting cast, including Carol Cardenas and Jon Proudstar.
Like most lower budget science fiction movies, Wastelander has some rough edges. Lopes acknowledged its flaws, including some weak scenes in the first 20 minutes. Many of his peers have watched and supported the movie, but he still experiences some nerves before showing it to crowds.
“I do get a little nervous,” he said. “Like, are people going to walk out of that screening [saying] ‘Oh shit, that’s 90 minutes of my life I’m not going to get back?’”
But at the end of the day, Lopes is proud of the work he and his team put into the movie.
“I’m overall happy with it,” he said. “I’m happy with it considering that it got released, and it started with me in Hawaii playing Castlevania.”
Wastelander screens at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Screening Room, 127 E Congress Street.