Interviews: Director Hasraf 'HaZ' Dulull Talks The Beyond with Exclusive Photos

TMS: The Beyond came about from your short film Project Kronos. How did you raise funding for turning this into a full length feature?

HD:   It was raised privately and then later we got some completion funding to help finish the film and accommodate for additional pick up shoots.

TMS:  You’ve done visual effects work on many large films like The Dark Knight and numerous others. How did your experience on major releases transpose to the science fiction realms of The Beyond?

HD:  Sure, the career as a VFX artist was a massive help in me knowing how to achieve things digitally, but  t was only when I was a VFX supervisor, working  closely with clients such as the director, editors, producers and DPs to figure out how to achieve things in projects within the budget and schedule parameters, yet still retain the vision of the story and narrative - this is when I realized I wanted to go into directing and felt that I had picked up enough knowledge and experience working on set and with studios to do so. In a sense one could say working in VFX was partly my ‘film school’.

With that plethora of VFX knowledge I pretty much let me imagination run wild with the science fiction element of the film.

TMS: In relation to that, how did the festival circuit help you get the backing to make a full length feature?

HD:  The film was never intended to be a festival film. It was always designed to be a high concept film accessible via VOD digital streaming, but with the cinematic feel it had, we got calls from a few festivals wanting to screen it, and of course I was more than happy to send it to places like Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival and Berlin Sci-fi festival.

None of my short films gained mega exposure via short film festivals, they became high profile via their online presence. I personally think that’s the way content like short films are best served and discovered as opposed to a niche festival crowd.. but hey I’m not against festivals, its mainly my films gained more traction online. 

TMS: What major sci fi releases were your influence for the story of The Beyond? And which ones had the most effect on this movie?

HD:  I grew up watching science fiction films such as 2001, Alien, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact and lots more. So, those resonated in me massively throughout the years. So for me it was important to have a film which was about humanity making first contact with intelligent life and the future of hope with our planet.

TMS: Who would you say are your biggest influences as a director?

HD:  Ridley Scott, J.J. Abrams and James Cameron.

TMS: Transhumanism is always an interesting aspect and seems to be the way we might be going in our future reality. The way you use it in your movie is extremely interesting. Where do you think we’re headed as humans? Are we on the true cusp of blending our existence with technology in the way you present it in The Beyond?

HD:   For years medical journals have been reporting news on brain and head transplants, as well as mapping the human brain to create a neural map of our brain. More recently Elon Musk talked about a project his company is researching in using A.I implants to merge with human brain.

The most fundamental and historically documented human pursuit is ‘wanting more life / to live forever’.  Science is currently exploring that via routes such as cryogenics as well as preserving the brain, which in turn preserves consciousness.
I hope The Beyond serves to portray transhumanism as a possible solution to the recent, still hot statement from Physicist Stephen Hawking saying that the human species has only 100 years to populate another planet to ensure its survival.

TMS: The visual effects in The Beyond are amazing. Were you involved in all aspects or did you have a team helping you design those massive effects shots?

HD:  Thank you for saying that, Although I did handle a big portion of the VFX myself, I did enlist the help of two VFX facilities  (Filmmore and Squint VFX) as well as a team of trusted VFX ninjas I have collaborated with in the past. These include John Sellings, Aleksandr Uusmees,  Andrea Tedeschi and a lovely team in Malaysia too.

So things like the Human 2.0 I sent out to the two VFX Facilities as that had a lot of animation and CGI rendering which would have sucked up all my time.  I handled all the other things like compositing all the space shots and the Spheres etc. To be honest I had planned for a lot of the VFX while writing the script, so it wasn’t like I was stressing over doing hundreds of visual effect shots in the months of post production.  I was also the editor on the film which meant alot of editorial type VFX could be done on the fly while I was making the movie in the edit. The lovely titles at the end of the film were created by Territory Studios.

TMS: Some of the scenes of the evolved beings are downright creepy and look soulless. It’s a strange thing thinking about a consciousness being transferred to a robotic shell. What gave you the idea to go this route?

HD:  I didn’t want it to look too cool, as that would make it too fantastical.. I wanted the audience to feel the same way as the character Jessica 2.0 felt which was scared and freaked out… and so making it visually eerie was my way of getting the audience to feel that way.  But also the idea of waking up in a new body is kinda freaky and waking up in a science lab is even more freaky!   One of our big references was the anime film – Ghost in the Shell, I remember watching that in the late '90s and being blown away by the way cyborgs were portrayed in there… so I guess that has been a tad influential to me when designing the Human 2.0 scenes in The Beyond.

TMS: If you were to pick one favorite genre, what would it be? 

HD:  Sci-fi and Horror

TMS: We at TMS pride ourselves on giving as much attention to indie releases as we possibly can. We reviewed this a while ago after we saw it at the Atlanta Sci-Fi Film Festival 2017. Have you had a strong support system from the indie film review community?

HD:  I most definitely have had great support so far, but due to the the way the film is presented and marketed as a commercial sci-fi feature film. It's sometimes tricky to convince people it's an indie film -  because we have had many people watch the trailer and assume we had  a big budget to play with and some don’t view the high  concept visual effects heavy film as indie… but let me set the record straight here -  THIS IS AN INDIE FILM… IT WAS INDIE FINANCED with no studio backing at all and we didn’t have the big crew sizes and toys to play with. We used what we had access to and made the best out of it, mainly because the team on the film was very resourceful from the cinematographer to the production designer to VFX, etc..

TMS: It’s been a year and a half since I was able to see Project Kronos. How much of that movie made its way into The Beyond?

HD:   When Project Kronos was released in 2014 it went viral and I landed a Hollywood manager and a feature film deal with a high profile production company in LA, but after 2 years of development and still not in production, I decided to take the rights back, and of course legally I couldn’t make the film I was developing for 2 years, so I went back to the soul of Project Kronos – the faux docu-sci-fi nature of it. The Beyond is loosely based on Project Kronos  but I would say its more of a re-interpretation of the short film. 

TMS: Also, was it hard to expand a short feature into a full length film? What’s that process like?

HD:  Not really, as I am known to do tons of research, and you have to remember just like with all my other short films – Sync  ( ) , I.R.I.S. ( )    – Project Kronos was a short proof of concept, meaning this was to show a sneak peak of what the feature film would be, - so I had always had tons of notes and treatments done for the feature film during the making the short film.  When it came to writing the feature film – it wasn’t that much more difficult. What was tricky was to write something which would work in 90 minutes or more and still engage and entertain the audience as a movie experience.

TMS: What’s next for team Haz? Any upcoming projects we need to know about?

HD:  We delivered the second feature film just before Christmas 2017, the film is -- Origin Unknown and stars the lovely Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica and Chronicles of Riddick and most recently the villain in the Flash) and it's about a space mission controller and an A.I robot working together to solve a strange mystery which appears on Mars – I’m afraid that’s all I’m permitted to tell you for now. But its wrapped, and the distributor is KEW MEDIA (formerly CONTENT), which will be releasing the film later this year.  More info here:

I currently also have a production company -   setup my myself, producers Paula Crickard and David Sheldon Hicks (who is also the founder of Territory Studio who do amazing visuals on films like Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell and the up coming Ready Player One).  With that company we have a slate of projects at various stages of development for Film and TV. 

TMS: Where can people see The Beyond?

HD:  iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Vudu, Fandango and pretty much all the popular VOD digital sites where you can purchase the film or rent it.  NOTE:  At the time of writing Vimeo on Demand will have the deleted scenes and special features – making of the film exclusively on there as part of the on demand purchase.

TMS: By now we’re all aware of the piracy problem. How do you think it will affect the release of your movie? And what would you say to people that might steal your movie off of a torrent site?

HD:  I would say – FOOLS!  the price to rent the film is probably the same price for a pint of beer or alcoholic beverage. I doubt anyone would steal beer in a pub.

TMS: Last but not least…. do you have any words of encouragement for young filmmakers or people that are looking to get into the industry?

HD:   The big advice I would give anyone looking to make their first film is to surround yourself with the best possible people you can get and on top of that listen to them.  Throw your ego out of the window, as every decision made or action taken on every step of the film is for one motive only - to serve the film, nothing else.

Fools we tell you! We at TMS say rent this movie! We fully support The Beyond and hope you will visit one of these online platforms to rent this movie!