Director's Notes

Upgrade Required is a Science Fiction film that just happens to be true.  Ten or fifteen years ago the globally networked, wearable technologies now available to people like Quinton were the stuff of fantasy.  I want this film to be a celebration of life and technology and a future where we are more than just human.

I have been a science fiction fan all of my life. SciFi has fueled my creativity and driven my love of science and technology since I was four years old, huddled behind the safety of my parents couch, watching Doctor Who.  Thanks to my years on Stargate Atlantis, I have had the great fortune of meeting with and discussing this passion for the future with thousands of like-minded Science Fiction fans, many of them scientists themselves.  It was through discussions like these on YouTube that I met Quinton and heard about his quest.  Science Fiction is what has lead me to make Upgrade Required and it is how this film will find its audience and its champions for change.

Upgrade Required is a film about hope and wonder.  It is about the joyous process of invention and collaboration with smart, driven people who are bringing together disparate research and technologies towards engineering a better life and perhaps even a better human.  While Upgrade Required is not about the diseases responsible for many disabilities I want to use animation and VFX to create cool, beautiful and whimsical animations that give audiences an understanding and appreciation of how SMA and ALS attacks its victims.  The focus of the film, however, is on the inspired, passionate and creative souls who survive these terrible diseases.  Upgrade Required is about a new breed of smart, wired and inspired people who are forced to augment the bodies that have failed them. 

The visual special effects technology available to filmmakers today is truly astounding.  Upgrade Required will harness these VFX tools to enhance the interviews with people like Q, in the same way that bionics are enhancing their bodies.  Our discussions with Q and Eric and people in similar situations will serve as the canvas for our VFX work.  We will enhance these interview clips by adding dynamic animations and VFX that will visually augment their stories and ideas, transforming their severely limited movement into breathtaking works of art and more importantly revealing the amazingly funny, fascinating, complex and intelligent minds trapped within.

For example, when Q talks of losing the ability to draw, his coverage will begin to unravel, revealing the things he once drew and what he longs to draw now whirling like a storm around his head.  This will then serve as a transition to our exploration and implementation of technologies like eye tracking and EEG headsets that will make Q’s art a reality once again.

Eric Valor, like Stephen Hawking (someone else we’d love to talk to!) wants to go to space.  He even jokingly refers to himself as “the crippled cosmonaut”.  Thanks to his father’s work with the Air Force, Eric used to watch NASA launches from his backyard when he was a child.  He speaks of these times very fondly.  I want people to witness these memories in action by recreating the launches in a stylized realism that captures his internal wonder and joy at those moments.  I would then like to use motion capture and VFX technology to show Eric stepping out into the vast expanse of space, just like he dreams to.

Graphic novels are a big inspiration to me and I want the film to reflect that by creating stylish comic book animation sequences throughout the film.  The idea is to use this dynamic, visually striking approach to tie all the pieces together. The basic premise would be that nascent cyborgs are coming online around a futuristic networked world.  These bed-ridden entities show little promise in the real world, but in the global info space where a mind is all that matters, they begin to grow and gather strength, thriving on and contributing to the collective knowledge of the human race.  They then begin to upgrade the bodies that betray them as they create the means and the connections necessary to rise and lead lesser equipped humans to a new ‘man as machine’ stage of evolution.

The point is, I want this film to be exciting and irreverent, and for it to inspire and inform people not just about how the future could render disabilities obsolete through technology, but how they can start today and make it happen themselves.