The visionary South African director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) has created a series of short films at his own production house, Oats Studios.

The first set, titled “Volume 1,” is composed so far by RAKKA, FIREBASE, and ZYGOTE. The latter stars Dakota Fanning and Jose Pablo Cantillo as Barklay and Quinn, respectively, two characters trying to survive an otherworldly threat.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Cantillo (The Walking Dead) about his latest collaboration with Blomkamp, after Elysium and Chappie.

What were the first questions that you had for Neill when he talked to you about this project?

I was told just a few months before shooting that I was being considered for some of these shorts. It just happened that the last one was the one when I was cleared from other commitments. He sent the script two months prior, and I had to read it twice. He said “Are you in or are you out?” and I said “Are you kidding me? This is right up in my alley!” In terms of speaking about the world and the character, I don’t like to ask too many questions. I follow the script and just let my imagination run a little wild, until somebody says “Let’s move in that direction.” The conversations were more around how long have they being hiding in “survival mode,” and how long he has been blind. It was very well written so there is a great balance between plot and character.

How did the fact that your eyes are covered the entire time affect your performance?

It’s a great question. I’ve never worked blind-folded. It was actually really helpful. You eyes aren’t there to show you the cameras, the mics and the reality out there. Something I love about acting is that all of the chaos on a set stops when they start rolling, and things get really quite when it’s time for you to take the stage. In this case, I didn’t have to pretend. I could really listen to Dakota, hear the noises, feel the room and insert myself into that imaginary world.

In just a few minutes we are reminded of the amazing talent that both of you have. Tell me about working with Dakota.

She is fantastic! She has been in this business for a long time. She has wisdom beyond her years. She can easily slip in. We could be talking about Thanksgiving plans, then they start rolling and she seamlessly goes there. I don’t see her trying, she is always present and just being. Neill lets the cameras run and by design the takes are long, so there is time for things being messy. She has to carry this big gun and at the same time support my weight, and she handheld it so well. I can’t believe that it was just 4 or 5 days. I miss it and I hope to have the opportunity to do it again. The character of Quinn may or may not be alive.

When you are part of TV pilot or a small indie, you don’t know if the audience will actually get to see it. But in this case you know from the get-go that your work will reach out millions of people.

Yes, you are right. The term that they use is “experimental shorts,” and Neill wants the general public to be part of that experiment. He is sharing these ideas, these slices of what it could be. And I love the immediacy of this process, where you don’t have to wait 2 or 3 years down the road for people to actually see it. You get that gratification and feedback, either of success or failure, sooner. We didn’t test this in advance, you are the test. “Authenticity” is the word I would use to describe it.

In every interview that Neill and Sharlto Copley give, sooner or later the journalist asks about “District 10.” Are you being asked about it as well?

No [Laughs]. I am very proud to say that I never asked Neill about “District 10.” It created a sub-genre, we have never seen anything like it. You really start to fantasize about what could happen next. It’s a tall order. I am sure that he would spin it in a way that is true to the gritty and grounded world that he created. The high concept that he has will surprise a lot of people.

Take a look at the teaser below and head to the Oats Studios YouTube channel to see the entire film.

All images courtesy of Oats Studios.