Story Of Your Life: looking ahead to a must-see sci-fi film

Sicario editor, Joe Walker, took part of The Deadline’s 2015 Contenders as part of David Villeneuve’s Sicario campaign, and he was asked about Story of Your Life.

What can you tell us about Story of Your Life, Villeneuve’s next that you also are editing?

It’s a big departure from Sicario, and I suppose it’s in the trajectory moving forward—he’s doing a very, very big sci-fi film next, which is Blade Runner 2. So we’re in the middle, but this is an amazing piece. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to tell you, but it’s Amy Adams and aliens, and it’s not often you say those words together. It all seems to be very hushed up. It’s from a short story that is really great, and we’re about halfway through our final cut. We had a day yesterday, which was just superbly inspiring. Some VFX work came in, and we had a good look at the aliens and where they’re at in the development process at the moment, and we were just dancing around with excitement because it’s really going well. I think it’s going to be phenomenal.

The website Den of Geek has published an article about the film as well, with a brief description of the short work in which the script is based.

Written by Ted Chiang and originally published in 1998, Story Of Your Life is a short work of genre fiction that deals with huge themes in its compact 39 pages. Alien craft appear in orbit around our planet, and a series of strange “artifacts” are discovered dotted around Earth’s continent – over a hundred in total, with nine of them found in the United States.

With the government keen to keep any details of the visitors out of public view, linguistics expert Dr Louise Banks is paired with a physicist, Dr Gary Donnelly, to try to find a means of communicating with the aliens. Dr Banks is ushered to a field containing one of the artifacts – now a maze of tents and military vehicles, surrounded by a concrete barricade designed to block prying eyes.

The artifacts, Dr Banks soon learns, are two-way communication devices. Oval and approximately 20 feet wide, they initially look like gigantic mirrors, but better resemble a pin-sharp video screen once encountered up close. It’s through one of these artifacts that Dr Banks makes her first contact with the visitors – bizarre, multi-limbed beings that are soon dubbed “heptapods”.

Initial attempts to interpret the aliens’ speech – which sounds to human ears like “a wet dog shaking the water out of its fur,” according to Dr Banks’ description – initially prove fruitless. Their written language, a psychedelic spiders’ web of symbols and lines, is even more complex. Dr Banks attempts to decipher the indecipherable, and, at the behest of a fractious military, discover whether the aliens have arrived as friends or would-be conquerors.

The film was filmed back in July in Quebec, and wrapped in August with a gift from Amy and Jeremy Renner.