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[Video] Making Of I Origins: From Iris Biometrics To Ocular VFX

In our exclusive look into I Origins, director Mike Cahill, actors Michael Pitt and Brit Marling and VFX artist Michael Glen discuss the uniqueness of the human eye, its inspiration on the film's narrative, and how motion capture CGI technology was...
Images by Jelena Vukotic

When a series of uncanny coincidences force him to confront his own data-driven disbelief, the world of Dr. Ian Gray (Michael Pitt) is turned upside-down. I Origins, which opens in theaters today, pits the age-old proverb that 'the eyes are the window to the soul' against the rigors of the scientific method. Through a combination of warm cinematic magic and cold, hard fact, the classic tale of a man caught between the seemingly oppositional forces of science and religion is presented to the audience through a vibrant, new lens. This is the world of acclaimed filmmaker Mike Cahill's second feature film, I Origins.

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Inspired by the film's highly-technological and research-based approach to cinematic storytelling, The Creators Project sat down with writer/director Mike Cahill, as well as stars Michael Pitt and Brit Marling, and the film's VFX supervisor, Michael Glen, to discuss the science facts and science fiction of I Origins in our new documentary, viewable above.

"Scientists are my greatest role models," Cahill explains. "My family is comprised of scientists, and I admire all of them, and I read a lot about science, and so Another Earth [Cahill's first feature] was very much inspired by string theory— cutting edge theoretical physics that proposes the idea of a multiverse; the possibility of another you existing. I Origins was inspired by iris biometrics, the uniqueness of the eye."

A nascent field of study with its roots in both esoteric psychology and forensic identification, iris biometrics are the resultant data that comes from the globally-growing practice of iris recognition and ocular scanning technologies.

It was exactly the right spark of inspiration to bring the film's actors on board. Explains former Boardwalk Empire co-star, and Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actor, Michael Pitt, "One of the things that really struck me about him [Mike Cahill] was the fact that he is interested in science, but he was interested also in the human condition, in human nature." After a general meeting wherein Pitt expressed interest in Cahill's original, 17-page I Origins synopsis, and with the help of Another Earth star actress Brit Marling, the film, much in the way that eyes, themselves, develop during gestation, began to take shape.

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"I think Mike, as a filmmaker, has a really unique ability to capture the ineffable and the metaphysical," Marling tells The Creators Project. "He gives you a possible explanation for it. Because you want to believe, and you'd love to for there to be evidence, you know? You always feel that we're groping around in the dark for some sort of proof that the world does feel like it's magic sometimes." But telling the story was one thing; creating VFX that could support Cahill's imagination was another.

"Eyes, in visual effects, are the hardest thing to do realistically, and the closer you get to being real, you enter the uncanny valley," Cahill explains.

"Who knows what it means?" he asks, knowing that the answers, in this case, are neither scienfic nor faith-based. I Origins, rather, is about real human emotions, and the invisible connections that bind us all together. The evidence for this, however, might only come through open eyes— and open windows.

To learn more about I Origins, visit the film's official page on Fox Searchlight

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