Interview: Director Eron Sheean of ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY

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We had the opportunity to have a quick chat with director Eron Sheean and talk about his new film Errors of the Human Body, which is set to hit theaters and VOD this Friday via SundanceNOW. In the interview we discuss the science of the film, as well as the recent trend in the resurgence of hard sci-fi movies.

The revolves around a scientist who stumbles on what could be the greatest genetic discovery ever, but it could cost him his life.  Check out the trailer here, check back Friday for our full review, and hit the jump for the interview.
This is the first feature length film you’ve directed.  Were there any obstacles you encountered with this over any of you short films?

The obstacles are always a bit the same, just on a different scale – you need more money, more time, bigger names, better catering…  though with a feature I felt you have much more to keep in your head at any one time so you have to tune your brain a little different in terms or rhythm and pace, meaning you have to be more farsighted about the choices you make in a scene and how that knocks onto the rest of the film. 

When you were working on the script, did you perform a lot of medical research, or was it more of a story conceived from yourself and Shane Danielsen’s imagination?

The roots of the film are unusual in that I developed the script while artist in residence at the Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, in Dresden, Germany. I came over from Australia for a short stint that grew into a seven year on and off obsession. Based on real research projects, I became fascinated with both the metaphor of regeneration and the real world research. In a way, I was looking to ‘adapt’ a research project and chose one I thought would work best for the basis for the film and developed the story from there. The institute where we shot the film is the same place where I developed the script. Shane came on later to help me with the final drafts as I got brain fried on the science… The other aspect to the research are the scientists – I spent a long time amongst them and they inspired the characters and to try and be authentic with the science speak and world, even if it gets into fantasy.

As the film progresses, it seems like Geoff’s behavior becomes more erratic.  Is this due to the immediate stresses of what he’s discovering at the new lab, a buildup of his inner demons regarding his son and ex-wife, or is it a culmination of the two?

It’s the realization that he’s not free from his latent grief and guilt, even travelling halfway around the world to ‘start again’ with a potential new relationship and job.

When we drop into the story, he’s really on the edge, for years his deeds have been eating away at him, and now finally he is confronted with them in the most ironic and profound way.  Also, the discovery his ex-wife is going to have another baby doesn’t help matters.

Tómas Lemarquis’ role as Jarek has a classic “mad scientist” feel to him.  Was this something you were consciously trying to bring to the character, or did Tomas develop Jarek himself?

Tomas and I wanted to make Jarek more arch, we took that risk, because for me the characters that encroach on Geoff are all a little larger than life, their behavior and personalities are amplified by Geoff’s paranoia – hence we went for strong faces and personas – like Rik Mayall for Samuel, and Tomas for Jarek. Also, it’s amusing to me some people find Jarek as over the top, because I have met scientists that are much larger in life than him. Let’s face it, mad scientists do exist.

What was the significance of the weird asian scientist that we first encounter in the lunch room and then again later at the party? Was he there to impart cryptic word of wisdom to Geoff, or to simply show that there’s some odd people that work in this facility?

Chiba, oddly enough, is the one character Geoff has an actual meaningful connection with – even though it’s in passing. Both men understand that for there to be good scientific breakthroughs, you have to break a few eggs, but they both wrestle with how many eggs to break. For Geoff, many have been. Where as Jarek in unscrupulous. Also, Chiba is someone so lost in their research that the outside world does not exist – you could say both of them a trapped in their heads – united by their isolation – that’s what they recognize in each other even if it remains unsaid.

There seems so be a slight trend recently in films that have hard, medical science-based fiction.  In addition to Errors, we have Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color that all take this on in very different ways.  Why do you think we’re having a sort of influx in this type of science fiction film and what draws people to these kinds of stories?

Honestly, I think it’s just a coincidence, but there is a growing trend toward a return to BIG SCI-FI, and some of us want to come at it from a more thoughtful, less bombastic way, and allow the deeper moral ambiguities of progress, obsession, the body, etc, to have their place in the fluorescent light. It’s also driven by budget restrictions, where the idea has to be king. I think people are drawn to these types of films because they are more rooted in the real world, an extension of possibilities and fears and fault lines of biology that unite us all. It’s been said before, but science fiction is faster and faster becoming science-fact, so we like to get a head start, even if it’s an imagined future.