Michael Pearce interview: ‘Encounter’ writer/director

Michael Pearce wanted to direct a very specific kind of story as a follow-up to “Beast,” his acclaimed first feature. The writer-director found the script for “Encounter” by Joe Barton, which tells the story of a war veteran who takes his two sons on a trip to protect them from an alien threat, and realized it was exactly what he was looking for. “I was trying to find something that was part character portrait and part elevated genre film,” says Pearce in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “It had all the fun genre stuff but it was really a connection to the characters that drew me in.” Watch the full interview above.

There were a number of influences running through Pearce’s mind while developing “Encounter,” from the paranoia sci-fi elements of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” to the grounded family story of “Paris, Texas.” He and cinematographer Benjamin Kracun looked at some modern-day thrillers like “No Country for Old Men” and “Sicario” to reflect “a rigorous and precise filmmaking language” for the road trip sequences. Because of the film’s sci-fi bent, it was necessary to allocate resources for visual effects, which are most apparent when characters are infected with the alien microorganism. But as Pearce notes, “I was very cognizant that we had to incorporate visual effects in such a way that they didn’t eclipse the father-son relationship.”

Helping to ground the film is Riz Ahmed, who stars as Malik, the war veteran who is battling his own demons. Pearce found Ahmed to be “the best type of actor,” observing, “he’s kind of got the presence and charm of a leading man but the interests of a character actor.” It helps to have a star be able to blend toughness with vulnerability, especially when the audience is being asked to follow his very flawed character on this journey. “You want to reach out into the movie and embrace the guy,” states Pearce. “You can do the wrong thing and the audience is going to go with them.”

It was almost destiny that Pearce and Ahmed would work together. In 2019, Ahmed presented Pearce with a BAFTA for Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for “Beast,” with the actor even mentioning he was available to star in his next film. As Pearce recalls, “Something about me and Riz working together was already set on that evening.”

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UPLOADED Dec 13, 2021 2:32 pm