The Matrix meets Mr Robot in the most captivating and topical science fiction film of the year, MAD GENIUS, available on VOD July 3 from Film Mode Entertainment.
Mad genius and hacker, Mason Wells (Chris Mason, ”Pretty Little Liars : The Perfectionists”) has a mission to “hack the human mind” in order to save humanity, but first must reconcile his multiple alter egos. His most threatening alter ego, Finn (Scott Mechlowicz, Euro Trip) pushes Mason to do whatever is necessary to accomplish their mission including theft, bribery and intimidation.
As their mission reaches the brink of danger, they become hunted by a nihilistic madman named Eden after they steal his technology and discover that he is working on the exact same project that they are. Ultimately, Mason discovers the only way to defeat Eden may be the ultimate hack, one he never thought imaginable.
Featuring a superlative cast, including Spencer Locke (Insidious: The Last Key) and Farin Tahir (Iron Man, Charlie Wilson’s War), MAD GENIUS is a visually-arresting and exhilarating depiction of the modern-day geniuses who risk everything to change the way society lives through science and technology.
From visionary new director Royce Gorsuch, a film that captures the voice of the ultra-connected generation, MAD GENIUS.
We had the opportunity to speak to Gorsuch about the movie.
-PH: You’ve made a captivating movie. What was the initial appeal for you?
-Royce: Thank you! The idea for Mad Genius was inspired from a series of articles and books I had been reading around 2012, concerning the real-life efforts of scientists to digitally map the human brain…
I’ve always had a fixation with the power of technology and it’s implications on the human condition. The main trait separating humankind from the animal kingdom is our ability to create tools. And in a very short time span, since the dawn of the computer, our tools have become exponentially powerful, and soon, self-enhancing, and self-evolving.
As I read the articles, I immediately started thinking, “What if you could rewrite the human brain like computer code, and fix all of the human problems happening around the world…” Then, being a storyteller, I thought… “What if that power was in the hands of a mad man?”
My goal with the film was to make an entertaining commentary on “playing god,” and the moral dilemmas of being a creator of any kind.
-PH: Can you compare it to another, similar film? Anything come to mind?
-Royce: Certainly. I had a cadre of films in the back of my mind during the entire process of creating Mad Genius. Most notably of course, Fight Club, The Matrix, and psychological thrillers of all kinds, but the one that might surprise you most is reverence to the fantastic banter and buddy story of Swingers.
I’d say the biggest influence on Mad Genius was the ground-breaking cyberpunk novel by William Gibson, Neuromancer. It was both cool as hell, scary, trippy, mind-bending, all the things I love…
(NOTE: Ironically, Mr. Robot came out during our pre-production, solidifying my thesis that this type of story was missing from the marketplace. And I’m a fan.)
-PH: And had you worked with any of the cast before?
-Royce: I hadn’t had that fortunate opportunity yet!
-PH: Did the shoot require you to relocate anywhere, if even temporarily?
-Royce: Great question. That was a main impetus of the film’s ethos. Here’s the full backstory;
At the beginning of Mad Genius, I was a 28 year old commercial director who had hit a glass ceiling. And I had a choice to make.
I looked back at my life trajectory, the plans I had made, the vision I had for my life. And according to my younger self’s vision of the future, I should have been making a feature film by then. I dug in more. I remembered, that I never got into filmmaking to be a “commercial” filmmaker. To sell stuff. That was always a means to an end. A stepping stone, in which I was trying to recreate the career paths of Ridley Scott and David Fincher.
So, my choice was to spend my time and savings on creating a few new “commercial short films” to renovate my commercial reel appeal… or I could just make my damn movie. I chose to make my damn movie.
Not only did I choose to make my damn movie, I chose to live my damn movie. From my years as a commercial filmmaker, one pivotal shoot location in the underworld of downtown Los Angeles changed my life.
It was called Dear Raymer Studio. And it was created and owned by the visionary production designer Jared Tate Johnson. Jared’s world, was where my film about hacking the human mind had to take place. I first encountered Jared’s studio on a location scout for a make-up company. We get to the location. The streets looked abandoned. Apocalyptic more like. Through the cage door to the elevator that looked like a tomb. Up the rickety shaft. Through the hall of flickering fluorescent lights, past the holes in the wall and the graffiti to a large black door with a massive thumb print painted over it. Through the door and into a world I had only seen of in fiction. A massive open warehouse space of brick and metal and wood. Raised platforms on the walls. Invisible stair cases. Secret passages. An underground world of real-life hackers, artists, and culture jammers. It was mind-blowing.
I wanted to “live in the world” of the film, and Jared’s world, was it.
I called Jared up, and he serendipitously had an open room. I moved in and started re-writing “The Mad Genius Project.” The first draft was set to page in July 2012. I began rewriting in January 2015. Forty one revisions later, we achieved enough financing to shoot it. And by “enough” I mean SAG ULB. Ultra-Low-Budget.
-PH: How did this film differ from your previous projects?
-Royce: Safe to say… everything about this film was different from my commercials. We had complete control. Making it the way we did.. the team really became a family. And at the end, that has been the best part.
-PH: Does working on a heavy film like this, that’s full of emotion, affect your mood? How did you wind down at the end of the day?
That’s an interesting and thoughtful question I don’t get asked much. During the production, I was in that on-set state of “adrenaline” where you can go 14 hours a day for weeks an not really feel it. I was also fueled by how damn good everything was turning out. Remember, in the beginning, all I had was the statement “I’m going to make a damn movie.” By production, it had become incredibly real, with amazing actors, real stakes. But afterwards, there’s always a crash. It’s like a drug, or epic sporting event in that way. All directors go through that. I can say, the two months after were very emotionally draining and depressing. I was broke. I didn’t have funds to finish it. So now I had to raise those. I had just poured my entire life into this thing for almost a year and I was tired. Without funds, I ended up having to cut a majority of the film myself to get the next round of money to finish. It was a Herculean task to try to cut this crazy ass movie by myself. But hey, George Miller cut Mad Max in his kitchen, so why should I have it any easier?
Ultimately, I had a ton of support, from my loved ones, both friends and family. I could never have done this thing to the extent I have for a period of three years without their help.
-PH: Which character in the film would you say is most like yourself?
-Royce: I hope none of them! No, of course, it would be MR. VIX, the main character. I liken his struggle to anyone who has tried to create something from scratch. I think of him in a way like an entrepreneur, like how Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook from his dorm room. Or Steve Jobs, Bill Gates in their garages, etc.
To me, Mad Genius is a story about the inner conflicts of being a creator. It’s about the creation process. The voices in our heads pushing us, confusing us, mixing signals, and the mistaken evils which might come from actually accomplishing the goal. Because remember, no one thinks of their actions as evil. Add in peer pressure and love and sex and it’s a wonder we ever get anything done.
To me, the message is, when ever someone tries to create something they will face all kinds of outer obstacles, but in the end, it is all about overcoming the obstacles within yourself. And the solution to all of these problems is to turn your efforts into selfless acts. Beyond yourself. Otherwise, seriously, why bother?
So in the end for MR. VIX, it is really about reconciling himself in order to do this great thing. He has to literally face himself in every way. And ultimately forgive himself and be willing to self-sacrifice to achieve something great. If he indeed learned that lesson is up to the audience.
-PH: If Mad Genius was playing as part of a double feature at the local cinema, what would you suggest the second film on the bill be?
-Royce: The Matrix!
Thanks for the interview Promote Horror! – Royce
For more Mad Genius movie details and upcoming informational essays by the filmmakers check out: