Hitting the Reset Button
Running off the grid with Jackrabbit
When he started writing his debut feature, director Carleton Ranney wanted to tackle weightier issues than the standard freshman indie relationship drama. He found his inspiration in the current debates about the use and abuse of information technology, in WikiLeaks, and in a Rolling Stone article about Internet activist and progressive political campaigner Aaron Swartz. Ranney said, "He was very much someone that was for free Internet, free connection, and that put me in the realm of thinking about these young hacker-types that are very forward-thinking and very ideological."
The result was post-apocalyptic techno-drama Jackrabbit. After a festival run that included New York's prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, this weekend's screening at Other Worlds Austin sees the movie scurrying back home. Keen-eyed observers will recognize that it was shot in Austin, but it's in little architectural hints: a condo front, or the Austin Music Hall railings. However, Austin-raised Ranney didn't want it to be instantly recognizable. "A lot of shots, you turn the camera a little bit to the left and there was something that was very much iconic of Austin."
The film's original script was a contemporary drama: However, Ranney said, "I thought it would be more interesting with those Zeitgeist elements to take a step back and apply it to science fiction, because I think sci-fi does a really good job of taking human themes and ideas and allowing you to look at them through the filter of a genre."
Rather than moving in time, Ranney and co-writer Destin Douglas create a parallel world after an event called the Reset. It's never stated exactly what happened, just that it left contemporary computer and communications systems dead. Rather than accept this new techno-Amish reality, programmers and engineers reassemble and mimic what they have lost, running the Internet on salvaged Tetris motherboards. Yet even in this slow-rolling anarchy, hackers Simon (Josh Caras, Hell on Wheels) and Max (Ian Christopher Noel) find there are still corporate forces using information as power.
As for the ambiguous nature of the Reset, Ranney described that as a deliberate mystery. He said, "I really love movies that put you in a setting where you have to decipher things. ... If something like the Reset were to happen, if we were to wake up one day and all the power was to be gone, and we'd be starting back from the Dark Ages, we'd have those feelings of 'What happened? I don't know, I don't have the information,' and I find that to be a terrifying thing."
Jackrabbit screens Saturday, Dec. 5, 2:45pm.