A full house gathered Oct. 31 at the newly renovated SCAD Museum of Art to watch the Savannah premiere of “Extinction.”
Two film and television professors headed the award-winning film: director Kevin McCarey and Paul “Bear” Brown as director of photography. The rest of the crew was made up of SCAD students.
The film follows paleontologists Dr. Healy (Jim Carswell), Jan Peek (Marco Piovesan) and Cecile (Heather Heath) in South Africa as they seek answers for the Permian Age extinction event.
Sipho, a young teenager played by Coltrane Williams, befriends the scientists while following his own gift of finding fossils. Along the way, he wrestles with his own feelings about the extinction of his village and about Mandisa (Jasmine Richardson), a good friend he has feelings for.
Unfortunately, she’s dying from a terrible disease. While working with the paleontologists, Sipho discovers that the human species has kept on thriving through past extinctions. This discovery gives him hope, and his hope is what carries the village and makes them fight for survival.
When talking about what inspired the film, McCarey said:
“I spent some time in South Africa producing natural history films for National Geographic,” he explained. The region he visited is rich in fossils from the the Permian Age — the stage for greatest occurrence of extinction on Earth.
While in Africa, McCarey was inspired by a comment that the guide made: Thursdays are cremation day.
“So many villagers were dying of AIDS that the graveyards were filled,” McCarey explained. “That a real-life extinction event was occurring where scientists were researching one that happened 250 million years ago struck me as sadly ironic. I also learned that the villagers often have a gift for reading the landscape for bones. These discoveries inspired the narrative.”
Once the narrative was in place, the filming process began. The crew faced the challenges that come with the territory of filming in a remote location.
The film was shot on the Red One camera. Brown, the cinematographer, discovered carrying a lot of equipment in 110 degree heat has its problems, but the smooth clearness of the shot showed through.
Another difficult part of the filming process was learning a new language. Xhosa is the native language of South Africa. Williams and other cast members had to learn to speak in that tongue. But learning the language came easily. Williams mentioned at a question and answer session after the film that learning broken British English was a harder task than learning Xhosa, and the actors had Vivian Majkowski, a professor with a master’s degree in South African English Dialects, working with them on perfecting their accents for the screen.
The crew’s hard work has paid off. “Extinction” won numerous awards, and was accepted into eight film festivals. After a premiere at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the film received rave reviews and two awards, including Best Short Film and Best Short Screenplay.
For more information go to the film’s websiteContact Jen Sparkman.