Bloomington animation studio DeCarlo Animation is scheduled to finish production of “The Encounter,” a sci-fi feature film in 2023. The film is expected to be distributed to theaters worldwide in late 2023 or early 2024, with the possibility that the film will be sold to a streaming service.
After leaving his job in IU’s Office of Overseas Study, Thomas DeCarlo launched DeCarlo Animation in 2018 with his short film “The Encounter.” The short won six awards at film festivals across the U.S. and inspired DeCarlo to transform it into a feature film with the same name.
“The Encounter” feature film is centered around a new agent in a secret government agency, who must stop an intergalactic war from breaking out after encountering an alien.
“The short film takes place entirely out in the cornfield at night, it only has one speaking character and only two characters present on camera,” DeCarlo said. “For the feature, I took that premise and just kept on expanding on it, and how to bring in other characters and the world of this secret agency.”
“The Encounter” feature film has a cast of Hollywood actors. Actor Geoffrey Arend will star in the lead role, alongside Laura Gómez, Bebe Neuwirth, Edi Gathegi, Maulik Pancholy, Andrew Kennedy, Ashley Fink and Nick Wolfhard, according to DeCarlo Animation’s website.
As a fan of the genre growing up, DeCarlo said he was inspired by sci-fi and the issues that writers can discuss under the guise of aliens. “The Encounter” manages to use its genre to discuss “otherness” and alienation without explicitly stating racism, making it a family friendly movie, DeCarlo said.
“In the case of this film, one of the core themes is otherness and all the different main characters have been otherized in one way or another,” DeCarlo said. “But it’s couched in this discussion of aliens and extraterrestrials.”
Along with the theme of otherness, DeCarlo said he aims for the feature film to exemplify the resistance from millennial employees with their older generation bosses.
“That became a core theme to the film as well, this idea that you’ve got a character who is self-confident, who knows he’s right, who’s stuck in a world that won’t listen to him and him having to fight to make what’s right happen,” DeCarlo said.
DeCarlo originally started out in live action filmmaking, but turned to animation because of the available possibilities with a lower budget. “The Encounter,” which will have a Pixar animation style, has a budget of less than $1 million, according to the Press Release.
“Doing good sci-fi on a smaller budget is extremely difficult in live action,” DeCarlo said. “Whereas if you’re doing animation, that sci-fi fantasy realm really takes advantage of what you can do in it, it’s very easy to have an alien character going around.”
DeCarlo is the primary writer, director, producer and animator for the film. His co-producers are IU Luddy alum Brad Wisler and Anna Strout, who is also the casting director.
“The Encounter” character designer is Emma Land, a Ball State University graduate, and the original score is being created by IU Jacobs School of Music Professor of Film Scoring Larry Groupé. DeCarlo is also collaborating with the IU Media School to create spring internships for animation students.
“IU is an incredible source of talent in the region and I am thrilled about the opportunity to collaborate with its students, faculty, and alumni,” DeCarlo said. “Hopefully, I can provide unique, professional opportunities in return.”