Friday , November 19 2021
Sir Ian McKellen as Dr. Charles Marland-White (Courtesy of Fizz and Ginger Films)

‘Infinitum: Subject Unknown’ – Q&A with Sir Ian McKellen and filmmakers Tori Butler-Hart and Matthew Butler-Hart

Paus, a platform dedicated to independent films, recently hosted an advanced live streaming of Infinitum: Subject Unknown. The sci-fi film stars Tori Butler-Hart as Jane, who is trapped in a parallel universe. Jane needs to find a way to tap into the different possibilities of that world in order to break a pattern of ominous events. Occasionally, the action cuts away to hints being dropped by experts Professor Aaron Östergaard (Conleth Hill) and Dr. Charles Marland-White (Ian McKellen).

In addition to acting in the film, Tori Butler-Hart served as an executive producer and writer. Her husband Matthew Butler-Hart was the director as well as an executive producer and writer. An interesting aspect of Infinitum is that it was shot entirely during the first lockdown period in the UK, highlighting the atmosphere of isolation.

Following the screening, TV and film writer Michael Rosser led a Q&A with Sir Ian McKellen (The Good Liar, Lord of the Rings) and the Butler-Harts. Rosser was curious about how the pandemic restrictions had influenced the technical aspects. Since the Butler-Harts were by themselves for the filming, the circumstances required them to pack equipment including LED lights sparingly. That also meant, of course, shooting scenes with the smallest camera they had available.

Matt attached his iPhone 11 Pro to a gimbal, which acted as a stabilizer for the small camera. “It’s like a little handle that can help you create fun settings. It can be like a Steadicam. It can become a dolly track. It could almost do any sort of movement that we could come up with,” he explained.

Image of Q&A moderator Michael Rosser and panelists Sir Ian McKellen and Tori & Matthew Butler-Hart

Sometimes our cell phones don’t deal in the correct way with certain lighting conditions, a fact that Tori touched on next. They used an ND or neutral-density filter as a solution. She said, “We called [it] the sunglasses. It would attach to the phone or over the lens just so that it didn’t blow out. Then we shot it with FilMic Pro.”

Because of the lockdown restrictions, the Butler-Harts were never able to see McKellen in person during the filming. The same held true for Conleth Hill (Game of Thrones), who found it somewhat challenging to capture the footage. “I think he taped his phone to a biscuit tin,” Tori recounted.

McKellen lucked out, having been able to put his segments together with valuable assistance close by. He said, “My neighbors next door – we can communicate through a sliding door. Staying next door was a young filmmaker, Paolo Donati from Italy. He got trapped here by the pandemic restrictions.”

McKellen and Hill finished their filming independently and sent the files to the Butler-Harts. “I did enjoy doing it! If you’re playing somebody who is being interviewed, who is not yourself so you’re acting, you have to be ultra relaxed and ready to reveal yourself,” the veteran actor commented about portraying Dr. Marland-White.

Photo of actress Tori Butler-Hart as Jane lying in a field in the film Infinitum: Subject Unknown
Tori Butler-Hart as Jane (Courtesy of Fizz and Ginger Films)

The conversation was full of light moments, particularly when McKellen addressed whether he had picked up new skills in 2020. He admitted to “a bit” of painting, but overall, he had this to say:

I’ve done nothing! I didn’t learn Italian during lockdown. I didn’t read Proust or play the piano. I feel I’ve wasted a year. And yet I can hear myself at other times saying to friends, “Wouldn’t be wonderful if we didn’t work, say for a year, and just do all those things you’ve always wanted to do?”

Truth be told, last year McKellen was busy with Infinitum and he revealed that rehearsals for his new production of Hamlet begin next week. Hamlet will be done on stage starting in late June, but it’ll also be available on film.

Infinitum: Subject Unknown will be out in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand on March 22. U.S. audiences will have to wait until this summer to view it. Visit the film’s Facebook page to stay current on upcoming release dates.

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About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is a frequent reviewer of all things Washington, D.C. She also covers events in Canada and London. Her highlights include interviews with Juliette Binoche, Daniel Davis, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi, and Ndaba Mandela.

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