The Rise started when ITVS contacted me looking for ideas for a new series of shorts about the future. I had been writing features, one after the other, for years, and it had been a long time since I had thought about a short — but the future angle was intriguing. Knowing that there would be limited funding for the film, I wanted to do something very simple and not be weighed down by creating some sort of designed future. I wanted to do something character-based, emotional, and focused on performance.
When I think about the future and what’s ahead for our world, the environment is the first thing that comes to my mind. But instead of gloom and doom, I wanted to tell a story about the fallout that lies ahead, and focus on one small story. I conceived the sale of a home from an older generation to a younger one, giving clues along the way, saving the final chilling revelation for the end.
The story is set in an empty house to give it a timeless feel. I decided to make the homeowners an older couple who were giving up their dream home, a home they built and raised their children in, making it hard for them to let go of it or let go of the past. The buyers needed to be a younger couple living on the edge, more comfortable with the changes the world has gone through, and more able to deal with the world’s new challenges head-on. I gave them a baby to create more conflict between them, as well as to give the story more weight. Finally, I needed an agent to broker the sale, working as a go-between, pressuring each couple to make a deal.
Once I had all the characters in place the next step was to find ways within the dialogue to give clues (sometimes misleading) as to what was happening in the outside world, without giving it away. For me this is was the most challenging part of writing The Rise. Film and storytelling is most effective when you can give an audience just enough information to fill in the blanks with their own ideas and perspectives, opening up the story to be interpreted in many different ways. For me, it was all about building tension, not only about whether the sale would go through, but about what has happened in the world to bring these people together in this way.
— Garret Williams
Garret Williams, Director