Cerebrum comes from visionary new filmmaker Arvi Ragu and stars Christian James (Hell Fest, “Nashville”), Alexxis Lemire (The Half of It), and acclaimed actor James Russo (Django Unchained, Beverly Hills Cop).
To make ends meet, Tom signs on as a guinea pig at a home-based lab, but when he commits a crime he cannot remember, he must risk his own sanity to reveal the truth.
Check out our Q & A with Arvi.
So what inspired this story?
Arvi: This story is kind of talking about the curiosity of what we do in our everyday life. Basically with Amazon, you’re shopping everyday, but Amazon is able to find out what you would like. Like you purchase something and they would say like ‘hey, here are 10 different items you can buy later on.’ That kind of got me curious so I’m like, okay, so what happens if Amazon knows all this, and I pass away tomorrow. Can Amazon still send my gifts and stuff to my kids after I pass away because it knows what I will buy? That’s where it kind of started and I brainstormed a little bit more and extended that out a little bit. So every memory that you have, like your pictures and your likes and all that stuff is online, but if you just keep extending that to a point and put all of your memories into a digitized form. If you can digitize all those, can you read people’s memories? And right now, Neuralink is doing good research, trying to convert your brainwaves into the digital signal. So what if you can save those digital signals and be able to replay them? And then how does this science affect other people’s lives?
How did you settle on Cerebrum for the title?
Arvi: I wanted to make a cerebral movie. So I said, ‘okay, I’m just gonna have a working version called “Cerebrum,” for now, and then later on I’ll change it.’ And then later on I realized it’s one of those titles that kind of suits it. I couldn’t call it like “Brain Waves” or “Find Your Brain” or something like that. It’s a very catchy name, it just stands out. That’s one of those things where it was a placeholder for a while but it kind of grew on you and you don’t want to go back.
Do you think that we might get to a place where the technology in your film might actually become a reality?
Arvi: I definitely think so. Once you digitize something you could save it, and if you can save it, you can play it back. I mean there are limitations, not to the extent of what we show in the movie, like it cannot be all of your memories, but it could be your active memories. Say for example, you implant something on a guy who plays baseball, and copy his brain activities into a digital signal, you should be able to play it back onto a person who doesn’t know baseball and that could activate his brain and muscle, it’s possible. Say if someone suffers a brain injury or a stroke or somebody loses their ability to walk, instead of like an athlete trying to train them, maybe we can train some brain waves and play it back in their brain and get them to do those things faster than what we can do right now.
And in addition to all of the science and technology that’s in this film, it’s also a very human film, especially with the relationship between the Father and the Son. What inspired that aspect of this story?
Arvi: Someone asked me if everything was okay with my dad, like everything is okay with my dad. But it was one of those broad things, like, you have the science, the second step to that was why does this scientist guy have to do the research? What pushes him so hard? Then there’s the conflict that needs to happen. And one of the things that I kind of knew I had to have is the main guy committing a crime that he cannot remember. That’s the whole premise of the story. So, when that happened, it was a question of what the motivation for him to think he did something bad? So by having a conflict with him and his dad, that sets up the thing, like the audience would start thinking, ‘oh, that’s why we did it. They never got along. He was strong, he’s always mad at his dad, so maybe he did kill him, he just doesn’t remember.’
When did you come up with that twist?
Arvi: That was part of the initial thing, it was supposed to be a thriller so he never did it. But the thing is, you don’t remember it really, and also if you don’t remember and then see a video of you showing that, that’s going to take you aback. To be honest, that was actually kind of what delayed the script process because I said that is a super hoop to have, you know, it is one thing for somebody to tell you did something but what if there is video evidence presented and if you don’t remember it then you’re gonna doubt it. Once I had that, I had to go back and rewrite some of the script, but I didn’t mind it because I knew that’s going to be a good bite for the audience. They would be like, ‘oh shoot, what happened here?
What was it like working with this cast?
Arvi: The cast is definitely a fantastic cast. We knew what we needed and one of the agencies came back and said, ‘there’s this guy named Christian James. He’s pretty fantastic, you might want to check him out,’ and he was phenomenal. He was so prepared for that table read, I was blown away. So, I was like, ‘okay, this is the guy,’ and the same agency was representing Alexxis (Lemire) at the time. Then somehow we got hold of James Russo. James was on board, he read the script and he loved it and wanted to play the character.
Did you use anyone for inspiration or any other directors or projects for inspiration for how you shot some of the scenes?
Arvi: We were going for some of the Coen Brothers camera movements, or lack of camera movements. Sometimes they will just make the camera sit in one spot and let the movie play out, let the characters play out the scene. You don’t have to cut in between, you don’t have to do dolly movements or anything like that. The Coen Brothers let the characters do the play and walk away from the frame. So the lack of camera movements was definitely inspired by the Coen Brothers. The movie Hell or High Water was one of the inspirations for the texture, this country style texture. I’ve always loved the color scheme of the grittiness of that film.
So, if this technology was around, right now, would you use it?
Arvi: I will. Not just because it is fun, it’s something that should be tried. It’s a possibility and I would like to try it, I would like to see if I can get Elon Musk to back up his brain and give it to me so I can be like him for a day.