Angelo Salamanca
Australian Cinema Ensemble



Life on Earth: Severance

2019, 90 mins, drama, 4K      IMDb page

Director: Angelo Salamanca
Writer: Keiran King
Producers: Keiran King and Emma Burnside
Executive Producer: Kate Whitbread

Principal Cast: Keiran King; Emma Burnside; Carolyn Masson

When an alien pandemic threatens to end the world, two scientists steal the virus and flee civilization in a last-ditched attempt to find a cure.



As soon as I was told of the concept for “Life on Earth: Severance” I recognized immediately the film’s potential. Even in early draft stage, the script afforded a compelling scenario which spoke to a debate raging for some time now (and will continue to rage) over how far mankind should be permitted to challenge the natural order of things. For me, “Life on Earth: Severance” raises intriguing philosophical questions about mankind’s desire to eradicate all manner of threats to its existence in order to achieve longevity or indeed, immortality. I’ve admired features in the past such as “Gattaca” in which a strong story, simple but effective production design, and excellent central performances combined to create something special with a relatively small budget.


Essentially, I responded immediately to the poetry inherent in “Life on Earth: Severance” via its big print’s imagery as well as dialogue; it reminded me just how adept cinema can be at transporting an audience from one reality to another form of reality; I felt this project had the potential to transpose the audience to a dreamscape - and dreams, of course, can often seem more real than reality.

I saw my task as director of this project - working in close collaboration with key crew - to serve this fascinating story as best I could with the resources available to us. I felt the best way to go about achieving this was to ensure the film – in many ways a “chamber piece” (even though is was shot predominately in an exterior location) would ultimately take its audience on a fantastical journey – but a journey rooted very much in a recognizable world.

I wanted to present two characters (the drama is essentially a two-hander) in search of meaning outside their comfort zone (one character deliberately seeks danger; the other is forced into it) and which would ultimately define who they are or who they believed they ought to be.

For the film to work I figured it was crucial that the audience understand these protagonists in order to want to be taken along on their bizarre journey. The narrative involves two professional microbiologists – partners in the lab and partners in life - whose loving relationship is challenged to the extreme due to an irrational act committed by one of them.

However, I didn’t see the script as purely social commentary on the theme of human beings’ propensity to embrace foolhardy adventure. There are many layers to the story and I was determined to tease them out to ensure the film was compelling on different levels. I identified a certain a romanticism in the story which I felt would act as a counterpoint to the central theme of an alien virus landing on earth and potentially wiping out humankind. The central volatile relationship between ‘Adam and Billie’ also takes the viewer into the realm of gender politics which compliments the story’s basic premise and propels the drama towards a dynamic if dystopian resolution.


As regards production values, I’m delighted with the look of the film. We deployed a 2-cam set-up (the third camera, a GoPro, was used primarily for video-diary footage) which helped in achieving the 6 minutes of screen-time per day required to make this feature within the tight schedule.

Some B-roll footage was shot during breaks in film days and also outside of the principal photography period. Our cinematographer captured some stunning backlit imagery involving the insect and arachnoid world; impressionistic imagery of trees, decaying logs, tall grasses, rolling clouds, and lichen-encrusted stones. This heightens the mood we were keen to imbue the story with.


I was grateful to be granted a relatively generous rehearsal period in pre-production; I believe it proved invaluable for the actors to combine the rehearsal process with some intensive workshopping of the script. This process enabled us as a team to tease out the script’s subtext and more nuanced elements in order to create a more full-bodied scenario.

Moreover, this rehearsal period allowed the actors to familiarize themselves as much as possible with their lines which at times constituted substantial slabs of dialogue generally as well as Billie’s video dairy monologues.


          Finally, I embarked on this project believing that my job as film director was to do this story justice and to ensure that ultimately, once the film was screened, audiences would leave the cinema not only entertained by a filmic experience, but also keen to ponder further the thought-provoking narrative.



Angelo Salamanca