Terry Gilliam, the American-born British screenwriter, film director, animator, actor and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe, is one of the most innovative and cantankerous filmmakers at work today. His dense, intricate and often baffling films set the standard for strange and challenging cinema.
Gilliam's films like Brazil (1985), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) and 12 Monkeys (1995) have gone hard against the grain of the typical Hollywood fare.
Gilliam's latest work, The Zero Theorem, keeps that tradition well and truly intact. It's the story of a hacker trying to discover the reason for human existence while being constantly harassed by 'The Management,' a shadowy entity bent on driving the hacker to distraction.
Featuring a star-studded cast which includes Christoph Waltz, Mélanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Matt Damon, Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton and Rupert Friend, Gilliam and screenwriter Pat Rushin present a vision of the world packed with groaning machinery, annoying surveillance and all manner of strangeness set against a cartoonish – if grungy and untidy – futuristic landscape.
"I thought it was a perfect representation of the world we live in at the moment. When I go out – I live in London – you go to Piccadilly Circus and ads are coming at you. You're attacked all the time by ads, television – all of this is going on," Gilliam said. "It's not always as nice as the way Maserati does it here, it's more subtle – and people seem to be busy, running around the streets, doing things. They seem to be happy. They look happy. I'm not convinced they are though."
To help the filmmakers create a convincing vision of the future, it fell to North Design Labs, LLC to create a highly detailed movie prop to represent a functional, futuristic, interactive gadget to be used by actors in the film. It turned out to be a unique case built to house a Samsung Galaxy tablet which included movable tabs and buttons to activate the touch screen and trigger various lights and graphics.
"The movie prop and controller presented a unique challenge," said Mike North of North Design Labs, LLC. "By needing to not only look like some sort of alien futuristic device, it also needed to function like one."
The team at FATHOM were called in to provide their prototyping and design expertise to prepare files for 3D printing the controller. Made from PolyJet multi-materials, FATHOM and North Design Labs used GrabCAD for file sharing during the various iterations of the design process it took to create the piece. The prop was 3D printed on the Objet500 Connex in VeroClear (rigid) and TangoBlackPlus (rubber-like) materials. The team at FATHOM did post-processing and production assembly like adhering conductive foam to the underside of the keypad to make it functional.
And they did the entire job – 3D printing and assembly – within two days.
"With only a couple weeks to take a concept to a fully functional prototype, we needed a company we could work closely with – and I knew could deliver," North said. "Just as in the past, FATHOM came through on all counts."