Space Out is a short film that brings together a real-world high school experience in Oakland, CA with a science fiction space fantasy. The film follows the story of Damian, a kid who spaces out during a test while the clock ticks. Damian struggles with learning disabilities, but refuses to seek help, not wanting to be labeled as “dumb” or “special ed.” He is the victim of a bully, Brandon, who does everything possible to make his life hell. Damian has a crush on Alicia, who doesn’t know he exists. His only refuge is drawing – he loves to draw space ships, planets and anything sci-fi. During a science test, he spaces out into his drawings and enters his fantasy world. All of his problems are easily solved in his space fantasy, but not so easily in real life. When he comes back to reality, he has failed his test, Brandon is still picking on him and Alicia still won’t talk to him. In the future, we see Damian as an adult, having emerged from his teenage struggles, making a successful career out of his space drawings as an animator.
Space Out portrays the experience of a student with learning disabilities and the struggles he has to stay focused and succeed in school. While his imagination is an obstacle to being a good student, Damian eventually realizes that it is the key to his success. He overcomes his obstacles and emerges as a successful adult. The film shows how your “shortcomings” can sometimes become your strengths, and lead to a different kind of success than you ever imagined as a teenager.
The predominantly African American cast portrays the struggles of real-life, urban education, as well as the science-ficton space fantasy world inside Damian’s head. Award winning director Aidan Fraser brings his experience as a visual effects artist from Lucasfilm and Weta Digital to this sci-fi/drama/comedy. The script was written as a collaboration between Aidan and the teen actors, combining his story with theirs. This film represents an idea for a program that would connect teens and professional film makers to create professional-quality films based on the teens’ stories.
I came up with the idea for this film because I was that kid spacing out in class. I was a dreamer, a kid who struggled with learning disabilities that made it hard for me to succeed in school. As an adult I took that wild imagination and turned it into a successful career in visual effects, working on such films as Star Wars Episode III and Pirates of the caribbean.
The teen actors in this film go to Envision Academy in Oakland, CA. I saw some of the performances at the school and I watched these kids grow into very impressive actors. I wanted to give them an chance to perform in a professional film. That’s the kind of opportunity I would have loved at their age. So, I wrote the story with these kids in mind. I had them improvise and give me dialogue ideas. Then I wrote the script and brought it back to them. We made revisions based on their suggestions creating a script that combined their stories with mine.