This week AJ Friar got to speak with Zach Wechter about the revolutionary filmmaking behind Quibi’s new tv show Wireless which stars the fantastic Tye Sheridan. Take a look at what he had to say about the process below!
Zach:Hey, how are you, AJ?
AJ:Good. How are you doing today, Zach?
Zach:Good. Doing good, thanks. Good to meet you.
AJ:Good to meet you as well. So Zach, how was it like filming Wireless? Because this is such a revolutionary thing, where you get the freedom to film everything from the protagonist point of view. How was it like given that freedom to do this on Wireless?
Zach:It was really exciting and really challenging. I felt like this perspective and using Quibi’s Turnstyle technology was really important in an essential way, tell the story, to make our character’s phone as presence driven and alive as possible for our viewers. And it took a lot of new… It was a very new approach to shooting a TV show.We shot simultaneously with a traditional cinema camera and also some proprietary technology, that my mobile filmmaking collective created, called the tri-phone rig, that allowed us to capture the character’s iPhone, his screen, and his forward and rear facing cameras simultaneously.So there was a lot to consider in making these scenes function from both perspectives. But at the end of the day, it was also very intuitive, because we were just talking about how our actor would use his phone in any situation. And it’s something we all spend so much time doing every single day, living our lives on our phones, that it just felt very intuitive.
AJ:Yeah. And this kind of project depends on who you cast in the lead. How was it like getting Tye Sheridan involved? Because he was so fantastic.
Zach:Getting Tye involved was a dream come true for the project. He is such a phenomenal actor. And I knew early on that this project was a single character, single location, thriller and drama. And its success was really going to be put on the weight of, could our one lead actor pull it off? And I had so much confidence the moment we casted Tye. He’s got an amazing resume and was truthful in everything I’ve ever seen him in. And not only that, but he’s a technologist himself and really understood what we needed to shoot for this very unique perspective. He held this tri-phone rig in his hand in every scene and really was one of the camera operators on the shoot.
AJ:And one of the things I’m impressed with Quibi so much… My dad and I had seen a couple shows off Quibi is the way they edit. And you would think the way they edit everything into seven or eight minutes, it may kind of piss you off as viewer because you’re just getting into things. But the editing they do, it’s just works better than you would think it does. How was it editing each episode that’s got to be in that mode of seven to eight minutes?
Zach:Yeah. It was interesting. And this script, originally, was designed as one feature film, so it was meant to be continuous. And when we started working with Quibi, and decided to make it a shorter episodic series, I felt very fortunate that the material had a lot of these cliffhangers built into the act structure.So when it came to editing, we had an amazing editorial staff, and we really just leaned into the plot twists and turns as it was designed on the page, and definitely wanted to make sure that every single episode was exciting and felt complete in and of itself, and that it contributed to the larger picture of the story.So it was challenging, sometimes, to keep within the confines of the runtime, but I really turned to what I’ve seen with consumption habits and how people watch videos on their phones, on TikTok and on Instagram and on all these other platforms, and oftentimes they are much shorter. So I really believed in the shorter format and glad that we were able to design it as such.
AJ:And what was it like when Steven Soderbergh came in as a producer on Wireless? Because that is some pretty hefty name to get on any project. How was it like working with him on Wireless?
Zach:Working with Steven was a terrific experience. When we first talked about wanting to get a more established producer involved to shepherd us through the process, he’s really the only name that I came back with. And I felt so fortunate that he was interested in the work that we were doing, designing content for phones. He’s worked in a variety of capacities, but just totally understood that the phone-driven nature of this project, that the success of it hinged on optimizing it for our viewers to watch on their phone, and just was a terrific mind to have on our team. And I’m very fortunate that… I feel very lucky that he agreed to be a part of it. He elevated the project tremendously.
AJ:And when Quibi first approached you about Wireless, how did that meeting go?
Zach:It was a series of meetings that led us to making Wireless together. It started off with I got called in, along with a collaborator named Nelson de Castro, to test the Turnstyle player and to find best practices for making content for this new technology that Quibi had created. And we made a short film called Ring together, that’s had the same perspective as Wireless.When you hold your phone horizontally, it’s a traditional cinematic show. And when you rotate your phone vertically, it’s just a phone of this young woman. And we made the short, and that sparked a lot of enthusiasm for what we were doing and something that we had tapped into. And we met and talked about a few different possibilities with how we could continue experimenting in this format with the Quibi development team.And when I showed them the script that we had written, they were very energized and interested in the material. So it was a real match made in heaven from the beginning in working with Quibi team. I think that this story could only have been told in this way on Quibi. And I was glad to have partners that believed as much in the future of mobile storytelling as my team and I do.
AJ:Well, Zach, thank you so much for joining us at infamous horrors today. It’s been really insightful with this, about the technology that you used for Wireless, and been really fun.
Zach:Super glad to hear it. Thanks so much for your interest, and appreciate you taking the time as well.