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Michael Lukk Litwak and Benjamin J Murphy new sci-fi romantic comedy “Molli and Max in the Future” premieres in London at the BFI London Film Festival this October. We sat down with the filmmakers to talk about their latest flick.

‘Molli and Max’ starring Zosia Mamet and Aristotle Athari, the movie shows the filmmakers‘ signature style while bringing something new to the genre, according to writer-director Litwak. While there are stylistic similarities to Michael’s award-winning short ‘The Live and Death of Tommy Chaos and Stacey Danger,’ this feature lives in its own unique world.

“They live in the same stylistic universe and a lot of techniques I’ve learned from my shorts I used on this feature,” Michael said. “I have another feature that is an adaptation of the ‘Chaos and Danger’ short but it’s on hold for now.”

Like his previous work, ‘Molli and Max’ uses sci-fi metaphors and allegories to represent human emotions in a heightened reality. “To me, science fiction and technology is all about how the world around you influences you as a person,” Michael said. “And I wanted to take this ‘When Harry Met Sally’ format and figure out how to update it to the absurdity of what it’s like to be alive today.”

The film blends practical effects and miniatures with cutting-edge technology like virtual production. “So much of the film was done practically but it was all put together digitally so I’m always looking for new technologies to speed that along,” Michael said. “This movie wouldn’t have been possible without the technology. It helped us get done with such small team.”

After more than a decade of making award-winning, crowd-pleasing short films, Litwak had built an experienced team of collaborators who understood his practical effects approach and larger-than-life aesthetic. His first call was to Zach Stoltzfus, his favorite DP whose background in visual effects would make him the perfect fit for “Molli and Max.” Litwak and Stoltzfus proceeded to spend the next 18 months designing, printing, building, shooting, and processing visual effects plates in preparation for principal photography. Every building, spaceship, advertisement and environment was kitbashed together by Litwak and Stoltzfus, who designed and executed 90% of the visual effects on the film themselves. The whole film, filled with 900 visual effects shots, came together in under two years thanks to this combination of old and new techniques.

The script was completed in May 2020, taking advantage of extra time during COVID-19 lockdowns. After premiering at SXSW in March 2023 and winning several festival awards, the film is now ready for wide release.

When asked what futuristic movie tech from his film he’d most want in real life, Michael said he’d love to try the hoverboarding “cyber ball”.

Through hands-on collaboration and a crew of just 9 people on most days, the production felt like a family affair. The crew even appear in background roles throughout the film. “Our 1st AD is in the film 9 times on the background,” Michael said.

With epic production design and “a dream cast,” the film wows from the start. “Zosia Mamet really naturally funny and can improvise. It’s very rare to find an actress who can make over the top or absurd look grounded. You need to have a very acute sense of reality to do that,” Michael said.

Since a romantic comedy can live or die off the chemistry of the leads, finding a co-star who would complement Mamet’s energy was of the utmost importance. Since Max’s identity as a half human, half fish-person is a metaphor for passing in a white society. it was important that the role be portrayed by someone from an underrepresented background. A match was found in Aristotle Athari, an experienced improviser, stand-up comedian and the first Middle- Eastern male cast member of “Saturday Night Live.” Throughout a week of rehearsals, Athari found a calm stoicism in the character that was never originally envisioned. In collaboration with Casting Director and Producer Kate Geller, they proceeded to put together a supporting cast of both respected veterans and exciting newcomers in the NYC comedy world. Arturo Castro of “Broad City” and “The Menu” plays Molli’s toxically positive Bel-Ami Walter while Erin Darke of “Good Girls Revolt would channel the ghosts of screwball-comedy-heroines-past to play Max’s robot girlfriend MAR14.

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Editor in Chief of Ikon London Magazine, journalist, film producer and founder of The DAFTA Film Awards (The DAFTAs).