Davis Chang Challenges the Delineation of Morality and Humanity in 3000

Davis Chang-photo by Yukun Chan
Davis Chang-photo by Yukun Chan

Science Fiction may be the genre which embraces independent adventurous filmmakers more than any other. From Fritz Lang to Andrei Tarkovsky to George Lucas, films which had a comparatively small budget but an inordinately sizable creative mind leading the production have resonated with audiences and the direction of the artform for decades. Davis Chang’s 3000 seems to be of this ilk, garnering awards and enthusiastic accolades by audiences everywhere. As producer/writer/director of this film, Davis has manifested a story which is intriguing, haunting, and possesses a powerful social message. Starring Lea Catania (of James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water) as 00 and Jackson Millhollan as 01, the AI Eve and Adam of this story lead us to evaluate our own existence and sense of morality. Far exceeding this, Mr. Chang has created an environment which is visually unique and enables the audience to become deeply immersed in the experiences of a life form similar to us but also quite different. 3000 may be the best film on this subject since the Academy Award Winner Ex-Machina.

Davis Chang (left) with Assistant Director Olivia Wang (right)
Davis Chang (left) with Assistant Director Olivia Wang (right)

Independent Sci-Fi films cannot not compete with large studio productions on a budgetary field, but where they excel is in having the freedom to present the filmmaker’s vision and concept unhindered by a major studio’s desire in regards to appealing to a mass audience. Where films such as 3000 triumph is in being able to push new ideas and concepts forward, inspiring audiences and other filmmakers alike. Davis imparts, “It’s exactly because of the limitations that I have to come up with so many creative ways to make things work. That experience is something money cannot buy. I took enough risks but not too much to make this project work. It feels like I’m a magician who creates a believable illusion from scratch. I get to see what problem we solved behind the big screen. I know what the locations looked like before we dressed them and made them cinematic and look so good on screen.” Mr. Chang gave particular attention to the casting, focusing on facial symmetry and the ability to convey with micro-expressions in his lead actors who present the central AI characters. AAU Studio X manifested the VFX for 3000 which is both remarkable and tasteful. 

With Production Designer, Xiwen Zhang-photo by Olivia Wang
With Production Designer, Xiwen Zhang-photo by Olivia Wang

    The audience is introduced in this story to a pair of synthetic/humanoids known as 00 (female) and 01 (male) who are living in a laboratory deep in the forest, abandoned by the human scientists who created them. They are kept alive by a blue energy source which is finite. 00 sacrifices herself to allow 01 to continue existing. When 01 later finds an alternative energy source and brings 00 back, the moral dilemma of how this new energy source is obtained troubles 00 and threatens the couple’s relationship. A dangerous cycle begins which inspires the question, “What are we willing to do to stay alive and where do we draw our own moral and ethical lines?” Even further, Davis has presented a subtext of what the human responsibility is to new and emerging life forms such as A.I. and how they will view us. 

    Davis Chang-photo by Wei Su
    Davis Chang-photo by Wei Su

     It’s not only the story which is so striking here, it’s the way in which Davis Chang has chosen to communicate it. The absence of any dialogue at all makes it clear within the first few minutes that 3000 will utilize a “show not tell” tactic. The use of natural light, 2:1 aspect ratio, and handheld cameras establishes an intimate distance between the A.I. couple and the audience. Davis describes one particularly powerful means of establishing an emotional connection in the film noting, “I wanted to show the microscopic perspective of things to capture the subtle emotions of the film. We used a micro-lens to capture the flow of the fluid in the transfusion scene, the extreme close-up of the eyes for both 00 and 01, the finger sliding through the shoulders, and the touch of both androids. We used these to focus on showing the complex relationship and feelings between the two characters.”

    As with many films of recent times, the creation of 3000 was impacted by the pandemic which stifled the entire industry. Though filming was completed prior to the Covid breakout, the post-production process (particularly the VFX work) worked remotely. Davis Chang communicates his joy in experiencing 3000’s premier at the Rhode Island International Film Festival 2022 declaring, “When the audience clapped during the credits, it felt like the baby was finally born into this world. It’s complete at last. One of the audience members sent her note to me and said it reminded her of a past relationship, a bittersweet one. There is some hate and some love intertwined with each other, and that was everything I needed to hear. That’s the complex feeling about love that I was trying to convey with the story. It made my eyes filled with tears of joy that a stranger can feel my message entirely.”

    3000 is an official selection of the Los Angeles Rock Film Festival, Venice Shorts, CineAsia Films, Utah Film Festival, London Rocks Film Festival, Chattanooga Film Fest, Zeitgeist Film Festival, Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival, First Glance Los Angeles Film Festival It received the award for Best Sci-fi at the Sicily Art Cinema Festival, Best Sci-fi Film at the 4th Dimension Independent Film Festival, Winner of the Istanbul Film Awards, among numerous others. 

    Writer: Coleman Haan