In Search of Sunrise – Novel

Ex Machina meets A Scanner Darkly

Synopsis: Aya’s father is a tech guru who creates an immersive virtual entertainment experience that fully caters to the user’s unconscious desires. She feels this invention aims to spite her for not following in his footsteps by proving to her that art can be manufactured. Art, Aya believes, is too rooted in human emotion and no machine can truly replicate the depth of connection that human creativity does. Her dad and others think Aya’s simply scared of the implications if his invention is successful because as a creative soul, it would force Aya into an existential crisis. Though Aya wants to be free, she learns the machine was built in part from her memories without her knowledge. This makes her the only one qualified to playtest it. Knowing that her dad’s body has succumbed to cancer, a glitch he can’t reprogram, Aya accepts the mission to prove to him and his Board of Directors that the machine is nothing more than a financial drain. She enters the mind-warping maze of mirrors and memories and what she finds is far more sinister than she anticipated. She must search for a key to the riddle of their troubled love, and a vision that will free her own creative voice and ultimately, redeem all their damage.

Artist’s Statement: For years I’ve been obsessed with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which is a post-modern novel about a video-tape that’s so entertaining that whoever sees it becomes consumed to the point they rewatch it until they die. That was such a fascinating exploration of what entertainment is in our culture. And as technology evolved, I often wondered what the modern-day equivalent of this video tape would be? The answer I always settled on was technology fully geared to the pleasures of the user, and so Dynamic Content Immersion was born.

Turns out my idea wasn’t far fetched at all because as a society we’re very close to this technology. That is compelling to me, but I didn’t want to explore this as nonfiction. I wanted to tell a human story, no different than Infinite Jest does. With the novel, Foster Wallace “[features] the most endearingly screwed- up family to come along in recent fiction.” This is why it stands the test of time.

With In Search of Sunrise, I wanted to mimic the struggles of artists trying to create a story, having been inspired by Federico Fellini’s 8 1⁄2. That’s when the main characters of Aya and her father popped into my head as did the controlling idea: in order to be our truest, most creative and pure selves, we must destroy our egos. In Search of Sunrise presents neither Aya nor her father as good or bad. Life is more nuanced than that and I love to play in the grays, ultimately challenging the audience to reflect on themselves and decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

Status: Initially, this was conceived as a feature film. In fact, a script was written for it, went through multiple revisions, and even placed well in top screenwriting competitions. But to make it in the way that I envision, it requires financiers to fund it. And while there is interest in making the script, Covid has rattled the film industry and people are rightfully unwilling to take big leaps of faith. Rather than look at it as a negative, I’ve focused on continuing to make indie films I can self finance. (My most recent is about two sets of American tourists who bump into each other in Bogota, Colombia. This sparks potential relationships that could spell disaster for their lives back home.)

And as far as In Search of Sunrise is concerned, I’ve decided to use what I have as a starting point to write my second novel. This way, it’ll allow me to have limitless possibilities with the narrative and makes it easier to showcase the main character’s inner thoughts and struggles. I expect to have a draft completed by the end of 2022 and to be able to publish it sometime in 2023. I know, it’s far away, but it gives us both something to look forward too.

Hopefully, when that happens, there’ll be such a demand for it that people will want to adapt it into a movie. If you’re curious to see how I envision the film version of this story, check out the 3 minute proof of concept film below. Then, if you’re really curious, below that is our virtual premiere Q&A where we go into the full making of the short film. Enjoy.

Proof of Concept Short Film:

Virtual Proof of Concept Premiere + Q&A: