Actor Robert Leeshock (Earth Final Conflict, Godmachine). He very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to provide an interview and article and some photos.
He's currently trying to raise funds to bring his short film, Godmachine, to the big screen. You can see my review of the short film HERE. (and a slight rave about my sci-fi addiction.)
Anyway, enough of me... That's not why you're all here is it lol.
What do you get when you cross an Arts and Science major with an Engineering major? More specifically, what happens when an Arts major tries desperately to get into the Engineering school, while prodded to give up the quest by his adviser right before the second semester of Junior year - I mean, that's a lot of calculus and physics classes going to waste, wouldn't you say? Maybe the question more simply put is: what is it like trying to force a square peg into a round hole… or rather, a round peg into a square hole? Oh, the geometry of life can be confusing, as you know. The grandiosity of those life choices at such a formative stage, and their resulting twists and turns, leave much to ponder.
I found myself as an Engineering Materials Science graduate searching for the philosophy behind the science. The graduate curriculum (that never appeared as required reading on any syllabus) which aided me in solving some of the questions raised by my unorthodox choice appeared magically in the guise of "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjof Capra. The contained philosophy so engaged me that I began the search to find a career choice that would do the same. I became an actor, inspired to regain both my Arts and Sciences sensibilities via theater training in New York City - yes, that endeared Cornell Education wasted on yet another waiter honing a new-found craft! The irony of it all is that the resulting rollercoaster of a career eventually led to the role of 'hybrid hero', Liam Kincaid, on the science fiction television series, EARTH: FINAL CONFLICT, originally conceived by one of the grandfathers of sci-fi, Gene Roddenberry, well known for creating the all-time classic, STAR TREK.
A further irony in the serendipitous cosmos found me at a dinner in New York City many years later with my friend, Rod Roddenberry (Gene's son), who was in the process of creating a documentary about the search for his father. The director for the documentary showed up to the dinner with an additional guest; he thought it might be a good idea to bring along the son of famed Cornell professor and astronomer, Carl Sagan, to the same table so that Rod and he might share in their fathers' interconnectedness. The Carl Sagan Cornell connection, the Science Fiction genre, and the underlying philosophy… was I somehow a minute part of the glue in this puzzle?
I am sure that for many Cornellians, the post-graduate twists and turns have been exciting, challenging and humbling in many aspects. The exposure to so many fascinating and diverse students was probably one of the most compelling parts of the tapestry of my Cornell experience; I wonder what percentage of us actually found ourselves in an industry even remotely related to the initially intended field of study? My journey is just one, the details of which can be found on the database more commonly known as www.imdb.com. However, for me, the more compelling part of my path lies in trying to explain the steps from deep within the gorges of Ithaca to the streets of New York, and, of course, to eternally-sunny Hollywood - what a contrast to those gray and blustery days of climbing up Libe slope!
Currently, I am back in New York, working on yet another science fiction project - my own - called GODMACHINE. My team and I have completed a short version of this film which has screened at various science fiction conventions. The response has been inspiring, to say the least. The genre is ScienceFiction/Fantasy: a rare computer virus allows an android to channel the frequency of the Big Bang, forever threatening the balance of power between man and machine. This short film acts as a 'demo' to introduce our nonlinear narrative while creating the mystique of our universe in order to pique the audience's curiosity. In its execution, the short is thoughtfully compelling and provocative - a little artsy while full of great science. The planned feature version blossoms our story into an Action/Adventure-filled romp while never leaving the science behind. We have just completed the latest revision of the feature, which ironically contains a journey over some precarious falls… a suspension bridge, rushing water… do you get where I am going with this? Perhaps we can summon the forces of serendipitous irony in the cosmos and film the feature version of GODMACHINE right in Ithaca, NY!
Please feel free to email me your thoughts or ideas, I'd be more than excited to hear them. Or even if you want to share your story of how Cornell shaped your experience - we may just turn it into a film!
Where did the idea for God Machine first originate and how did you become involved in the project?
The idea was conceived after the head writer, Richard Cranor fought a battle with cancer and was forced to face the challenges following his ‘Kundalini’ awakening! As I understand it, he was wrestling some unconscious demons and was using his ‘trauma’, to mirror the script’s use of Post Taumatic Stress Disorder as a vehicle to uncover obstacles to transformation.
I read the first draft of the script through the suggestion from a mutual friend. The ideas the script first presented to me: a Chinese corporate takeover of the southern US, Eastern metaphysical philosophy combined with echoes of the Big Bang and a provocative android comfort model who can channel the frequency of the Big Bang… I was hooked!!
What were some of the biggest challenges production-wise that you guys faced before the short film went in front of the cameras?
Have you ever tried to build a futuristic weapon by hanging out in the aisles at Home Depot? Kidding a bit here… We struggled to find a linear through line to the unconscious journey in the script. Logistically, we had to hire a Director of Photography and get everyone out to Seattle on a shoestring budget. Rich built sets using his generous girlfriend’s detached two floor industrial looking ‘guest house’. We had to shoot before she lost her patience and we’d have to deconstruct the sets. I guess she might find it difficult to create an appeal for a futuristic brothel to potential renters.
How would you describe your character of John Lee and what were some of the acting challenges you found playing him?
John Lee is a war ravaged special ops agent suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the loss of his wife due to a botched mandatory implantation procedure. John is recruited to undergo implantation himself in order to suppress his PTSD and make him a more resilient soldier to fight in a corporate controlled army. His mission is to seek out the source of a rare computer virus threatening the grid and ultimately the balance of power between man, machine and corporation.
The challenge with the character was to ‘live inside’ the psychological and emotional headspace necessary to portray a seasoned combat vet. In addition, hitting androids over the head with a sledgehammer was always hard to justify. The traversing of the line between gratuitous violence and provocative storytelling is always challenging.
What sticks out most in your mind about shooting the short film in general? Any memorable scenes? What was it like to work with Von Flores again?
It reminds me of the Nietzche quote: “One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.”
With all the random and confounding parts that need to come together, the process of shooting even a short film forces you to trust your instincts and have FAITH, lots of it!!
The scene where Grace discovers her power and goes through her transformation, her evolution from machine to sentient being, she has a tear drop from her eye. She looks at it questioningly… “What is this?” she asks. John responds, “Life.” It is the beginning of their journey to discover their higher purpose. An Adam and Eve of the future!
Von has matured as both an actor and a human being. He brings a lot of depth and complexity to the role of chairman Fong. He is always thinking like a director with very strong artistic views… We shot the scenes with him on a separate trip to Toronto and used my camera, the Canon 5D Mark II to film his scenes. He lent his eye in setting up some of the shots and is an all around versatile artist.
What is the current status of God Machine (including all the recent new castings) and what is your focus for the film’s future?
GODMACHINE is currently in pre-production. We are expanding our scope in creating partnerships for producing a feature length version of our story. The cast continues to grow as we welcome some iconic sci-fi talent who have expressed their love for the idea we have crafted. Jason Carter of BABYLON 5, JG Hertzler of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and MARINA SIRITS of STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION.
Our focus for the future is to use crowdfunding to further the marketing and pitching of our idea both to investors and production companies. We have invested much of our own resources in creating a short film, business plan, website and budget. The feature script is a fantastic futuristic romp. Compared to our short film, it’s more linear and marketable yet retains the sci-fi appeal and philosophy. Hopefully by sharing our idea we will be able to evolve our ideas and share the humanity of our ambitious journey.
The details of our journey can be found below:
But more importantly, you can watch the short film at:
Thank you all for your time. You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
There's an indigogo campaign to raise funds for the film, but it's here. Each donation goes towards getting Godmachine onto the big screen and there are incentives to donate - as if we need them.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit here.