The World of Tomorrow on the Tiny Budget of Today

To create a world set in the “near future” on an independent filmmaker’s budget, director Jake Schreier made some creative decisions while shooting his robot buddy caper “Robot & Frank.” The film debuted this past weekend at the Sundance Film Festival.

Instead of setting his film, which stars Frank Langella as a former jewel thief, in the city, Mr. Schreier opted for a rural backdrop to avoid having to showcase too many urban technological developments. He also called in favors from friends at special effects houses to design, for free, “Minority Report”-like cell phones with clear swipable screens.

To portray the robot of the title, Mr. Schreier hired Los Angeles-based special effects studio Alterian Effects, which also created the fat suits for movies like “Shallow Hal” and “Hairspray,” to build a white, plastic suit that allowed its wearer room for movement.

“We were looking for something that was achievable but would also look realistic and grab people,” he says.

Mr. Schreier also had Alterian built the suit specifically for a petite-sized friend, who was to play the robot until a claustrophobia attack in the suit forced her to drop out of the movie two days before the start of production. Luckily, the filmmakers were able to quickly find a similarly-sized substitute — the freelance dancer Rachel Ma — to replace her.


Robot & Frank 2 - edited