Production and Development
Voyage of the Chimera was created and produced by the husband and wife team of Michael and Laura Gates, and co-written with Michael's brother, Patrick Gates. Living in Pueblo, CO. none of the three had any experience or connections in the film industry - only the desire to make movies. During his teenage years in the late 1990s, Michael had taken up computer animation and experimented with digital filmmaking using both primitive green screen and digital characters.
Development on the project began in 2014, with the aim of creating an online TV series. The idea for Voyage of the Chimera grew out of a love for space-age films and submarine movies; the decision to attempt to make the series hinged on the realization that the expensive and complicated sets for such a show could actually be created rather easily in the computer. It would be a challenge to shoot every scene entirely on a green screen stage, as the geometry of the space, the lighting, and camera angles would all have to match the digital sets, and to create a dynamic motion picture, a very large number of angles would have to be created. Every shot in the production would be a visual effects shot. And without industry connections, facilities, or much of a budget, these effects shots would all have to be created literally in-house.
In order for Chimera to work, the show could not feel like a "green screen show." The show would need a cinematic look; the audience would need to forget that the surroundings were false within a few minutes of starting to watch. This required two things: first, the effects work would have to be believable, despite being done by one artist in his basement. Second, the filmmakers needed to populate the show with believable, engaging characters who could draw the audience into their world. The world itself would need to be fully fleshed out and alive, even if just as a backdrop to the close quarters of the Chimera's inner hull.
In between holding a full-time job and raising his family, Michael began writing the script for what was intended to be the pilot episode. Patrick then rewrote the script, with an emphasis on fleshing out the characters. The script was passed back and forth many times in the coming months before everyone was satisfied.
Casting began in late January of 2019, and by late April, shooting had begun at Watertower Place, in Pueblo, CO, and lasted 17 days, all on weekends and Friday evenings, to work around both the filmmaker's and cast's day jobs and other projects. Shooting was completed in late June. Michael spent the following year editing the 84-minute pilot episode, creating the visual effects, and adding sound. New York based composer Martin Mahoney was hired to write the orchestral style score. During post-production, it became clear that the production would be better served by a feature film format, rather than a TV show format. The decision was made to release the pilot as a standalone film and to retool the series as a trilogy of feature films.
From the beginning, Voyage of the Chimera was meant to showcase an expansive onscreen universe with little money and resources. In every way, it is a handmade film. The second film is currently in pre-production, with the third and final film being developed concurrently.