The SyFy channel is continuing its trend of producing thought-provoking TV with a new series, Hunters, coming next year. Based on Whitley Streiber’s Alien Hunter books, the show was developed by Natalie Chaidez , a former producer of The Sarah Connor Chronicles and SyFy’s current 12 Monkeys series, and Gale Anne Hurd, the legendary producer behind The Terminator, Aliens, and The Walking Dead. It follows F.B.I. agent Flynn Carroll as he joins the ExoTerroismUnit, a secret government agency who capture the aliens, called Hunters, who live among us. His partner, Regan is a Hunter who has taken the humans’ part, and she’ll be key to helping him find his kidnapped wife. Click through for the full trailer!
The Hunters panel was a fascinating mix of elements, with star Britne Oldford being dazzled by her first-ever Con “My first live action movie was Star Wars – thanks mom!” Special effects man Justin Dix, who most recently worked on The Babadook, was basically just glee in human form. Whitley Streiber, the famous author of Communion, seemed a bit worried that any aliens living among us might be angry about the show, and Natalie Chaidez and Gale Anne Hurd took everyone on a whirlwind tour of the last 30 years of sci-fi TV and film.
They began with a bit of conversation about the practical effects – “Bring Prac Back!” became Dix’ mantra for the panel – and showed the crowd some gorgeous sketches and gruesome alien autopsy scenes. They showed an alien skull to demonstrate their method of working on the alien anatomy fro mthe inside out. Dix showed off an example, a skull he’s brought with him, and then made a fun announcement: since all the alien skulls were 3D-printed, SyFy has put the skull file on their site, so you can download it and print your own alien skull! Dix also enthused about the work of James Cameron and Rob Bottin, and very visibly blushed when Hurd compared him to Greg Nicotero.
Another highlight of the show was SyFy’s willingness to be writer-friendly. They gave the show enough lead time, or, as Chaidez called it, “alien incubation time” to write a complete arc of 13 screenplays before they began shooting, in addition to encouraging them to build a world from the ground up. “Syfy let us do it European-style!” Hurd said, to applause.
Asked why Oldford’s character, Regan, is hunting her own people, the actor brought in a real-world comparison. “Everyone is trying to figure out your place. As a person of mixed race, as well as a woman, I think that’s always tricky. How do you fit in? Can you be part of one group? Can you just be yourself?” She went on to talk about geek culture in general:
The reason why I love this Comic-Con world, and sci-fi is that reality can be hard. These genres give us a platform to be able to deal with our own reality, and life, in a way that’s fun. It changes lives, and sometimes saves lives.
Gale Anne Hurd loves the chance to tackle another bit of life’s rich pageant. “Who are we when we confront our deepest fear? Do we become the monster we fear? In The Walking Dead, the zombies don’t get to talk to you, but in Hunters they can. We’ve given a voice to the monster, and that’s really exciting to me.”
She and Chaidez went on to discuss women in their work, in response to a wonderful fan question:
Chaidez: Do I set out to create strong female characters? Yes. Regan does some really dark shit, guys. And I think it’s not often that women get to explore the darkness inside.
Hurd: What is that test, the Bechdel Test? I don’t think I’d ever be able to create something that would fail it. That isn’t the world that I live in, where women are only victims or playthings, or only talk about the men in their lives. We’re not living in a time when a network exec would say ‘Whaddya mean there’s a strong female character, no one will buy that!’ Now, the story in The Terminator is Sarah Connor’s story, but if The Terminator had been titled Sarah Connor we might not have gotten the movie made. But we’re getting to the point where women’s stories will finally be 50% of the stories
Chaidez:We have a female DP on Hunter, Bonnie Elliot. I’ve worked in TV for 20 years and I’ve never had a female DP before! And she’s great!
Gale: And look at all the women working in Dix’s shop!
But to return to Streiber’s concerns, “What if the aliens are real, and they don’t like the show? What happens to the guy this came out of?”