Henderson director debuts award-winning short sci-fi film

With a love of science fiction, Henderson resident Shahab Zargari turned his galactic ideas into something out of this world.

His directorial debut “The Crystal Crypt” is set to screen at 5 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Gibson Library, 100 W. Lake Mead Parkway.

Inspired by author Philip K. Dick, the short science-fiction film takes place in the future when Earth and Mars are on the verge of war. The last ship to Earth has been stopped by Martians in search of three suspects accused of destroying Mars’ capital city, according to Zargari.

“While the general population might not know who Philip K. Dick is, they’ve seen movies based on his work, like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Minority Report,’ ” Zargari said. “He’s very famous, and his work is recognizable.”

The idea of directing a movie sparked around 2011 after Zargari was commissioned to film a commercial for the Luxor with the help of his brother and cousin.

The 90-second advertisement earned the crew four Davey Awards in 2012, highlighting its music, videography, copywriting and marketing effectiveness.

“It was a huge boost to my ego,” Zargari said. “Obviously we wanted the project to be high-quality, but it was only commissioned work. I began thinking, ‘If we won a bunch of awards for something we weren’t necessarily passionate about, let’s do something we are passionate about.’ ”

Over 13 months, Zargari and a crew of 35 filmed live action scenes, arranged animation clips and created computer graphics for “The Crystal Crypt.”

However, trouble stirred in summer 2013 when tropical storms struck the animation company’s headquarters in the Philippines.

“I almost had a heart attack. At that point, I didn’t care about the animations because I was worried about the people,” Zargari said. “Everyone was fine, but they had no power and 6,000 drawings to still scan in. It made our deadline about two months late.”

Despite the setback, Zargari and his crew pulled the 25-minute film together in time for its premiere in December. The project cost about $25,000.

“I liquidated a 401(k) account and borrowed some money,” Zargari said. “We also raised about $3,000 from crowdfunding, and a lot of people donated their time and volunteered their help.”

Los Angeles resident Tara Platt was brought on board after her mother met Zargari at a Henderson book signing.

“We kept in touch through social media over the years, and he reached out to me when he launched his (crowdfunding campaign),” Platt said. “I really like alternate reality, sci-fi pieces, so I was cast as Mara, who is a very integral part of the story and a lot of fun to play.”

Platt has been in the film industry for about 20 years, working as an actor, producer and writer.

“The film had such a high production value across the board,” Platt said. “I was really pleased it was created with such high excellence because that’s important for me and the work I do. It’s nice to see so many people put in the same amount of effort.”

The film was submitted to the 2013 Philip K. Dick Film Festival in New York in December and won its first award.

“Philip K. Dick fans are like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R. Tolkien fans. If you get something wrong, they’ll crucify you for it,” Zargari said. “We were really nervous going into it, but it ended up winning the Best Philip K. Dick Short Award. It was amazing.”

The movie also won the Best Sci-Fi Film Award at the 2014 Independent Filmmakers Showcase in Los Angeles in April.

“I had a … suspicion that with the talent of the crew and the awards from the Luxor commercial, if we were to make something that our hearts and passion were behind, there’s no way we wouldn’t get recognized,” Zargari said.

The film is expected to be entered in a circuit of film festivals through 2015 before being uploaded online.

“It’s always surprising to be recognized with accolades and awards. It’s amazing it’s taking so well at so many film festivals,” Platt said. “With that being said, I know how hard everyone worked, so I know it’s deserving of all the attention.”

For more information, visit thecrystalcrypt.com or call the Gibson Library at 702-565-8402.

Contact Henderson View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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