When we first saw Stuart Willis' short film Payload earlier this year, we were blown away. It's a fully-realized tale of tough frontier life in a space elevator town, which is sort of a cross between Deadwood and Tatooine. I loved the effects, and we've got concept art for the incredible space elevator. But more importantly, there's a story here that makes us actually care about our characters. It's hard to do that in a short. Plus we get some hints that life in a space elevator town is kind of like life on the nineteenth century railroad. Willis promises this bit of worldbuilding will be fleshed out more when they do a feature version.

Check it out, and learn more on the Payload official site.

Below are some of the drawings and storyboards that led to the space elevator. Says Willis:

We started out with silhouettes, trying to find the right design as viewed afar. Once we locked onto what worked for the base station — which was inspired by an oil rig — we moved onto the Crawler itself. We avoided a more NASA / traditional sci-fi look for the crawler, opting for something that was a bit more simplistic (an arrowhead). We felt that the shape would carry more negative connotations that way — oppressive, violent, even a bit phallic — but could also be seen as a "diamond in the sky" in the final shot. Melanie Cook, our concept artist, then did pencil schematics that were provided to Kris Jasper, our 3D Generalist. She then modelled the design, textured it, and did all the 3D. There were quite a few iterations just getting the 'look' of the space elevator right in 3D, so I've only included a few. Renders tend to be not that interesting — but if you find them interesting I can certainly provide a whole lot more!

Our graphic designer, Lisa Cookson, then simplified the diamond shape and the base station and used them as 'icons' on design elements, like the mission patches, the C.T.A (Clarke's Town Administration) logo and even instrument panels. . Early on we both decided that we wanted a design language that would unify everything together and just feel 'real'. If you look carefully you can see that the logo features both the Southern Cross (to represent Australia) and the four stars of the Chinese flag.

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town

An emotionally-intense short film about scavengers in a space elevator town