The IPO congratulates our member Stephen Nagel, the co-writer and co-director alongside Dean Ravell on their new science fiction thriller MIA&I .

“We’re happy to finally reveal Mia and Sophie’s story to the world”, said writer-director Stephen Nagel. The feature-length version of the script for MIA&I placed in the quarterfinals of the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay Competition in 2020, and the semifinals in the WGSA Muse Awards in the same year. “This film is a shorter adaptation of that story which we hope to use as a proof of concept to one day produce a feature film”, commented co-writer and director Dean Ravell.

Dean (left) and Stephen (right) at the 2020 WGSA Muse Awards

The film stars Candice Burgess-Look, Roxanne Rose Modricky and Caelan Curry. Music by Bobby Dean. Cinematography by Stephen Phillipson. Produced by Nicola Duddy and Haniefa Mooideen. Propelled by a successful crowdfunding campaign by producer Nicola Duddy, MIA&I was filmed on a meagre R20,000.00 budget in 2019, edited by a small team remotely during lockdown, and will be available to stream from 01 October 2021.

“I’m excited for everyone to finally see what we made. Candice and Roxy are magnificent in the leading roles. This film really is a two-hander, and their chemistry and tension onscreen are what really makes this story shine. MIA&I is a message to industry financiers and broadcasters: look what we can do with R20000, imagine what we could do with a full production budget?”, added Stephen.

Over the last decade, the filmmaking collective at BTG Productions has experimented with a variety of stories, usually on micro budgets. Their previous film, Day Zero, was set in a post-apocalyptic Cape Town and shot on a cellphone. This time they shifted gears, opting for a science fiction thriller set in one location. The project had unique challenges, but with a determined cast and crew in place, nothing is impossible. “It’s been an honour to watch this film and this team progress and persevere even through the most challenging of times”, added producer Nicola Duddy.

Science fiction is generally considered to be an expensive genre to produce, but the story behind MIA&I is character-driven, grounded, focusing on emotional nuances instead of flashy CGI and big set pieces. This is a story about an isolated woman who learns to love herself and find the strength to fight for her life; a life she thought she never wanted before. A strong desire to tell authentic, character-driven stories is the driving force that made this project possible.

Stephen and Dean work tirelessly to foster a collaborative environment on set, where everyone involved takes ownership of their role and puts their stamp on the work they do. Haniefa Mooideen, producer and make-up artist on the film added, “This project gave me free reign creatively as nothing was off the table. Creating each character’s style and executing it for screen is a huge passion of mine and this film allowed me to do that and so much more”.

Stephen concluded, “There’s a ton of inspirations behind MIA&I. I wanted to make my own episode of Black Mirror, so that’s where it came from initially. But I’m also a huge fan of the French New Wave and that style of creating with very few resources; we put that together and came up with something unique. Our goal is to reshape what the world considers to be authentic African stories, because currently, that construct is limiting, boxing in local talent, and we want to expand our possibilities”.

MIA&I is just the start; Stephen and Dean are excited to collaborate with more creatives to bring interesting and engaging stories to life, and currently have a number of feature length scripts and television series in development. MIA&I will be available to stream on 01 October 2021 via Vimeo On Demand.

Watch the Teaser Trailer for MIA&I.

Spoiler-free Synopsis for MIA&I:

Set in the near future, MIA&I follows Sophie, a young, introverted woman who has just moved to Cape Town city, hundreds of kilometers from her family, friends and therapist.  After recently losing her mother and experiencing a nervous breakdown, she spends her days and nights in her apartment, isolating herself from the world around her.  Her therapist, worried about her history of self-harm and general wellbeing, has given her access to a private program developed by Ātman Robotics, a technology company specializing in artificial intelligence. The program presents at-risk patients like Sophie with the opportunity to receive a personalized robot companion to live with her and cater to her needs to mitigate the mental impact of her self-imposed isolation.

Mia, her companion, soon arrives and the two get along really well; Sophie even connects with Ātman Robotics technician, Alex. Not long after, something goes awry during an initialization procedure and Sophie and Mia end up in a compromising situation. Initially, the pair work together to make things right, but Mia soon develops her own goals and plots against Sophie, using her vulnerable mental state to manipulate her. Now Sophie must rely on her own intellect, mental strength and will to survive to take back her life.