Isaac Lawrence – The Last Outlaws of Wild Space: A Sci-Fi Short Film


My name is Isaac Lawrence, and I am a senior at Brigham Young University – Idaho studying communications with an emphasis in video production. For my final semester’s capstone project, I chose to write, direct, produce, and edit a science fiction short film entitled The Last Outlaws of Wild Space. I personally led each step of the production, including concept development, writing the screenplay, organizing cast and crew, directing principal photography, and editing and delivering the final product. I also documented every piece of the process to demonstrate the full scope of the project. 

The final product is designed to act as a strong showcase of my own talents along with those of my cast and crew. Every person involved with this project dedicated the full breadth of their time and talents to make something that we can all be proud of. I am confident that this short film will act as a valuable portfolio-building tool for every person who contributed. 

Concept Development

Over the past few years of studying video production, I have become increasingly frustrated with the limitations of student-level video productions. The university provides many professional-grade tools for us to use, but in spite of this, most of the projects I’ve worked on felt reserved rather than ambitious. Many video students tend to keep their projects small and achievable, but I felt that these smaller projects were not giving me enough opportunities to push myself to grow. I wanted to try something truly challenging, to risk everything on the chance of making something truly great, despite a very real risk of catastrophic failure.

I started developing the concept for my short film in early 2022. Inspired by science fiction films of the ‘70s and ‘80s like Star Wars, Alien, and Blade Runner, I conceived a simple story of a gunslinger outlaw who seeks revenge on an old friend who betrayed him. The first draft of my script, The Wilds, was over twenty pages long and prioritized action spectacle over narrative. Hand-to-hand combat, dogfights, massive set pieces, and a complicated backstory were exciting to me, but there were fundamental issues with the screenplay that needed to be fixed before it could be filmed.

After a combined sixty hours of work over about six months, I reworked the script to be more focused on the interplay between characters. Now called The Last Outlaws of Wild Space, the final version of the script was about fourteen pages long, with a smaller cast and a more deliberate use of spectacle as a backdrop to the narrative. There were still issues with some things on a line-by-line basis, but by the end of 2022, I was ready to move forward with pre-production.


The first thing I did before getting anybody else involved was make a detailed schedule of the whole production. Using the senior showcase on March 16th, 2023 as a final delivery date, I worked my way backward by scheduling a few weeks for editing, then five weekends for filming and reshoots, and finally a couple of weeks for recruiting cast and crew. This schedule was incredibly helpful from the very beginning, because I was able to give people a definitive answer of how much time would be expected of them if they chose to be involved with the project. There was rarely any confusion about the dates and times that people were expected to be on set or when a deadline was approaching. 

Using this schedule, I created a survey on Google Forms for people to fill out if they were interested in participating as part of the cast or crew. The survey made the scheduling and skill-level expectations clear, so applicants knew from the very start what would be expected of them. I chose crew members based on experience, portfolios of prior work, scheduling conflicts, and many other variables. I, along with my 1st Assistant Director, Cinematographer, and Art Director, held auditions for the four speaking roles on January 10th and 11th, and we chose a few actors for each role to return at callbacks on the 13th. We announced the final cast on the evening of the 13th.

Our first production meeting was on the morning of January 14th. We gathered the final cast and crew to discuss details about the production schedule and each person’s responsibilities. We double-checked that there were no significant scheduling conflicts, and we walked through every step of the production plan together. In total, the cast and crew consisted of about twenty people. 


Each department of the crew (i.e. camera, sound, lighting, production design, etc.) had a leader and two or three assistants. The leader of each department was the most talented in his or her skillset, and had full control over the team members under their jurisdiction. I worked directly with the team leads, and in turn, the team leads took control of their respective teams. This crew structure made things much easier to coordinate and control, since everyone understood their responsibilities and who to approach with questions.

Principal photography took about six weeks, from January 21st to February 25th. Aside from a few occasions of weather interrupting our schedule, we filmed each Friday and Saturday evening for about six hours. Most shoots were scheduled from 6 pm to 12 am, with one notable exception: filming at Righteous Slice, a local restaurant, from 11 pm to 5 am. Fortunately our organization and coordination allowed us to finish each film shoot much faster than scheduled. 

In between shoots, I spent about two hours each day working on the small details of the production. Much of that time was spent scouting out locations, rehearsing scenes with the actors, reserving and gathering equipment, building shot lists, purchasing materials for props, designing and constructing miniatures, and any other tasks that needed my personal attention. From the start of January to the senior showcase, my attention was wholly directed toward this project and ensuring that every last component met the ambitious standard that I had set.

However, my high standards did not only apply to me. I worked closely with the production design team to make sure that they had everything they needed to make props, miniatures, costumes, set dressing, and makeup. Using things like storyboards and concept art, my art director worked in tandem with my cinematographer to make sure that the look of the film was consistent with my vision. 


After some weather-related delays and other scheduling challenges, principal photography wrapped on the evening of February 25th, and the final leg of the race had begun. My media manager took the footage, synchronized the video and audio, organized all the good takes, and distilled everything down to the best of the best. From there, I assembled a rough cut of the film and made it as close to my vision as possible. I then handed the project off to my colorist, who used concept art along with my personal advice to give everything a high-contrast, colorful science fiction look. Next, the project went to my sound designer and composer, who created, gathered, recorded, and mixed the audio track of the film. All this took place between the end of principal photography and March 15th.

Simultaneously, I worked to put together the visual effects. I had designed and constructed physical models earlier in the semester for some sci-fi set pieces. My art director also created detailed digital paintings in Adobe Photoshop as backdrops for the VFX shots. I took the models and filmed them in front of a green screen, then composited that footage on top of the existing shots and backdrops using Adobe After Effects. Finally, I compiled some behind-the-scenes footage into a short documentary that showed the full process of making the short film.

Now that everything is complete, I have a few plans for the short film going forward. I will be holding a private premiere for the cast and crew in the coming weeks, followed by a public premiere which will be free to attend. I will also be submitting the project to some film festivals with the hope of our work being shown to a wider audience and to industry veterans. Finally, once the film festival season is complete, the full short film will be uploaded online and added to my portfolio. This short film will be a great portfolio-building and networking tool, not just for myself, but for all those who were involved with its production. 

Behind the Scenes

Production Record