Sci-fi anthology ‘Shatter Belt’ premieres at SXSW

Sage Dunlap, Associate Life&Arts Editor

From Director James Ward Byrkit, the first season of sci-fi anthology “Shatter Belt” premiered at South by Southwest on Tuesday. The festival showcased episodes two to four of the debut season, all exploring aspects of human consciousness and the surreal.

The Daily Texan attended the world premiere’s red carpet to speak with actors and filmmakers behind the anthology about its characters and inspirations for the series.

The Daily Texan: What first drew you to this project?

Scarlet Sheppard: It was mostly my character. Avril, who is an assistant who gets coffee for everybody. As a struggling actor in LA, I know that role very well. Avril is pretty desperate to get people to like her, and I was once that way. She’s kind of a younger version of me. I thought she was going to be really goofy and over the top, but James helped me tweak my performance down to the “Shatter Belt” level of things where nothing is too on the nose. It’s not obviously comedy, it’s not obviously drama. It expands beyond genre.

DT: What do you hope people take away from the episode you’re acting in?

SS: This episode is about your mob mindset, where if you get one really vocal person screaming a message, whether it’s a lie, whether it’s true, doesn’t really matter. With a confident leader, a mob can form and that mob can get out of control. I think that’s relevant today.

DT: In your panel earlier this week, you talked about filming the anthology at some grotesque locations. Can you describe the site of your shoot? 

James Ward Byrkit: The very first episode we shot (was) with Patton Oswald in a salvage yard, and it was a wonderful location. It looked amazing, but it was a working salvage yard and it was dangerous and disgusting. It was very, very dirty, and it was a tetanus wonderland.

DT: When did you first realize you felt intrigued by the topic of consciousness?

JWB: Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with science fiction that explored the limits of our minds and the combination of the physical world and the mental world. So, I naturally gravitate toward stories that explore that. This seemed like a very natural way to get every idea I’ve ever had out into the world — this will go on for decades.