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Issue Date: June 2014 Issue

Summer Fun Guide 2014: Action Shot

Sci-fi thriller The Signal gets the blockbuster treatment with the help of local producer Tyler Davidson.
Jason Brill

Tyler Davidson's newest movie doesn't have the huge Hollywood budget of summer blockbusters such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Godzilla. But he thinks The Signal, the sci-fi action thriller he produced, will appeal to similar audiences. Set for a limited release June 13, it'll show locally at Cinemark Valley View.

It's a change in genre for the Chagrin Falls native and South Russell resident who produced The Kings of Summer and Take Shelter.

"I've always wanted to do something in the sci-fi space, going back to my love of films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Close Encounters," Davidson says.

In The Signal, which Davidson describes as part District 9, part Chronicle and part Moon, three college kids trail a computer hacker across the country to an abandoned shack. They pass out and wake up in what appears to be a government facility. They don't know how they got there, but it seems to involve aliens.

Davidson was impressed by writer and director Will Eubank's first feature, the tiny-budget sci-fi drama Love, about an astronaut stranded on a space station. So meeting Eubank sealed the deal for him.

"I just couldn't help but want to see what might be possible with giving this guy a little bit more resources and support," Davidson says.

Most of The Signal was shot in New Mexico, but some scenes were filmed last June at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby and the Cleveland Metroparks' Rocky River Reservation.

"It was a really intimate and liberating experience in Cleveland with the small crew and small cast," Davidson says. "We were able to move quickly from location to location. We had a lot of great bonding time."

The movie stars Laurence Fishburne. His roles in The Matrix and on NBC's Hannibal seem to make him a good fit for The Signal, which blends sci-fi action with psychological thriller.

"Laurence has a lot of fans who also happen to be fans of this kind of movie," Davidson laughs. "Which is cool. But he does something really different here."

Young Australian actor Brenton Thwaites plays the main character. Later this summer, he also plays the lead role in The Giver, a highly anticipated adaptation of a young adult novel.

"Audiences are going to be pretty blown away with this kid," Davidson says. "He has that superstar quality."

The Signal is Davidson's fourth movie to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in as many years.

"It feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience each year," he says. "So I've been fortunate enough to have the once-in—a-lifetime thing four years in a row. It's mind-boggling."

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