An experiment in teleportation opens a portal into a parallel world in The Gateway, the new sci-fi thriller from Western Australian writer-director John V. Soto.

Jacqueline McKenzie and Myles Pollard star as a married couple whose lives are irrevocably changed by the momentous discovery, and not for the better.

STACK chatted with John V. Soto – whose credits include the horror film Needle (2010) and thrillers Crush (2009) and The Reckoning (2014) – about The Gateway, Australian genre films, and the existence of parallel worlds.

Where did the idea for The Gateway come from?

I didn’t want to do the time travel thing. I co-wrote The Gateway with a friend of mine, Michael White, who’s a prolific science author. We have the same passion for filmmaking and storytelling. The genesis of The Gateway came about after he contacted me and we chatted over coffee. We pitched cool concepts to each other and came upon the parallel world idea at exactly the same time.

Parallel worlds are familiar to sci-fi fans, but what’s the official word from physicists – is it all just theory?

Stephen Hawking was a proponent of the multiverse and parallel worlds, and physicist Max Tegmark is also a believer. There have been some recent breakthroughs at CERN, and there’s a thing with quarks – they simultaneously exist in two different places at the same time, and that’s like a pointer to the existence of parallel worlds in the same world.

Then there is teleportation – that’s real! A Chinese company has achieved it by teleporting a data packet to one of their satellites, and a laser beam has been teleported across laboratories. I’m skeptical as to whether they are teleporting organic matter, at least not for a while yet. I wouldn’t be stepping into a teleporter at this stage.

Ben Mortley and Jacqueline McKenzie in The Gateway

You get some quality actors onboard for your films, like Travis Fimmel and Ben Mendelsohn in Needle, and now Jacqueline McKenzie and Myles Pollard in The Gateway

I’ve been very lucky with getting good casts. I like to work with people who are passionate about the material and can see what I’m trying to achieve.

Jacqueline is a very fine actress; I had her in mind from the start, so getting her was a big coup. The issue we have in Australia is quite a few of the more well known actors are reluctant to do genre films – sci-fi and horror. Jacqueline was in the US TV series The 4400, so I thought, if anyone was going to like a sci-fi script, it would be her. I sent her manager the script on a Tuesday and by Thursday morning she was onboard.

I’d always been a fan of Myles’ work – he was in McLeod’s Daughters and Drift – and thought he’d be really good for Matt. It turned out he has the same manager as Jacqueline!

Myles Pollard in The Gateway

There are a lot more genre films being made in Australia nowadays, which is a good thing. Is it easier to secure funding?

It’s definitely become easier to get genre films made in Australia. I think it’s because of the realisation that we can’t just make films for an Australian audience. We’ve got to think of the broader market, and what travels well are genre films – action, sci-fi and horror. If you’ve got a kitchen sink drama set in Sydney, no one wants to see that in the US; they’re not interested. Screen Australia is more open to genre films now – they’ve just been involved in one with the guys who did Wyrmwood. It’s good to see the change. 

Do you shoot all your films in WA?

I’m open to working in any state, but I generally shoot them in Western Australia because there are really great crews here, locations, and my family and kids are here. I like to keep it local and support the WA film industry. It was very quiet here around three years ago, but it’s definitely starting to pick up now. There’s been a change at Screenwest – there’s a new head, Seph McKenna, and he and his team want to make as many movies as they can to support the crews.

We don’t get those big Hollywood blockbusters over here; they go to Queensland and Sydney. The issue is that we lose our crew talent to the eastern states and overseas, so if we can stimulate the film industry in WA, we get more professional crews staying here.

Director John V. Soto

Which films and filmmakers inspire and influence you?

I’m a big fan of Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott, but I get a lot of inspiration from directors of lower budget films. There are two in particular: Gareth Edwards, who made Monsters, and Gareth Evans, who did The Raid films.

Monsters is a masterpiece, it’s in my top ten films. I remember watching a piece on the editing of that film – they had to trim down nine hours of footage to 100 minutes. It was just so perfectly edited, there’s not a wasted second in that movie.

Those guys have achieved some amazing work and I aspire to do what they do. I have low budgets and like to work within a tight framework to create something really cool.

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