Intense Sci-Fi Film Shot Entirely in Moonlight Looks Completely Alien

By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on at

Some 23.2 lightyears from Earth sits the Scorpius Constellation, where scientists are working on an artificial biosphere that can harbour human life. And perhaps some other forms of life, too.

That’s the premise of the violent, action-packed sci-fi short Refuge, which was released this week and is being billed as “the first narrative film ever shot with just moonlight”. Director Sam Shapson managed that by using a Sony A7—shooting at a whopping ISO 51,200. The effect is a wispy blue haze that makes the Angeles National Forest, where Refuge was shot, look as though it’s being lit by some strange, cold constellation nearby.

It’s a magical effect, and easy to forget that the actors couldn’t even see each others’ faces while these scenes were being shot. Just because the film was shot in darkness doesn’t mean there was no lighting tech involved, though. Shapson talked to PetaPixel, describing how the crew bounced moonlight onto the actors’ faces:

“After concluding that we would bring no lights, we found that large bounce cards would be absolutely key,” he tells PetaPixel. “This allowed us to literally bounce moonlight to fill in the deep shadows cast on the talents faces.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a short shot with just moonlight (a non-narrative video shot with the A7 popped up last year), but it’s certainly the most interesting use of the technology we’ve seen so far. Want to fake an alien atmosphere on a budget? Just use the moon—and only the moon.

[Refuge; h/t PetaPixel]