Movies & TV / Columns

Garo Setian On Directing Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar, Possible Sequel

February 27, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Space Wars Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

The 411 Interview: Garo Setian

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

Garo Setian is a writer, producer, editor, and director who, according to imdb, has been making movies since at least 1994. Setian has directed such short films as The Blob Cupid, Partners in Crime, and The Drifter and the feature length sci-fi horror comedy Automation. Setian’s latest movie is the sci-fi action adventure flick Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar, starring Michael Pare, Olivier Gruner, Sarah French, Sadie Katz, and Anahit Setian and is available to purchase on DVD here and is available to rent or purchase via Amazon here and is available to rent or purchase via YouTube here and is currently streaming for free on Tubi (check it out here) and Flix for Free (check it out here). In this interview, Setian talks with this writer about making Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar, working with Michael Pare and Olivier Gruner, how the movie balanced the use of practical and CGI special effects, and more.


Image Credit: Uncork’d Entertainment

Bryan Kristopowitz: How did you know that you wanted Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar to be your next movie as a director?

Garo Setian: I had a sci-fi adventure screenplay I had written before making my first feature Automation which I intended to be my second feature. Jeff Miller (our executive producer on Space Wars) really enjoyed Automation and wanted to do a sci-fi movie with me. I showed him the screenplay and while he liked it a lot, it was a bit too ambitious in its scope for the kind of movie he was thinking of. So, keeping in mind our limitations, I pitched him a “quest” kind of adventure film loaded with monsters, space battles and fight scenes that could be accomplished on the sort of budget we were thinking about. It was still very ambitious, but I had a good plan on how we could pull it off. He liked the idea, so we took it from there.

BK: How did you come up with the story for Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar? Describe your working relationship with screenwriter Joe Knetter.

GS: Working with Joe was awesome. He puts a lot of attention into characters and little details that pay off later. The whole element of Kip and Taylor trying to bring Mom back; that was all him. And it added the kind of heart to the story I love. Plus, he is an incredibly fast writer.

The development of the actual story took some time as we were slowly figuring out the full tale we wanted to tell. We knew early on it was going to be a father / daughter story with Michael and Sarah. We knew Anahit was going to play a scientist and Tyler was going to be a bad guy who has a big fight with Sarah. Many of the action set pieces were there since the beginning including the climactic fight sequences.

Once we had a treatment that we were happy with, it took less than two weeks for Joe to do the actual script. And after that the script went through some adjustments. Budgetary reasons and sanity prevailed in the removal of a hover bike sequence and fight with some night monsters. But the beginning of the movie with the judge and the giant lava dragon was something we added just before production as the studio wanted a James Bond style opening action scene. I loved the idea, but we didn’t have the time or money to do additional days of shooting and we had already mapped out our whole schedule. Joe and I tried scouting some locations near our sets for a place we could film this new action scene, but nothing would have worked as there was no time in our schedule to move to an additional location.

And that’s when I came up with putting Kip in a box. We needed something that could be filmed quickly but still have some spectacle. I drew a silly picture for Joe of a box hanging from a wire over a giant lava pit with a dragon and we realized then we could pull it off. So that’s the scene he wrote.

BK: How did you come up with the title Space Wars? Was Quest for the Deepstar always part of the title?

GS: We went through several different titles throughout this process. In fact, our first press release for the film had the title Space Hunters: Battle for Deepstar. But ultimately, the distributor really wanted to call the film Space Wars. Quest for the Deepstar was always my favored 2nd half of the title as it evoked the kind of pulpy fun adventure story we were making, so putting those two titles together made everyone happy.

BK: How did you come up with the character name “Kip Corman”?

GS: We had the name “Kip” pretty early on as it just felt right. We wanted something along the lines of Buck Rogers. “Corman” was our tribute to Roger Corman as we were making a film heavily inspired by the kind of low budget Space Operas he produced in the 80’s like Battle Beyond the Stars and Space Raiders.

BK: Where was Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar made?

GS: We shot all our interiors on sets our production designer Anthony Pearce built at my Uncle Billy’s business office in La Puente. My Uncle had a large garage which he offered up to me for filming, and it was perfect for building the spaceship interiors. We ended up using two other spaces there for the additional sets. The exteriors were shot on location in Nelson, Cathedral Canyon and Pahrump, Nevada.

BK: How did you cast Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar?

GS: Just like my last film Automation, most of the parts were written for specific people and we were fortunate enough to get just about all of them. Jeff Miller had worked with Michael Paré before and wanted our sci-fi movie to have a cool part for him. So that was part of the plan from the beginning. Anahit and I loved working with Sarah French on Automation and wanted to work with her again. After seeing some of her military style workout videos she was posting, we figured she could play an action hero. I asked Sarah if Joe Knetter (her boyfriend and producing partner) might want to come aboard and write the movie as I really enjoyed the films he wrote that they were making with director Marcel Walz. It turns out Joe loved sci-fi movies, too, and was excited to come aboard the project.

As the story was being developed, we started planning on who the other characters would be and who we could get to play them. Sarah and Joe worked with Tyler Gallant and Jed Rowen before and knew we could count on them. Anahit and I enjoyed working with Sadie Katz on Automation so Joe specifically wrote Elnora for her. Jeff brought in Elise Muller. Rachele Brooke Smith was a wonderful surprise. The role of Nina was originally written for another actress who ended up having a schedule conflict. As it would happen, sometime before that I had a meeting with Tyler’s agent, and she mentioned she had a terrific actress to keep in mind for something. She then showed me footage of Rachele doing this crazy staged combat fight at a comic convention. It was awesome and her reel was great. So, when the other actress was unavailable, I immediately asked if Rachele would be interested. Lucky for us she was. And she was terrific in the movie.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

BK: What was it like working with Michael Pare and Olivier Gruner?

GS: It truly was a dream come true. They are true legends of action and sci-fi cinema and television.

Michael was so prepared and committed to the part. He is a big sci-fi fan, too, which was great because he totally got the “Flash Gordon” sort of vibe we were going for. When I first met him at a coffee shop to discuss the film, he had already made notes to himself on the script and had a great feel for his character. He loved the script and really bonded with Sarah, creating the kind of sweet father / daughter dynamic that was so important to the film. His scenes with Anahit were a lot of fun, too, as they bounced off each other nicely and ad-libbed a couple bits. And his physicality was awesome. He really knew how to convincingly throw a punch and sell getting hit. Every time Olivier hit him, we were wincing watching it on the monitor as it looked so real.

Olivier was great! He really projected the required menace we needed and also played off Rachele’s character nicely. There was a fun bit where Jed Rowen’s Manx started giving this self-important speech and Olivier and Rachele share an exhausted look that says this group has been in space together a long time.

He was also extremely generous bringing his fight skills to the production, working with our stunt coordinator Allen Woodman. He is literally a tactical trainer who not only does physical fighting but weapons combat as well. You really see it in the way he whips out a gun and stands battle ready. And the day where we didn’t have a coordinator on the set, he worked with us to make that fight scene better, which was the confrontation between Sarah and Rachele.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

BK: What was it like working with Sarah French and Sadie Katz?

GS: Sarah was awesome. Always prepared and enthusiastic, which are the most important qualities you look for in your onscreen talent. We were planning things for her character from the moment she agreed to do the movie. Those cool Viking style hair braids were her idea! Early on we got together with Tyler Gallant and started going through various fight scenes of movies, figuring out what we can do as I really wanted the climactic fight to be a long and brutal fight. We all went to the Las Vegas Stunt Academy for a day to work with our Stunt Coordinator Allen Woodman, planning moves like that big “Superman punch” she does at the climax of the film. We also worked closely with our costume designer, Jo Anna Heckman, in getting a look down for her character that we all liked. And then when we were on the set, she was 100% locked in emotionally to her part and really knew how to take direction. She is an incredible talent and a wonderful person. It was great seeing her take on this kind of action hero role while also projecting so much emotional vulnerability.

Sadie was fantastic! We filmed all her scenes in one day, and it was the first day of production so I’m sure there must have been some pressure on her, especially since so much of her scenes involved speaking directly to the camera as she communicates with Kip and then flying around in her spaceship which was this small cockpit set. But she knew her lines, hit her marks and took direction wonderfully. You really feel like there are conversations taking place directly between her and Michael Paré even though they are never actually together when filming. But Michael did pay a visit to the set that day, which was really cool of him, and the two discussed their characters a bit together before we filmed, which I think helped create that connection. Like Sarah, the fact Sadie and I worked together before on Automation really helped establish a level of trust that everything was going to work. And I thought she nailed it. I loved her character and we found just the right tone to make her a memorable bad guy.

I also loved the theme music our composer Joel Christian Goffin came up with for her. It’s one of my favorite elements of the movie.

BK: How long did it take to make Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar, from finishing the script to completing post-production?

GS: The actual number of days is hard to calculate as I run my own trailer editing company Hungry Monster Entertainment and am always busy with other stuff. But once Sarah came on board, it was literally a year of development and pre-production.

Our shoot was 9 days on the sets in La Puente. Then we moved the production to Vegas and shot for 2 days in the deserts of Nelson, Cathedral Canyon and Pahrump.

After that I spent about 5 months editing and working with our visual effects team. Then we did a day of pick-ups in Nelson (the red planet sequence). Then it was back to editing, visual effects, and working with my composer Joel Christian Goffin (who did an incredible job). By the time everything was mixed and finished it was about 7 months later. So, all in, it was a year of pre-production and a year of post-production with 13 shooting days in between.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar for you as a director? What was the easiest?

GS: I’m an editor full time, and I cut my own films, so I find the post process of bringing all the elements together once the film has been shot the easiest. When I’m on the set directing, I am always thinking about how things will cut together and how the visual effects will be integrated.

The actual production process, where we are on the set shooting and working with the actors and crew is incredible fun. I still remember telling Anahit when she was approaching the set in her costume that we were “living the dream.” But it is also the most challenging, because even when everyone is bringing their A-game things can happen that can throw your plans off. Then, as a director, you must be nimble in figuring out alternate ways to still get what you need.

Fortunately, I’m pretty good at that, but it is still stressful. And you don’t get much sleep, either. Some nights I was lucky to get 3 or 4 hours. I have honestly never been more tired in my life than I was at the end of both of my film shoots. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I love both of my movies and can’t wait to do another one.

BK: How did you come up with the look for Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar?

GS: I wanted this to look and feel like one of those Roger Corman produced Space Adventures from the 80’s. My Cinematographer, Michael Su and I talked about the look of the movie quite a bit in the months before production. Michael grew up on the same sci-fi fantasy movies I did so he understood all my references. Battle Beyond the Stars and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone were mentioned a lot.

I was also heavily influenced by the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies, so I wanted our universe to be loaded up with giant monsters. The red planet sequence was heavily influenced by The Angry Red Planet.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

BK: How did you figure out the balance between practical and CGI effects in Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar?

GS: While most of the creatures in the movie were CG, I really wanted to have some practical effects and that is where Jeff Farley came in. One of our producers, “Evil” Ted Smith, created these masks for the aliens Dykstra and his crew encounter early in the movie. And I wanted to have a scene where one of the masks comes off and reveals some kind of weird alien creature. Jeff built this cool alien life-sized puppet head that we used for the scene.

I also wanted the creature at the climax of the movie to have some tactile reality as it is trying to grab at Taylor and Wade during their big fight. So, Jeff made these full-sized articulate creature legs that matched the model we selected for the CG version of the creature.

Some reviewers thought some of our other CG creatures were practical or stop motion animated. I loved that! I think often in films CG creatures are animated in ways that make them look too fast and weightless. Early on, when working with my FX guys I stated I wanted the creatures to feel heavy and look like something Ray Harryhausen might have done. I was blown away by what they were able to accomplish.

BK: How does the overall experience of making Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar compare to making something like your previous movie Automation?

GS: Space Wars had a lot more special effects than Automation, so the cast and crew really had to trust me that things were going to look good. If this was my first feature, I don’t think people would have given me that level of trust. But the fact Automation was well received, I think, gave them some assurance that we were going to have something solid in the end.

BK: Is it more apt to describe Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar as science fiction or is it more appropriate to describe it as “space opera”?

GS: I see it more as a “Space Opera” but it has some wonderful sci-fi concepts in it like the “essence” and how people are able to use technology to live long after their bodies have given out. Ultimately, films like this, Star Wars or Star Crash are what I would call a sci-fi / fantasy.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

BK: Any future projects you can tell us about?

GS: I still have my sci-fi adventure film that I wrote before Automation. There is a possibility it will be my next project, but there is something I would like to do before that.

BK: What do you hope audiences get out of Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar?

GS: Pure fun and escapism. If you grew up on Star Wars and the many films that it inspired but feel the joy has been somewhat lacking in a lot of current Hollywood franchise films, we made this for you.

BK: Any chance of a Space Wars 2 happening?

GS: If enough people watch it or buy it on Digital and DVD, the plan will be to make two more adventures of Kip, Taylor, and Jackie. We loved making this film and we all want to do more.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment

BK: What is your favorite science fiction movie?

GS: Well, my favorite movie of all time is the original 1933 King Kong, but that is more fantasy / adventure. I don’t think I can nail it down to one. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Alien, Forbidden Planet and The Road Warrior are all up there. But I also have an appreciation for things like Krull. In terms of the last couple years, I’d say Godzilla Minus One is a masterpiece.

Image Credit: Hungry Monster Entertainment


A very special thanks to Garo Setian for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar is available to purchase on DVD here and is available to rent or purchase via Amazon here and is available to rent or purchase via YouTube here and is currently streaming for free on Tubi (check it out here) and Flix for Free (check it out here).

Check out my review of Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar here!

Check out my review of Automation here!

Check out Garo Setian’s official trailer pages here and here.

The first Space Wars: Quest for the Deepstar poster courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment. All other images courtesy of Hungry Monster Entertainment.