Brave New Jersey, which had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival on Saturday, is set in 1938 in a small New Jersey town overcome with mass hysteria on the night of Orson Welles' legendary War of the Worlds radio broadcast, the hoax that fooled millions into believing that Martians had invaded America.
Stars Anna Camp and Tony Hale and director/co-writer Jody Lambert say they'd react very differently than the characters if a similar event creating mass hysteria occurred today.
Camp, who is known for her role in the Pitch Perfect films, says she wouldn't have as extreme of a reaction as her character, Peg, who becomes a little too eager to fight the supposed alien threat. Instead, she says, "I definitely think that I would want to do things that I've been holding back on doing, if I knew I only had one night to live. I would want to make it a fantastic night."
Her version of a fantastic night would involve "love and food" and being "happy and satisfied," she says, joking, "I would spend it with my husband probably, making out intensely. And then ordering a lot of amazing food, and then giving my dog a burger, because he can't have human food."
Hale, who plays the town's mayor, thinks he'd take a more analytical approach. "I'd probably have to really think through it. 'Is this right? Is this happening? Are we being too extreme?'" he says. Then, he'd take a more introspective approach. "It really simplifies your life: What's important? My family, my friends. It's not about all the other crap we give a lot of power to," Hale explains.
Lambert, making his feature directorial debut, says he wouldn't react that way: "I think I'd be one of those people that's like, 'Let's party! Let's get drunk. Let's have sex. Let's do all the last-night-on-Earth things.' It would not be a calm reaction."
According to Lambert, an event like the one in the film could happen today, but it would be a little different.
"People have sort of said the World's broadcast was like the first sort of viral video, so I guess in some ways, something like that could happen again. Certainly with Twitter and Facebook and stuff it would probably be harder to convince people for a long stretch that something like that was happening," Lambert notes.
Over the course of the film, the characters each have very different reactions to the broadcast. Several believe it could be their last night alive.
If that happened today, Lambert says, there might be a thin silver lining. "I think that for a lot of people, it's that feeling of confronting your mortality that makes you really open up to things that you might not have done otherwise," he says.