LOS ANGELES, July 27 (UPI) -- Quibi's new series Don't Look Deeper takes the viewer into a world of advanced technology. Catherine Hardwicke directed all 14 episodes, which she said take place only "15 minutes in the future."
The story follows Aisha (Helena Howard), a teenager in a Merced, Calif., high school as she discovers she's the center of a technological conspiracy. The school's use of lifelike robots distinguishes Don't Look Deeper from the typical modern-day high school drama.
"We say 15 minutes because we know that there's all kinds of A.I. [artificial intelligence] being worked on right now," Hardwicke told UPI over Zoom on Thursday. "So, I want to think that this could happen now."
Robotics in 2020 might not be as advanced as those in Don't Look Deeper, but other technology the show employs does exist. Hardwicke designed the town of Merced in the series to incorporate sustainable energy technology that is available today.
"You see the solar balloons at the school and you see a lot of solar cars," Hardwicke said. "Every car is electric or solar."
The settings for future Merced all exist in 2020 California. Mid-century modern houses in Altadena, Calif., and the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., provided some filming locations.
"I didn't want it to look super futuristic," Hardwicke said. "We wanted it to be more gritty and grounded."
The technology of 15 minutes in the future begins to bleed into Aisha's life. She has vivid, disturbing dreams about finding technology inside her body. These lead her to suspect her father (Don Cheadle) and teachers are keeping something from her.
Aisha does, in fact, look deeper into herself to figure out who she really is. The show will gradually reveal the secrets Aisha uncovers. For Howard, Aisha was innately human, no matter what secrets she discovers.
"Curiosity is a natural human trait," Howard said during the same Zoom call. "You can't help but be curious when you're told not to do something."
The adults in Aisha's life tell her not to ask questions. Aisha will find herself through the show's world of cybernetics and artificial intelligence. However, Howard hopes teenage viewers will relate to Aisha's struggle even if they are not immersed in technology like she is.
"Anyone can relate to going against authority and taking license over your own life," Howard said.
Teenagers gaining independence is a theme with which Hardwicke is familiar. She directed the indie film Thirteen, about a teenager's burgeoning sexuality. She also directed Twilight, about a teenager's hopeless love with a vampire. Hardwicke hinted that the technology available to Aisha could make her coming of age more dramatic.
"Even in a physical way, she transforms herself," Hardwicke said. "You're going to see her really taking control over her life as the series goes on -- in a very powerful way."
The trailers to Don't Look Deeper hint that Aisha is more connected to the machines of the near future than she realizes. Howard said she learned to incorporate mechanical movements in her performance from 87eleven's acclaimed stuntwoman Heidi Moneymaker.
Still, Howard was playing an emotional teenage girl. So, she incorporated emotions into her physical transformations.
"Layering those two together was very fun," Howard said.
When viewers watch Aisha's journey of self-discovery, Quibi will use modern technology to bring them closer to her story, too. The streaming service deals in short form segments, dividing its shows into episodes 10 minutes or less.
And, since Quibi has a smartphone app, the viewer can choose to watch the show horizontally or vertically. The show conforms to the screen depending on how a phone is held. Hardwick feels watching Don't Look Deeper on a vertical frame makes the show feel like a video chat with your loved ones.
"You feel like you're very intimate, like almost FaceTiming with Helena when you use the vertical," Hardwicke said.
Knowing her performance could be viewed in a tight vertical closeup influenced Howard's performance, too.
"I think I approached each day as if I'm living it and this is happening," Howard said. "I definitely learned to take a more naturalistic approach, to just live in that moment and not force anything."
Don't Look Deeper premieres Monday on Quibi with new episodes every weekday.