How Today’s Science Fiction Can Shape Tomorrow

Sky Line directors Miguel Drake-McLaughlin and Jonny Leahan say “It’s important to dream big.”


Miguel Drake-McLaughlin is a movie lover who has been lucky enough to shoot feature films and to direct shorts for causes that inspire him. Miguel was the cinematographer for five feature films, and his work behind the camera has appeared on PBS programs Art21 and Sesame Street. Miguel has also directed short films with Greenpeace and other groups.

Jonny Leahan has worked as a content creator across a variety of media for over 20 years. Serving as an Executive Producer on films like “Sex Drugs Guns“, producing/directing dozens of digital projects, and having been a regular film columnist for indieWIRE — he has developed a unique approach to storytelling that he hopes comes through in his latest work.


Sky Line will have its DC premiere at the 24th Annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. The film screening takes place at National Academy of Sciences on Wednesday, March 16th at 6:30 pm.


DCEFF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

MIGUEL DRAKE-McLAUGHLIN: I moved to New York to get into the film industry. At my first apartment, Jonny was a neighbor and we quickly realized we both loved the movies, and also weird ideas. We started working on shoots together then and have continued collaborating through the years.

DCEFF: What drew you to this particular project?

JONNY LEAHAN: We were always fascinated with the idea of the space elevator, as fans of science fiction but also as people interested in advanced technology – especially tech that can address climate change concerns. The topic engenders a lot of debate, so we knew it would be a compelling subject matter for a film.

DCEFF: What challenges did you face in the process of producing the project?

MDM: Dedicating your life to build an elevator to space is incredibly challenging, much more so than making a movie about it (although sometimes we wondered). It was difficult for us to show the journey of these characters – all of them inspired by a beautiful vision for the betterment of mankind – because the barriers they face can be overwhelming. But in the end, we saw each of them have a fascinating arc with ups and downs for everybody, and, in our opinion, meaningful progress toward the big goal: a space elevator.

DCEFF:  What made you decide to submit to DCEFF, this year?

JL: At the invitation of the festival, we were pleased to make this the second screening ever of SKY LINE, since we believe in the cause of the festival and feel that it’s a great audience for our film.

DCEFF:  Why do you think DCEFF is important? Why should people attend?

MDM: DC is the center of power in the USA and there is no issue more critical for Americans (or anyone else around the world) than the future health of our planet. We are proud to be a part of the festival and are looking forward to enjoying the work of our peers on the myriad of issues facing the environment today.

DCEFF:  Why do you feel that it’s important to preserve parks and/or protect wildlife?

JL: What’s important is to safeguard the laws and fund the agencies that protect our parks and wildlife.  Without sustained efforts, the politics of the moment can undo a century of careful efforts to preserve the extraordinary natural lands for future generations.

DCEFF:  How do you hope audiences will receive your film?

MDM: We hope they will be inspired to build an elevator to outer space. Or, to pursue another dream they have that may seem like science fiction today, but will shape the world of tomorrow.

DCEFF:  What’s the one takeaway that you want potential viewers to walk away with?

JL: It’s important to dream big.

DCEFF:  What’s the next project in your pipeline? Does it address the same or another environmental issue that matters to you?

MDM: I have worked on short pieces about climate change and fossil fuels with the organization Greenpeace and hope to continue the collaboration. As far as a follow up film Jonny and I are always on the lookout for a subject that can really give something new to audiences – and if it can help to bring to light an environmental issue that will be even better.


Register for the Sky Line screening here.

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