• Interviews

“Unidentified Objects”, A Sci-Fi Road Trip Movie to Self-Discovery

The film Unidentified Objects takes us into a visual sci-fi and surrealistic fantasy world where the only thing more terrifying than being snatched by extra-terrestrials is to find oneself alone in the universe. It is directed by Juan Felipe Zuleta in his feature film debut.

Matthew Jeffers, who’s performed Off-Broadway and in hit TV shows such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and New Amsterdam, also makes his feature debut in Unidentified Objects. His portrayal of Peter creates history as a leading man with dwarfism and the challenges that actors with disabilities still fight against today. Sarah Hay, best known for playing Claire Robbins in Flesh and Bone for which she received a Golden Globe nomination, plays a free-spirited, alien-obsessed neighbor. Together with the flamboyant gay dwarf, she hits the road on a search for their place in the universe.

This queer romance tells a platonic love story of two people who, through their isolation and loneliness, hope to find a universal connection where they matter and where they are loved.


The following interview with Jeffers and Hay was done on Zoom.

Sarah, what made you decide to become part of this project and take on this free-spirited character, Winona?

Hay: It was important to know who our creative team would be as there is a lot of new talent, which is very exciting yet also risky. I’ve been striving to find projects with as much meaning as other great projects which brought me to where I am today. Also, all the creative parts were so intriguing. Winona is a type of character I would have never been cast as. I also love the idea of working with new creatives who are fresh out of school with grants and are getting the uplift they need. It was impulsive, but it was the right choice.

Matthew, what thoughts ran through your mind when you first read the script and how did you transform as an actor into such a flamboyant, unique character?

Jeffers: As this was my feature debut, I was overcome with crushing self-doubt. In my bones, I was like, “I’m not going to be able to do this, I don’t have the tools.” I had a long sleepless night after reading the script analyzing Peter’s journey. I thought I was tripping and I have never done mushrooms, it felt like I was in this psychedelic trance where I was lying in bed and from the sky fell this wonderful, nuanced, complicated character that I had dreamed to play since college. So even though my self-doubt remained, a magnificent canvas opened in front of me. It was a risky character to portray for Peter is gay and I don’t identify as gay, so I started to process about how to paint this individual. I had to reinforce the idea that being an artist does not mean you have to be autobiographical and that I could do my best to honor Peter and his sexuality and his life with how I perceived the world.

How connected do you feel with outer space, the universe, with things we cannot see?

Hay: My character is in a deep search for meaning. Having had a long ballet career which consumed my entire life up until now, this idea of something bigger, finding meaning in already a very complicated universe came together in this character for me. I would also say, we definitely had a lot of favors from the universe during this shoot, considering that we were on a micro-budget from my experience. There were days we thought that we’d never get the shot, yet miraculously it happened in one take so we were very fortunate and lucky, it felt like a message from the universe to make this movie. There are two ways of looking at the universe. If you think about the unknown as something scary, you can live your life in fear, but if you just accept the fact that there is so much mystery, there’s a freedom in not knowing what’s actually out there.

Jeffers: Look, I grew up in a kind of conservative bubble and so, my idea of God was actually very known to me. God was what Judaism believes God to be and I believed that for the longest time. Since my mom passed away in 2013, it’s kind of been a precipitous pulling back from adhering to mainstream religion in general. Without sounding too woo hoo, I do believe that there is something cosmic to how we live life, to the way we are. I don’t know if there’s someone or something out there but I’m trying to stick to the belief that if you put your best foot forward then your own unique chaos will find its way.