Here are two things that don’t naturally go together: Roland Emmerich and low-budget. Add in ‘secret’ and that’s three. Given the sort of films he generally directs, the idea of Roland Emmerich making a low-key film is about as plausible as Tim Burton developing a movie without Johnny Depp. But these things are coming together as Mr. Emmerich prepares to shoot a film called The Zone, which sounds as if it will be his very own Cloverfield.

THR says that the secretive plot involves an alien invasion, the film will be cast with relative unknowns and the dialogue will be “improv-based.” Let’s hope he’s got someone like Mike Leigh on as a consultant, because otherwise the idea of Roland Emmerich overseeing improvised dialogue is not an inspiring one.

THR goes on to say that two of the leads have been cast, “one playing a haggard journalist in his 40s or 50s, the other a black man in his early to mid 20′s, the cameraman.” In the latter case, do we have the guy through whose lens we’ll see a lot of the action? (And, I wonder, does that translate to the fact that the token black character won’t even be seen very much? Ouch. Let’s hope he hands off the camera. And isn’t killed in the first act.)

The script is by Guillaume Tunzini and the whole project is slated as a $5M film — that’s probably what it cost just to render mastodon shit in 10,000 BC. A November shoot is predicted.

The director is in post-production on Anonymous at the moment. That’s his movie that posits that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. The cast for that one is very much made up of known actors. Some great ones in fact: Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Hogg, among others. Anonymous is scheduled for release on September 23, 2011.

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