Biopunk director Liam Garvo on sprawling sci-short Metroplex
Liam Garvo, director of Biopunk which was part of our 2017 official programme, is following up his dystopian sci-fi concept short with another kind of sci-fi all together. Metroplex is a highly ambitious new project from Dresden Pictures, set in 2050 when the world is co-inhabited by humans, trolls, elves, dwarves, and dragons. They had us at ‘dragons’. We catch up with Liam while he’s dwarf-deep in his latest Kickstarter campaign.
Hello Liam, great to catch up with you after having Biopunk as part of the festival last year. It was a spectacularly well produced and envisioned proof of concept short designed to help get a feature off the ground. How has that journey been going so far?
It’s been good, thanks! There’s been a lot of interest in the feature following the concept short which has led to a number of meetings with potential partners and we’re in the process of speaking with a sales agent at the moment. Biopunk is a big feature for an independent film so it takes a little time to pull all the necessary pieces of the puzzle together. I certainly don’t think we’d be where we are with the project at the moment without the concept short. It’s been a very useful tool in showing the type of world we want to create.
What advice would you offer anyone coming to completion on their own proof-of-concept shorts about how to move the project forward?
Attend a market if you can and have a short teaser of your project ready. Markets like Berlin and Cannes are an excellent place to pitch projects to a lot of different sales agents, distributors, investors and other potential partners all in one place. Plus it’s sunny. If they like the teaser then you can follow up with a link to the full short, feature script, finance plan and anything else you might have in place. It’s all about getting that foot in the door.
Metroplex reunites many of your regular collaborators. Who’s involved and how does having that familiarity with each other help bring the project to life?
I think it really just comes down to a shared creative vision and professionalism. In terms of heads of department, Ciro Candia and Natalie O'Connor are probably the two that I’ve worked with the longest. Ciro has been the director of photography on everything I’ve made – well nearly everything! – except for one music promo. And Natalie has been either Production Designer or Art Director on everything as well. There’s a confidence in opinion that develops through past experience when working with the same team. There’s less second guessing and more focusing on making every shot the best it can be. We don’t always agree on everything but then of course I wouldn’t want that either. A healthy debate is always good. I’m also looking forward to working with Andrew again. As you know he was the screenwriter on Biopunk and will be writing the screenplay for Metroplex. He also wrote and directed The Fitzroy which was the first feature film I edited and produced with producing partner James Heath. Andrew’s also going to be editing Metroplex so it’ll be fun swapping roles on this one! There’s a number of other people coming back as well and I’m looking forward to working with everyone again.
The story of Metroplex is a bold mash up of many sci-fi/fantasy tropes and themes. What’s the story and where did the story come from?
Yeah, it’s a Heat, Dredd, Lord of the Rings smoothie. So you know it’s good for you. It’s actually mainly influenced by Shadowrun which is a table top role playing game. Growing up I used to play it with a group of mates and that universe kind of just stuck with me. In fact when I first set out writing the story for Biopunk I was going to set it in a Shadowrun world but as that idea developed it became less and less influenced by that universe and more by what was happening in the news with the change in the political climate and refugee crisis. Ultimately Biopunk became a much different film to Metroplex - which combines my love for serious crime films like Heat, A Bittersweet Life and Outrage with characters you would normally only find in a fantasy movie, then setting it in a future cyberpunk influenced dystopian London. The film follows Avin Sull, a hardened career criminal and a team of mercenaries, an elf, Orc and digital guru, on a heist to steal the Codex, a heavily guarded and mysterious book. The group are then betrayed by the person that gave them the job and are picked off one by one before ultimately Avin takes his revenge.
How did you decide what to include in the short and hold back for the feature?
Budget! Actually, it comes down to what creates a good cliff hanger in a short amount of time and just a bit extra to spice up the visuals for a cool teaser.
Looking at your previous work you’re clearly a lover of sci-fi and fantasy. What excites you most about Metroplex?
I don’t feel we’ve seen the definitive ‘elf wielding a mini-gun’ film yet, so that’s what I plan on making. Seriously though, I just love the idea of fantastical creatures set in a serious futuristic thriller. And I love a good heist film.
Dragons. Tell us more about the dragons.
Ahh yes, the dragons. Well…
Metroplex is currently a 'Project We Love' on Kickstarter. Can you tell us about the campaign and how people can get involved or help with the project on Kickstarter or beyond?
We’re just over 30% funded with 20 days to go as of writing this. To find out more about the world of Metroplex, who some of our current partners are – like the VFX team behind Blade Runner 2049 - and see some cool concept art, you can view the Kickstarter campaign here.
And as a special thank you, any of your readers that back the project at the £25, we’ll automatically upgrade them to the £35 if they message us on Kickstarter ‘Exit 6’ and we’ll do the rest.
You’ve been successful with Kickstarter on a few big projects now – you must be everyone’s go-to guy for advice on crowdfunding. What of your previous experiences do you think prepared you best for going again with Metroplex?
Being organised, having a plan of action, even if you throw that plan out the window as soon as you hit the launch button! And ensuring that I have a month clear in the diary. There’s always something that needs doing. Social media, newsletters, research, marketing, Reddit, outreach, blogs, World Cup, writing this, and repeat.
Check out the Metroplex Kickstarter campaign here.
You can follow Liam on Twitter: @LGarvo