Short Film Find Polis – Interview with Steven Ilous

Short Film Find Polis – Interview with Steven Ilous
Look at us stringing week after week of great short films and interviews together. This is starting to get particularly exciting. Who knew that was actually going to occur?! Definitely not me. hahah. This week is an amazing little snippet of a movie, there is just enough here to make me stare at the time left and will it to be longer. I guess that’s the definition of a great short!

polis2This week’s movie was brought to us by Daniel Perea (writer) and Steven Ilous (director). If you are interested in learning more about them and the making of Polis you can learn more here.  I had a chance to interview Steven and just have such an amazing respect for the level of talent for both him and his team.

Steven has worked on a wide array of amazing projects like the Matrix Trilogy and the Polar Express, so it was a real honor to chat with him a bit about his latest labor of love.

TH – How did you come to find out about this film and why did you jump on board? Did Daniel pitch you? And how in heaven’s name did you land all of these amazingly talented people? (I’ll list them for readers)

SI – The original short script had been sent to me and after speaking with Daniel I thought it was a great opportunity to work together. Many of the talented people that worked on the project were from established relationships but some were from a simple, honest email. It’s amazing what the world will bring you if you ask.

TH – When Daniel wrote the script for Polis, was it a complete script, a treatment, or just the pieces you filmed? How much of the work is already done in case your out of control crazy talented team all of a sudden got funding and a green light?

SI – Daniel had been working on POLIS since his undergraduate studies at Emerson. After Daniel and I spoke about the project and his ideas for the feature film we realized that there were a ton of great ideas but we needed to prioritize which were essential to the feature narrative. These conversations lead us to a new draft that teased more of what we’d explore in the feature.

TH – The CG was crazy good in this movie. One particular moment that had me rewinding and watching over and over was the helmet scene, when it was automatically removed? Startlingly good. How many man hours were involved in making this movie and how is it different shifting from directing an actor to directing an animator?

SI – Thank you for the kind words regarding the VFX. Considering the scope, schedule and budget the VFX should have been impossible. We had over 60 vfx shots in the short with a range of difficulty full CG characters and environments. VFX SUPERVISOR Maxx Burman and VFX PRODUCER Adam Reeb at SKYWARD VFX had a massive challenge in front of them they accomplished what was possible at its peek we had assembled a team of 40 artists worldwide, two render farms, and more late nights then should be legal.

With regards to directing actors or directing an animator, When working with actors I love to discuss the project in broad themes and specifics within but once we are on set I want let them be the character they feel the most connected to. Coming from a traditional animation and VFX background proved to be a great asset being able to speak a short hand with the animators. At one point during some of our test I hired a traditional animator from japan to explore some of the robot explosions.

TH – Have you shown the film at many festivals? And what are the pros and cons of running the festival gauntlet?

SI – We have not shown the short film at festivals.

TH – What’s the next big thing you would need to hear or have happen to move you guys towards a feature length expansion of Polis? Because I’m personally, and quite selfishly, dying to see what happens next!

SI – Well, we won the competition so that is very exciting news. We are just starting the journey of making POLIS. We cant say too much but we’re excited by all the support and producers involved.

TH – That is really amazing news. Congratulations! We will be rooting for you guys as you develop Polis into a feature length movie. I know that I will definitely be waiting in line to see it wherever you guys show it.

When I first started talking to Stephen a month or two ago their team had just been nominated. But since winning it has been announced in the news that Daniel and Stephen have won a deal with New Regency to make this great short into a feature length movie. You can learn more about the competition and the prize here at Escapist.

DEFY Media, a leading independent creator and distributor of digital content focused on the influential 13-34 demographic, along with New Regency, the company behind “12 Years a Slave”, “Birdman,” and “Gone Girl” today announced the winners of their short film competition “Prototype.” Director Steven Ilous and screenwriter Daniel Perea, filmmakers of the Prototype-winning sci-fi thriller POLIS, have been awarded a feature film development deal with New Regency.

That is In Polis, there was a ton of special effects necessary to bring this vision to life. So much so that the duo worked with over 100 different people and tech firms to pull together this short snippet of an idea for us to see. Here’s a glimpse of what was involved.


I loved Stephen’s comment about how it is amazing what the world will bring you if you just ask.  Which I have been finding amazingly true.  In the past month I have been amazed at how many people agree to chat with me about their projects if I only ask.  I think only one artist has turned me down.  (Which is an interesting side conversation all by itself.)  But, that should go to show you, sometimes we really do have not, because we ask not.  hahah.  Who knew?

But I look forward to pointing us all back to this conversation in a year or two once Polis has been released and we can see this world fleshed out and expanded by these extraordinary story creators.  Thanks Stephen for your time and for your updates as to the competition over the past month or two.  If you’d like to learn more about their win you can check out here, and here.  So can’t wait to see where these really cool guys take this concept!