Director Dennis Liu Talks About His Impressive Sci-Fi Short, Plurality

In the last few months, if not the last few days, there has been a trend about sci-fi short films with dystopian set-ups involving social media and new technologies. (see at the end of the article for couple of links)

I have become a bit wary about the genre, especially since I’ve watched the Black Mirror trilogy that covers so much of the subject with such finesse.

But there is always a but.

Passionate and radical media director Dennis Liu emailed me yesterday about his sci-fi short Plurality  that had been online for a day, and here is how he pitched it to me : 

[Plurality] takes place in 2023 NYC, where the WTC1/Freedom Tower houses THE GRID, a city-wide system that tracks all of your movements to reduce crime. The film confronts the issues of privacy and surveillance for the sake of safety.

As you might have noticed, I am a sci-fi buff so if you email me your sci-fi movie, chances are I will check it out, but that doesn’t mean it will make it to the site.

Plurality is longer than what I usually like shorts to be (14 min) and it shares (consciously or unconsciously) strong similarities with  Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report, with a modern spin to it. As you can guess though, if I am writing about it, it is that I found it worth watching and sharing.

What clearly makes Plurality stands out from the other shorts for me is its impressive amount of VFX, locations and cast members. While watching it I couldn’t help but wondering with what means did this movie happen? The story is ambitious in that it required a lot of visual work to be believable, and Liu and his team made it happen.

I asked Dennis if he would share a bit about his experience and he kindly did. Watch Plurality below and discover afterwards what Dennis Liu has to say about his directing experience:

(make sure to watch it in HD!)

(It is worth noticing than yesterday, Plurality had a bit over 7 000 views and that this number has quadruple since then.  (27,330 as I write this line.))

More about Plurality now!

“This crazy short started two years ago, when my friend Ryan Condal and I were sick of watching VFX shorts that looked more like sizzle reels than movies! And those movies went on to get a lot of buzz in the industry, which we thought was sometimes unjustified. So that’s how we started to do this. We got into making movies to tell cool stories and to present new worlds/original narratives.
It was a microbudget! I’m not sure how much in the end but it wasn’t a lot at all. We shot on all DSLRs. I always thought the story and shot ideas was worth the cost savings of say, getting a RED, and we couldn’t afford that camera anyway. Plus, we were running in the freezing cold, so a RED would be impossible to move that fast, especially when you’re just running and gunning (quite literally). There were a bunch of rooftop shots, so I figured I much rather haul a 5D up there than a RED and get more shots.
I did most of the VFX on my own, and I had help here and there with a few guys picking up a couple of the shots. This one guy, Mike Warren, god bless him, stayed with me the whole thing (about a year and a half!) and we sort of talked online the whole time — just trying to fit shots in between work.
The designs were mostly done from my friend Jamie Martin, and I think they look great. On the more complicated shoots, we had a proper crew (DP Jon Chen, ACs) but some days it would literally be me, my producer Jonathan Hsu, and a DSLR and whoever was in the movie. You sort of have to fit a movie around your job, so this has been a grassroots effort the entire time!
There were so many locations. We shot 3 days in the interrogation room, 4 days running around the city, 2 days to do the opening montage, and another day in the ISIU control room.
So about 10 days. Then we had to cut it. And then do all the VFX. And that’s why I’m telling you the tale almost 2 years after we started. hahaha…. oh man.
Yes, Plurality was a work of passion made over two years and shot on a 5D! Of course it is hard to know what microbudget means, and everybody has very different definitions when it comes to budget scales, but from what Dennis says, it is clear that everything has been made to make it for as cheap as possible all the while making it look good.
So what did you think of Plurality?
If you want to watch more sci-fi shorts tackling social media and new technologies, here are two other shorts I watched recently:
* Sight by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo
* Lost Memories by Francois Ferraci (thanks to Doug!)

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