Australian director, producer and founder of 18 Degrees Films Mel Poole (The Suicide Theory) is working on a cool new futuristic dieselpunk noir series, titled Metropius. In 2020, her team delivered a 20-minute proof-of-concept for the project that was quite well received. She was kind enough to bring us up to date with the brave, new world of Metropius.
Animation Magazine: Can you tell us how this project started?
Mel Poole: Two words: death tram. We originally had an idea for a possessed tram that was terrorizing a city. It was going to be a feature film. But as we developed the world around the “Death Express”, we fell in love with the city with the dieselpunk city we’d come to know as Metropius. There’s just so much opportunity for incredible plotlines, exciting characters that we knew Metropius had to be a TV series. Then in 2020, we produced the first 20-minute proof of concept episode with funding from Screen Queensland. We picked up a bunch of awards, which reassured us we were on the right track.
What were your inspirations for this project?
So many influences… The dieselpunk genre, noir detective novels, Art Deco-era architecture, Metropolis, Blade Runner and even Peaky Blinders resonate in the look and feel of Metropius. Ultimately, we think it will stand on its own as an exciting new world people will want to spend a lot of time in. We worked primarily with Unreal to produce the visuals, which itself produces a bunch of inspiration for how we want to create Metropius. It’s been mind-blowing to also see live-action actors recreated in our world, and it inspires the team to keep trying new things and pushing the aesthetic forward.
How many people are working on it and when do you think it will be released?
We have a mixture of a small core team plus collaborators who we work with to test out new technology and approaches. To put together Metropius, we’ve worked with a range of specialists: writers, artists, modelers, animators and a film production crew. These have assisted in bringing the vision to life of our creator Dan Macarthur, writer Ally Burnham, and lead artist David Thor Fjalarsson for our upcoming comic, board game, integrated NFT drop and, of course, TV show.
We also love hearing from our fans on our Discord server to see what their vision for the world is.
What fascinates you about this story and the visuals?
It’s just so dark and dangerous. And thanks to the alternative timeline of dieselpunk, which has kind of frozen in a distorted version of the early 20th century, it’s both otherworldly and familiar.
The story is centered around power and corruption and the people who try to swim against the current. I think that’s pretty relatable in the modern, chaotic world! In this sci-fi city, the thing everyone is after is Rose Diesel. It’s a fuel that has made some people very rich and is the foundation which Metropius is built on. Everyone wants to come to Metropius for a piece of the action, so we get this melting pot of characters, motivations and plotline. Against the beguiling backdrop, there are villains and heroes — and a lot of grey in between.
Can you give us some background on your studio?
We’re an independent studio in Brisbane called 18 Degrees, founded by myself and award-winning cinematographer Dan Macarthur. We’ve produced two feature films, lots of shorts and more commercials than I can count off the top of my head. We currently have several features on our slate — with Metropius our keystone project.
What is your biggest challenge?
I would say the biggest challenge any filmmaker has is getting their project in front of the people who matter. Once they watch the trailer, they are hooked! Patience is not only a virtue in this industry — it’s a necessity.
Can you tell us a bit about the technology you will be using for the animation/visuals?
Metropius was made in Unreal Engine 4 and using motion-capture technology. As live-action filmmakers, we were completely blown away with being able to direct our actors and see their characters interact in real time! It’s made things possible that we could only dream of just a decade ago. As the technology continues to evolve, so will Metropius.
What are some of your inspirations?
We’re looking forward to bringing the TV series to our ever-growing Metropian community, alongside the comic and NFTs — and from there, we’re planning to continue building the world of Metropius so that our fans can experience the Metropius Metaverse.
What is your take on the global animation scene in 2022?
I think adult animations like Arcane have rolled out the red carpet for shows like Metropius. The major streamers finally see the massive audience there is for this genre. Unreal Engine 5, which has recently launched, will also push animation into a whole new realm of realism and make it much more achievable to take a transmedia approach to assets. We’re excited!
Find out more at metropius.com.