It only took three days for E.B. Rhee to move from a Vimeo account to a major production deal with a Hollywood veteran. His proof-of-concept short The Garden — a reimagining of John Milton's Paradise Lost set against the backdrop of a decaying sun — has been picked up by Polly Cohen Johnsen's Polymorphic Pictures, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. The studio is hoping The Garden can become the basis for a major new sci-fi franchise, an act of considerable vision given the short is only six minutes long.
It makes up for its lack of length with visual flair and a balance between fantasy and realism that's tough to strike. The ostensible villains of The Garden are cartoonish, but they're also menacing. It's hard for an expensive feature to pull that off, much less a short thrown together with a little cash and pro bono labor. The Garden also manages to strike some resonant emotional notes, which is commendable given it's selling studios an idea rather than a bunch of developed characters.
From a business perspective, it's easy to understand why The Garden was attractive to potential studio buyers. It has a simple, elegant hook that's familiar from movies like Interstellar — the planet is going to die, and humanity needs to find another home — and it looks great despite being shot for only $30,000. The short is coupled with a feature screenplay written by Rhee and Aaron Strongoni, meaning the studio doesn't have to invest time and money in fleshing out Rhee's idea.
Studios are making a habit of picking up polished shorts
Studios have made a recent habit of picking up polished sci-fi shorts with the intention of turning them into full-length features. Neill Blomkamp and Simon Kinberg attached themselves to Ruairi Robinson's The Leviathan back in March, and Warner Bros. picked up Mischa Rozema's mysterious Sundays the very same month. The Garden is still in its infancy, and Rhee and Strongoni don't have much feature-length experience, but it has enough promise to join this wave of futuristic clips with multiplex fantasies.