Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you’d taken a different path? Made a different decision? Bucked down and studied applied physics?
Sean Miller’s explores that idea in his film The Replacement, screening at the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival March 24 and 25.
Miller is the kind of storyteller who creates detailed and intricate worlds with that are truly unique. A Columbia College Chicago graduate, he has produced and assistant directed more than 40 short films, commercials, and music videos. The Replacement follows a janitor as he watches his own clone become president.
What attracts you to science fiction and fantasy as genres?
I'm attracted to science fiction and fantasy because it transports us to fantastical worlds that are not only imaginative, but could one day be a reality. It serves both as a warning of pitfalls and a goal post to aim at.
Why do you think sci-fi and fantasy continue to be such popular genres for storytellers?
I think sci-fi will continue to be a popular genre for storytellers because it allows us to glimpse what we as people might become, for better or worse. I think it also helps us put life in perspective, as we look at the highs and lows of what the world around us could be and how our own actions and pursuits today might pave the way for certain futures.
For fantasy, I think it's similar in that even in fantastical settings we get a heightened look at human nature and the type of people we might aim to be. Both offer us a chance to escape into a world of imagination, but when done well, I think they help tell us about who we might become.
What inspired you to create The Replacement?
The Replacement was inspired by the idea that every choice you make in life limits other choices. What if you were able to break out of that with multiple versions of yourself each going down a different path and sharing that. You could truly look at your potential as a person.
In addition, I'm really interested in the idea of how something that can truly be good for the world can also leave us in a world we wouldn't want to live in. In our world, clones have cured illness, revolutionized technology, and taken human potential to new heights, but it leaves their originals unemployed and unable to compete. If we aren't careful with genetic tailoring or artificial intelligence, we could inadvertently create whole new classes of people. What does that do to us?
The world of clones and originals in your film feels very rich and detailed with a clear history, which makes The Replacement feel real and grounded. How did you go about creating this world?
It's funny, the film originally started with the idea of memory sharing among soldier clones who could learn from battlefield mistakes incredibly quickly when normally one wrong step leads to a body bag. The budget for the film was just too much, but during that process I came up with a plausible explanation of how we'd get to such a future and what it would do to everyday society. I ended up falling so much in love with the origin story that that's what the film centered around. I really liked the idea around both sides of the argument being equally valid. In a world where employment becomes nearly impossible for regular people, and the ones to blame look just like you, it became a perfect vehicle to deal with entitlement, resent, and a hopeless crusade that we could all get behind.
What’s next for you as a filmmaker and an artist?
We are currently developing a feature length version of The Replacement and a series to expand on the ideas of the short and show a fully fleshed out world. The film is being written for a moderately low budget that feels like a future-set-thirty-years-into-the-future and will explore how good intentions lead to a world where humans are second class citizens, and how in a weird way, it might be inevitable.
The Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival takes place at Cinerama Theater on March 24 and SIFF Cinema Uptown on March 25.
Photo credit: Sean Miller