Sasich developed his passion for science fiction at a young age and cites the classic 1970s film Silent Running (a dystopian flick with a strong ecological message) as a strong influence. “My dad introduced me to it,” says Sasich. “What struck me was the emotion — how much emotion the filmmakers got out of the droids. It leaves you in tears, but it’s hopeful too.”
Other favorites of Sasich include iconic masterpieces such as Alien and Blade Runner. “I saw these movies with my older brothers, even before I started reading. I realized filmmaking was the way I wanted to tell stories,” he says. It’s no surprise that the gritty feel and emotional impact of 1970s-80s sci fi is apparent in both ATROPA and HENRi, which were done as indie films on small budgets.
“It’s really tough doing anything on a budget,” he says. “You see a lot of indie comedy series because they’re inexpensive. But it’s hard to do science fiction on a budget. That’s where the grungy look comes from.”
How does Sasich balance working within tight financial boundaries while still making a good science fiction film? “As long as you’re crafty, you can do it,” he says. “But it always comes down to the story and actors.”
Still, much of the success in independent science fiction comes from a creative approach to the visual effects too. For HENRi, Sasich relied on old school techniques like rod puppetry. “There are so many challenges in getting puppeteering to work,” he says. “It was difficult.”
For ATROPA, Sasich has used a variety of technical effects. The story revolves around an off-world detective as he investigates the mysterious vanishing of the research vessel ATROPA, and it involves a time anomaly. But the series itself is essentially a love story, says Sasich.
The first episode can be seen on Recursor and Vimeo, with six more episodes in post production right now in partnership with Vimeo. (UPDATE 10/2018: ATROPA is currently streaming as a 7-episode miniseries on Studio+ by Vivendi.)
“We’re super happy where we ended up,” says Sasich. “We got to make the series our way. We’re very fortunate. Everyone came back for the series. It was like a family coming back together. It was a lot of fun. I can’t stress enough how important it is the crew you put together.”
With the full ATROPA series in post, what else does Sasich picture himself making in the future? For starters, he says he wouldn’t mind working on a reboot of The Rocketeer. But creating a franchise out of something original is his ultimate goal. “I want to stay in the science fiction genre. It’s my favorite genre. I love the sci fi of the 1970s-80s, and I want to stay in that same vibe. I want to do my own stories, with that gritty, grungy, futuristic look.”
To that end, indie filmmakers who make the leap to major studio productions, as director Gareth Edwards did recently on Rogue One, are an inspiration. “I’m a huge fan of Edwards and what he did with Monsters especially. His jump to bigger films is inspiring.”
Sasich hopes to move in that direction as well. “In terms of making the jump, I think things like ATROPA help,” he says. “I’m in it for the long haul. I just want to keep making stuff.” For now, he says, keep an eye out for the rest of the ATROPA episodes, which are expected to become available on Vimeo this year.
Eli Sasich is Writer/Director of HENRi and ATROPA the Series. As you can guess, he loves all things science fiction, including genre films, robots, and collecting… collectibles. He can be found on Twitter as @esasich.