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Live-action Warhammer 40K fan film is suitably epic

From Electronic Arts’ cinematic designer, maker of the 40K-inspired Helsreach animated series

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Richard Boylan has been a cinematic designer at Electronic Arts for the past seven years. He’s also a huge fan of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. His latest project, a live-action short film called Guardsman, might be his most ambitious one yet.

Boylan, whose resume includes work on Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Star Wars Battlefront 2, tells Polygon that he’s wanted to make a live-action 40K film for some time now. Once he was able to rope in producer Boman Modine, who did visual effects for The Dark Knight Rises, he was all in.

“It was a pure passion project,” Boylan wrote Polygon in an email. “I’ve been insanely desperate to do a live-action 40K film for the last 10 years, especially one featuring a Space Marine, and that’s where my animated series, Helsreach, came from.”

Helsreach is Boylan’s long-running animated series, also set in the 40K universe. A compilation of the first 10 episodes has been viewed more than 265,000 times.

“Finally we just decided, ‘Hey, let’s shoot something right now!’” Boylan said. “That was in the spring of this year.”

We first caught wind of the project in April, when Boylan went to Facebook, beer in hand, sporting elaborate cosplay based on an Imperial Guard Cadian Shock Trooper. What followed was a manic, single-day shoot, followed by months of post-production work. Boylan said that the project cost him around $9,000, including $3,000 raised via crowdfunding, as well calling in a lot of favors from friends in the film industry.

The real hero, Boylan said, was actor Terry Skrinjar who donned a pair of stilts and a massive suit of power armor.

“It was about 35 degrees celsius in there,” Boylan said, or around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

But what about the prospects of a longer-form version of this live-action experiment? Boylan is keeping an open mind to the possibility.

“Nothing would please me more than getting the chance to do a 40K feature, but it would be presumptuous to call it my ‘end goal,’” he said. “In fact, this short is more the end goal of the past two years of making my animated series. The fact that I got to step on set and direct a seven-foot tall Space Marine and an Imperial Guardsman is more than I could have hoped for two years ago.

“That being said, if I had a real budget to work with, I think I could make on HELL of a 40K movie.”

You can find Boylan on Twitter.

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