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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Darren Darnborough ("True Blood") on Directing, Passion & Cheese: "Stefano Formaggio" EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW!

You might recognize Darren Darnborough as Callum on HBO's "True Blood", or Ajax from Darkness Descending, but most recently he's tried his hand at directing for the screen.  "Stefano Formaggio", which we reviewed right here, was a feast for the eyes and even had a little something for the thinkers out there, too.

Darren Darnborough was nice enough to answer my questions via e-mail, and the resulting conversation is printed below.  Our topics included getting into the business, being on TV and, of course, "Stefano Formaggio" (which is ONLINE and available to watch right now!)

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FCFR: You've worked as an actor exclusively before stepping into the directing chair for “Stefano Formaggio”, but you're also a writer.  Could you talk about how you started in the business of acting and what made you decide to jump ship and get behind the camera?

DD: I began performing when I was very young, first with weekend dance classes and school plays like most.  Then after seeing a local pantomime, I joined their associated Saturday drama class.  That led to doing panto each year, a few shows (both amateur dramatics and school plays) including some new musicals in the West End.  I got into TV as my school headteacher offered me and a friend the afternoon off to be extras on a government film that was shooting at the Natural History Museum.  I jumped at it, and we ended up making friends with the lead teenage actor, who had his own TV show, Billy Webb.  The first instance of nepotism struck when he introduced us to his acting class and agent Anna Scher Theater, and from there I moved to Sharon Harris Drama School, who was my first real agent at 16 years old.  I booked my second audition, a Dr Pepper commercial, and off we went.

I haven’t really jumped ship.  Whilst I’m getting very involved in filmmaking, I still go on auditions and work as an actor and voiceover artist.  But when I first got behind the camera significantly was at university.  I enrolled in Royal Holloway University of London’s drama degree, but after a couple of weeks, I realized I may get bored as much of the curriculum were things I’d covered for years as both a part-time acting student and now professional actor.  I jumped ship on that course over to the Media Arts program at the same University, where I gained my degree.

Filmmaking has always been something that I wanted to be more involved in, but it’s hard to penetrate in the UK, especially if you are reasonably successful in another capacity.  Working your way up in film requires a lot of interning, low paid work and minimal opportunities.  When I moved to LA, there’s filmmaking talent and ambition everywhere you look, and people are motivated to just make films. It made it much easier to get a team together and shoot.

FCFR: How long of a shoot was it and what was the budget you were working with?  You had an amazing creative team behind you, and the results are, as they say, up there on the screen.  Literally, this could be a feature you'd see at your local multiplex.

DD: Thank you for the compliment!  That was the look we were going for, so nice to hear it.

The shoot was over 9 days – 3 days in Carmel, 3 days interiors and studio in LA with some travel / set-build days.  Our budget was around $50,000 which may sound like a lot, but even with this money we were cutting all available corners, rushing and paying people minimums, whilst relying on a lot of favors.

It’s incredibly expensive to make a film properly, legitimately, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued and has the necessary equipment and resources to do their job to the highest level.  We had an absolutely amazing professional team involved, which I think shows, but you have to respect their skill and give them what they need.

I think these days, with available technology, it is easier to make a cheap film, but the project has to lend itself to those techniques and conventions. You can shoot a "found footage" movie on your iPhone, but not a romantic epic.  Many low budget filmmakers also concentrate too much on the action / story, to my mind -- which is paramount -- but they forget to create the world of film, the set decoration, the camera techniques.  It’s the beauty that I find in the whole process, and literally designing every minute element of that story that appeals to me, and I hope shows in this film.

FCFR: What is your favorite part of the filmmaking process?  Are you more of a writer type, comfortable with the story in your imagination, or someone who likes the shoot?  Or maybe you're more interested in the editing room, where it all starts to really become a movie?

DD: That’s a tough question.  I guess I like all of it.  I probably would say the heavy development is the best stage – when you know you are making the film, and you start working on all the small details, such as when we were studying the characters and deciding what Jasmine’s florist would look like, or that she has a harpist in the courtyard.  Color choices, costume, set pieces – all those details that create the world.  The bad part of that is that it all seems to happen very quickly when you get greenlit.

The actual shoot was incredibly fun and a proud moment – seeing it come together and being able to work with friends and loved ones is awesome.  Editing is actually not so pleasant… the first edit you see back worries you, as it neither looks like what you thought you shot, or how you want it to end up. Plus you have to make difficult cutting decisions, which lose people moments, lines, sometimes whole characters, which is hard as a first-time director.  But once you tighten the edit, do the sound and VFX, the color, the music, all that good stuff, it really comes alive.  My editor Katie Hetland was excellent, and then the team at Go!Electra in Norway took it too a new level with color, VFX, sound and music.

FCFR: In terms of imagery, “Stefano Formaggio” is breathtaking.  The depth of colors onscreen is brilliant, your coverage is fantastic.  Did you have an idea of the locations while writing?  How much pre-production work did you have to do to ensure that this short would be visually stunning?

DD: Thank you!  There’s various elements involved in this look.  When I originally conceived the idea, I was living in Greenwich, London, which is a very quaint district with an artisan village feel.  I loved the sense of intricate design and detail, structure and fairytale whimsy about the place.  By the time I moved to LA and realised the talent was here to build my team, I started looking at more local locations.

Part of the fake and replaceable facade of L.A. means that there are quite a few "storybook" looking houses peppered around the streets.  These buildings got me thinking about my main characters, the story, and how this really could work well as a twisted fairy tale, so I started to develop that strain.

We were ankle-deep in pre-production when serendipity struck – I am also a travel journalist and the city of Carmel-By-The-Sea invited us to visit to write some travel articles. My girlfriend and I traveled up, and when we woke up in this perfect fairy tale village, with its quaint houses and cute customs, I just thought, "This is where Stefano and Jasmine live!"

That weekend turned into a part location scout, and the people in Carmel were so hospitable and it just fit the scene. There’s even a Cheese Shop there who ended up building Stefano’s cheese display for us.  My producer, Marius, had some logistical concerns for us to shoot there, so we checked out some other locations including Universal Studios, but it just didn’t feel right.  Carmel had a magic quality that I knew would not only permeate the screen, but also the team, their performance.  I told Marius that he had to come to Carmel for one night – if he didn’t share my sentiment, we’d stay in L.A.. We drove up overnight, and by breakfast, he’d agreed.

I had very specific ideas of what each location should look like, and we found them in Carmel, with a smattering of movie magic by shooting the interiors in L.A.

But the other major factors in the film's imagery has to go to our creative team – Alex Fymat excelled with his set design (the whole of Stefano’s cheese factory is hand built from scratch); Hallgrim Haug’s cinematography, who mentored me perfectly; and Havard Smavik, our colorist based in Oslo, Norway, who spent the best part of a week with me making sure every shot was the right tone and shade for what we needed.

FCFR: It's interesting that every shot of “Stefano Formaggio” is gorgeous – and similarly, our two leads, Alice Greczyn and Pasquale Cassalia are jaw dropping – but beauty becomes a veneer that covers up the psychosis at the finale.  Was this what you were going for thematically, or was it a more unconscious thing?

DD: Haha, I’m surprised you noticed!  Yep, we definitely had an ugly-deficiency on that set.  It was ridiculous, even my crew were super attractive so we used many as extras!

Yes, it is a definite theme – the film’s tagline is “Perfection is Deceptive” – there’s an underlying statement that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and also a theme of duality in the movie – every scene happens twice but with different outcomes, exploring the light and shade of each.  Also, in our story, it’s actually the cheese that is making these townsfolk more attractive, but that’s subtle as we didn’t have time to explore that notion too much in a short time.

FCFR: How did you come to enlist the help of Greczyn and Cassalia? 

DD: Very different ways – I met Alice at a dinner party I threw at Sundance Film Festival a few years back around 2008.  She just had a very striking quality about her, and as I’d already been thinking about the role of Jasmine, I just thought, “That’s my actress.” Lucky for me, it turned out she was an actress, and we remained friends and so when the time came to shoot, I made sure we planned around her schedule.  She also has the same look as the girl who inspired this story.  I am so glad that worked out, Alice is fantastic in this, and I wouldn’t have seen it any other way.

Pasquale was much tougher.  We were in heavy pre-production and I still hadn’t found a Stefano, my title character.  He had to be Italian, attractive, and charming enough, with the ability to play sinister.  I watched a ton of demo tapes, but nothing was of interest.

In a desperate attempt, I called a casting director friend of mine, Pamela Shae, who casts the likes of "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Charmed".  I explained that I knew she was way out of my league for this project, but if she has any ideas off the top of her head . . . and she replied, “Yes – your guy is in my office right now.” I was unconvinced of this coincidence, so Pamela pulled out all the stops, arranging a casting day with over 20 actors for me to look at, and . . . she was right. Pasquale was indeed the man, and I very much enjoyed working with him.  He’s a very understanding and responsive actor.

FCFR: Now maybe I can shift gears a little and talk a little more light.  And with that in mind, I need to ask you . . . why cheese?  What inspired your writing of this film?

DD: A bizarre night of cheap happy hour wine and conversation is the honest answer.  In London, I had a pretty friend that worked at the market, and was seeing The Cheese Guy, very casually.  One night he took her out on the first proper date, but it ended abruptly with no real explanation. She met me for wine to drown her sorrows, and we started bouncing around reasons that it may not have worked out.  They started sensible, went bizarre, and when I woke with a very sore head in the morning, one of the ideas felt like a film plot . . .

FCFR: What can we look forward to from you in the future?  Do you see more directing on the horizon and will you continue acting?

DD: Definitely am and will continue acting.  I’d like to direct some more, so hopefully this film will bring those opportunities in commercials, music videos and feature films.  I’m working right now developing a feature called “Andy & Chaz Destroy America” which is based off the Andy & Chaz web series we did a few years back on YouTube.  We’re raising finance and looking for a co-production deal on that now.  I’ve also just finished writing a thriller with Timothy Linh Bui called Flash, that we’ll be going out with soon.  Aside from that, I’m also launching an exciting new web service to help actors learn lines with Jessica Rose (of "Lonelygirl15" fame) called WeRehearse.com.

FCFR: If you could offer yourself one piece of advice that you wish someone would have given to you when you first started out in filmmaking, what would it be?

DD: Go to a better film school.

And . . . respect momentum and work hard.  If you have a good idea, work on it, build your team, but then have confidence in the momentum as that will build around you in tandem with your effort.

FCFR: Thank you so much for your time and for “Stefano Formaggio”, Darren!  Now frankly I'm going to go find some cheese to nibble on . . .

DD: Good stuff – Stefano has an appointment for you!  :-)

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Thanks again to Darren for taking the time to answer my questions and for being a class act to boot!  Do NOT forget to follow him on Facebook and Twitter and visit the official "Stefano Formaggio" website!

If you haven't had the chance to watch "Stefano Formaggio" yet, click this link right here!


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Skeet Ulrich's Directing Debut "The Girl on the Roof" A Slice of Real Life Fantasy

"THE GIRL ON THE ROOF" (2014)
Genre: Drama
Length- 25:39
Company: N/A
Website: Official

Lila (Naiia Ulrich) is relentlessly bullied by the other students at her elementary school.  Home is no safe haven either -- her mother (Susan May Pratt) is a famous actress and a raging narcissist while her dad (Todd Lowe) is unemployed and a neglectful alcoholic.

The bullies snatch her during gym class and haul her off behind a wall.  In the process of beating her up, she hits her head on the ground.

And that's when her reality starts getting . . . well . . . a little weird.

AN ISSUE OF LENGTH
 
"The Girl on the Roof" is actor Skeet Ulrich's directorial debut, shot from a screenplay by actress Amelia Jackson-Gray (who also plays Lucy in this short film).  Its pacing is surprisingly leisurely, with long handheld tracking shots following Lila from location to location.  The final film clocks in at a little over twenty five minutes, which is a tad on the long side, in my opinion.  In my experience, short films are at their best when they are between five and fifteen minutes in length, unless their stories are particularly intriguing.

Ulrich's direction is confident and he's not afraid of long takes, which honestly is commendable in
today's post-MTV "now, now, NOW" culture.  That being said, in the case of this particular short film, I'm not sure if this was the best artistic choice for the film.  Add to that the fact that Lila herself is extremely quiet and shy, so she doesn't get to put a voice to what she's feeling.  Naiia Ulrich is forced to do most of her acting with her eyes, and she does an admirable job particularly considering her young age. 

After she hits her head one and a half minutes in to the film, we spend the next six minutes setting up the very ugly situation at home: the narcissistic actress mother, the drunk, barely present dad and the maybe/kinda affair between dad and Lucy.  Then, eight minutes in, Lennie James (Morgan from TV's "The Walking Dead") pops in for his dual roles, and we're off to the races.  James is always a pleasure to watch onscreen and I loved seeing him bring his considerable acting skills to the table. 

AN ALTERNATE TAKE

Part of the enjoyment of "Girl on the Roof" is how it shows the fracturing of reality onscreen, and does so creatively and in an emotionally affecting way.  The problem with it however is that we are not aware of these alternate realities until the film's three quarters of the way done.  Everything seems legitimate and as though it's really happening, and we never get the assurance of which reality is the actual, true reality.  That might have been Jackson-Gray's intention when she wrote the screenplay, but it felt rushed and therefore inauthentic here -- it felt more like an excuse to get Lila out of one predicament and into another.

So . . . did I enjoy "Girl on the Roof"?  I was interested in seeing where it was going, yes.   In terms of production value, it was top notch, and the acting was for the most part good. 

But I can't help but feel there was a message in there somewhere that I was meant to receive, some kind of a statement about life and harsh reality, and how sometimes fantasizing about being somewhere else is the only way to survive.

OVERALL SCORES: 
 
Writing: 3 / 5.  Jackson-Gray's script kept my attention and prompted some introspective thoughts about reality, but that part of the plot came in too late and left too suddenly.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  I appreciated Ulrich's slow and steady approach to directing, taking the time to get to know the characters and set up interesting shots.  Unfortunately, I felt like the film was going nowhere until almost ten minutes in, and some viewers will probably be turned off by that.
Editing: 3 / 5.  I really enjoyed some of the stylish transitions (all about the close-up on one man's mouth as it became two squad cars, that was very cool) and the color looked natural and professional.  The only problem was, again, the fact that the film moved way too slowly and went on far too long.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  I really enjoyed The Angel's music in this short, and I encourage all of you to check out her website and listen.  Really impressive and emotive.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Jackson-Gray turned out the best performance of the film.  Her portrayal of Lucy was extremely sympathetic and realistic, and you couldn't help but like her even when she's turning on the charm for a married man.  She even won a Best Supporting Actress award from Action on Film International Film Festival.  Naiia Ulrich is a standout as well considering how young she is, but the other kids are extremely uneven (as can be expected), and Susan May Pratt just feels off for most of the film.  Lennie James is, as always, awesome, and Todd Lowe has a couple really nice lines while he's arguing with Pratt.

Final Grade3.3 / 5.

Follow Skeet Ulrich and Amelia Jackson-Gray on Twitter and keep up to date on "Girl on the Roof" right here!



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Truth of Love and Cheese: "Stefano Formaggio", Directorial Debut of Darren Darnborough ("True Blood")

"STEFANO FORMAGGIO" (2013)
Genre: Romantic Drama
Length- 20:00
Company: Filmed Imagination
Website: Official

Wealthy Italian cheese merchant Stefano (Pasquale Cassalia) produces only the finest of culinary delights.  He is so good at what he does, and so good looking that women flock from miles around to be in his presence.  Jasmine (Alice Greczyn), a local florist, and her very pregnant sister, Olivia (Mandy Amano) are the latest females to fall under Stefano's spell.

Stefano wants a woman with children . . . or more specifically, a pregnant woman -- and not to marry, either.

He wants them for an altogether more sinister reason.

WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?
 
"Stefano Formaggio" is the directorial debut of actor Darren Darnborough ("True Blood", Darkness Descends), who also handled writing duties for the short.  Visually, what he accomplishes is nothing short of gorgeous: each scene unfolds carefully in lavish, flowery surroundings.  Hallgrim Haug is the cinematographer, and he deserves a high five from everyone involved in this film because it really is a treat for one's eyes.

Since I'm bringing up Haug, we might as well go into the crew for a moment.  Darnborough was surrounded by an incredible group of people, ranging from Emmy winners (production designer Alex Fymat and editor Katie Hetland) to Tony winners (executive producer Charles Salameno) and everything in between.  As a result, the apparent production values on "Stefano Formaggio" are off the charts -- this film could roll in your local cineplex and you'd never know the difference.

The cast also performs well.  Greczyn as Jasmine pulls off the most real and heartfelt performance of the lot.  Cassalia's turn as Stefano was overall well done, but at times -- in particular during the date scene with Greczyn -- he felt like he was overdoing the whole "Look at me, I'm a charming guy" thing.  I'd also like to point out that fault lies also with the writing -- Cassalia doesn't have a lot to work with for this role.

Now, digging even deeper, I felt that the twenty minute running time was far too long.  Beautiful the film might be, but it took far too long to get going, and the conclusion was extremely fast and a vast tonal shift from the almost fantastical romance of the other three quarters of the film. 
 
OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  Darnborough's script touches on a lot of elements -- in particular, our anxiety of dating people you don't know and the inherent dangers of intimacy.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I much enjoyed the finale, even though the darkness of it felt like a different movie entirely.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Darnborough hits a home run with this film.  Every frame is filled with beautiful scenery and exquisitely staged action. 
Editing: 3 / 5.  The film feels way too long considering the story being told, and the pacing suffers because of it.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  "Sway", by Mooi, was a nice thematic companion to the film and also a good song on its own merits.  The sound design was professional and effective.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Greczyn and Cassalia do well and they had a certain chemistry onscreen.  Amano felt forced, particularly in the scenes where she attempts to seduce Stefano.  Amelia Jackson-Gray pops up for a little in the beginning of the film and puts on a good show.

Final Grade: 3.5 / 5.

Visit the official website and check out the full short by clicking right here!  After a successful festival run, I'm thrilled to see it on the Internet.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chris Dias' One Take "Monster in a House" a Fairy Tale Onscreen

"MONSTER IN A HOUSE" (2014)
Genre: Fantasy
Length- 13:54
Company: N/A
Website: Chris Dias' Official

Nine year old Miah (Kitana Turnbull) has only her imagination to serve as a buffer between her and her parents' troubled marriage.  Joe (Joseph Bottoms), her father, and Emma (Lisa Roumain), her mother, can't say two words to each other without arguing, and their discord is what awakens a faceless monster in their home . . . a monster that only comes out to play at bedtime.

 AMBITIOUS MONSTROSITY

"Monster in a House" is a clever, contemporary take on a classic fairy tale captured in one take.  Written, produced and directed by new filmmaker Christiano Dias, and delivered with impressive production values and consistent acting.   It's an ambitious shoot for anyone, but it's almost unheard of in student films. 

The story itself telegraphs its intentions from the first minute, thematically similar in some ways to Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.  However, unlike that well known film, the adults too come to grips with the fantastical elements on display in a particularly impressively realized finale.

It all makes for a fun film with a little tension sprinkled into the proceedings, and a clear sign that Christiano Dias is a filmmaker to watch in the future.

A couple fun little asides: first of all, check out the elaborate lighting in this short film.  It'd be complicated for even a big budget shoot, but more than that, it's all done IN REAL TIME -- it's a one shot take, remember.  Second, the main character's name is Miah.  (M)onster (I)n (A) (H)ouse.  

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  The metaphor was extremely obvious and because of that it lacked a little emotional punch, but the story kept moving at a good pace and the conclusion was effective.
Directing: 4 / 5.  In a one shot take, the director has to be REALLY on his game, and thankfully Dias and DP Michael Helenek realizes this and keeps impressive visuals on the screen throughout, finding dreamy wonder in the most ordinary of locations. 
Editing: 3 / 5.  Effective.
Sound/Music:  3.5 / 5.  The sound design was, on the whole, very good but I had a problem understanding Miah's last line of dialogue and had to replay it several times to finally figure it out.  The soundtrack by Daniel James Chan was also a little overbearing and "on the nose" for me to fully appreciate.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Good performances all around the board, even from young Turnbull.  Bottoms is given the biggest emotional range to show off, and he does it like a champ.

Final Grade:  3.4 / 5.

Don't forget to visit Christiano Dias' official website, and more information will appear here when "Monster in a House" is available to watch online!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Vimeo Staff Pick "Regolith" a Breathtaking & Human Documentary

"REGOLITH" (2014)
Genre: Documentary
Length- 9:16
Company: ImageFiction Films
Website: Official Facebook

From ImageFiction Films, the new production company of award winning documentary director Sam Goldwater ("If A Tree Falls") comes "Regolith", a short film about a group of teenagers who've left home to work in a trash wasteland district of Accra, the capital of Ghana.  They tear apart aging computers and other devices and sell it by the pound for a meager wage in Agbogbloshie, the largest electronic waste site in the world.

It's a startling, and searing look at what it is to be a migrant worker in Ghana.

ANOTHER WORLD

The first thing you'll notice about "Regolith" is Goldwater's uncanny cinematography.  It's not so much what he shows -- which is beautiful enough -- but what he DOESN'T show that really hits hard.  Without any real narrative going on, he has to fall back on the beauty of his shots and the sorely miserable conditions of the young men whose lives he is documenting. 

The subjects of the film joke to one another in good humor and bad, gossip and talk about sex, pretty much like any other group of teens in any other country.  Yet rarely do we see who is speaking, or if we do, we can't often see their lips.  These young men are trapped in their lot in life, and nothing they can say or do will break that cycle.

The opening seconds of the film are telling: we see a dirty floor, a lone chicken running amok through the dust while offscreen a pair of teens go back and forth about whether it would be OK to accept money obtained from a witch's magic.  Finally, their feet emerge, dragging wires and chunks of electrical equipment, before escaping our sight entirely. 

"Regolith" is a peek into another life, and frankly another world.  Growing up in America, I've never seen the kind of desperation or stress that these young men face on a daily basis. 

I was expecting some kind of notice at the end about how to donate, or at least how to contribute in some way to help the plight of these young men and so many others overseas, but there was none.  Is Agbogbloshie really so unknown?

If so, then what Goldwater's done with "Regolith" is not only a beautiful testament to a generation's desperation, but a noble illumination of the struggles faced by Ghana's children.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  With documentaries, the "writing" consists of arranging one's footage in a manner that tells a narrative story.  With that in mind, as a vignette, it works.  There's no real story -- no real beginning or end, but it works because neither exists for our subjects, either.
Directing: 5 / 5.  Goldwater's visuals are out-of-this-world gorgeous.  He digs in the dirt and finds the beauty in the garbage, the broken electronics and the discarded debris of a million lives.
Editing: 4 / 5.  There was a moment about two minutes in where the film blinks and singing begins, and while it was clearly planned, it didn't feel like the smooth transition it was trying to be.  That aside, the editing is near perfect, keeping the pace moving so well that the nine minutes of run time were over in a flash.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Effective and professionally produced audio.  Aside from the aforementioned singing, there really isn't any music.
Acting: N/A

Final Grade: 3.8 / 5. 

"Regolith" was labeled "Staff Pick" over at Vimeo, and frankly you NEED to watch this.  And don't forget to check out ImageFiction Films on Facebook too -- you'll want to know what they're up to next, believe me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ensemble Comedy "#RIP" Takes a Stab at Celebrity . . . REALITY Style!

"#RIP" (2013)
Genre: Comedy
Length- 14:18
Company: Who's That? Productions
Website: Kevin Machate

A group of self absorbed friends and co-workers meet to mourn the death of famed actress Lydia Walters (Marilyn Ghigliotti, Clerks). Though at first they sing her praises, it very quickly becomes all too apparent that maybe she's not quite as kind and delightful as they all make her out to be.

And maybe her death wasn't an accident after all.

Maybe it's better off that way, too. 

READING FOR THE PART

"#RIP" might only be fourteen minutes long, but the pace still drags as director/producer Kevin Machate and screenwriter Roanna Flowers milk the same jokes repeatedly.  That's not to say that those jokes weren't funny, because they WERE quite funny -- the first few times. 

That's the root of the problem for "#RIP": it's a very one note production.  We have a group of people who clearly don't like the not-so-dearly departed.  It's a message that rings loud and clear through the witty banter between the main characters.  The flashback scenes feel forced and unnecessary, once again just proving everything that we already know based on the behavior of the other characters.

Probably the standout thespian on display here would be Ammie Leonards, who plays CourtNay, a young actress trying desperately to get the attention of the camera at all costs.  She's adorable and I love how she telegraphs what she's thinking solely through her facial expressions.  There's not a lot going on in CourtNay's brain, but she sure thinks she's manipulating everyone else, and the result is an authentic and very funny performance.

That being said, the acting as a whole is pretty solid, with everyone pulling their own weight.  The characters weren't endearing enough to make this a solid ensemble piece, but "#RIP" is an entertaining comedy in its own right and without question worth your time.

Interesting factoid, this from Machate himself: Missi Pyle (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake) was on board to star as Lydia, but after taking a few stills which are included in the film she was unable to appear due to prior engagements.  As a result, Ghigliotti took over the role.

OVERALL SCORES:

Writing: 3 / 5.  There are laughs, but they are recycled one too many times.  There's also no real theme to take away from the film, and therefore no reason to think about it after the fact.
Directing: 3.5 / 5.  Machate gives the film an authentic "reality TV" style production. 
Editing: 3 / 5.  Professional and it has that sporadic television feel.  The film's pacing takes a hit, particularly as we're rolling from midpoint to the end. 
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Efficient, and the sound design is professional so as not to distract from what we're watching.
Acting: 4 / 5.  Ghigliotti acts like a bitch and she does it well.  Heath Allyn does a great job of looking smarmy, and his reaction at the postscript is a high point -- good stuff!  David Henne also puts on a good show and upon watching this, I wouldn't let him in a kitchen.  Ammie Leonards' performance won me over and kept me interested for the duration of the film more than anything else.

Final Grade: 3.3 / 5.

"#RIP" is making the festival circuit as we speak, so if it comes near you, check it out!  If it doesn't visit a town close by, fear not -- I will update this page when it's uploaded to the Internet for more widespread public consumption.



Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!