Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's Dark at "The End" -- Horror/Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic In Zone 7 Films' Mega-Short

"THE END" (2015)
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi
Length- 37:41
Company:  Zone 7 Films

Strange beings attack the Earth and force James (Alexander Gauthier) and Moira (Alaina Gianci) to take refuge in an abandoned bomb shelter while the militaries of the world struggle to respond to the incredibly dangerous new threat.

The rest of this not-so-short film proceeds pretty much how you'd imagine it would if you're familiar with most post-apocalyptic work: the two people taking shelter together bicker, a third party enters the mix (who may or may not have a dark side), and . . .

Well, sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it that counts.

Let's dig in, shall we?


One thing that separates "The End" from the majority of the pack of post-apocalyptic short films (or most other films in general, come to that) is the general darkness of the picture.  The doom and gloom pervades this flick from opening credits to end.  We begin with real footage of disasters, fires, war, and destruction intercut with bleak shots of close-ups within the underground bomb shelter that makes up the sole location for the remainder of the picture.

Director Bradley Grenon co-wrote "The End" with Rod Thompson, and they crafted the script out of equal parts Night of the Living Dead (1968)  and War of the Worlds (1953).  The entire script takes place in a single location, with what limited information we have of the outside world related to us via brief bursts of static laced radio broadcasts.   Instead of zombies, the rampaging, indiscriminate killers are huge, stories tall alien beings.


No one is safe in Grenon and Thompson's universe: happy families, children, divorced people, independent women, arrogant men, fighters, providers.  While one radio broadcast insists that the military forces of the world are taking the fight to the monsters, their claim is never substantiated, and it never comes off as anything more than bluster.

They can't rely on anyone else but themselves, in other words, and possibly not even that.  It's a grim realization, and it's played to the hilt.

That kind of relentless nihilism makes "The End" feel more unique, especially as a short film.  It feels uncompromising, and a story that is its own regardless of how you feel about it is always a welcome addition to the wide world of film.


Writing: 3 / 5.  Some of the opening dialogue is a bit on-the-nose.  The bickering becomes repetitive, with nothing of consequence ever coming of their argument.  The dark overall vibe of the story is dynamite, but . . . yeah.  The form is suffering from oversaturation at this point.
Directing: 3 / 5.  Grenon's directing works, but he's extremely limited due to his location.  There's only so many ways you can shoot people either sitting or standing and talking in that little room.
Editing: 3 / 5.  The color palette looks really good and the transitions take place properly.  The film could be cut down to a much leaner machine, honestly, losing probably 60% of the bickering and some of the redundant monologue bits over the course of the film.
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.  George Kalyvas' original score accentuated each scene without overplaying his hand.  I liked it a lot.  On the negative side of things, the dialogue's volume levels fluctuated a little bit from shot to shot.
Acting: 3.5 / 5.  Not bad . . . Gauthier and Gianci do quite well with what they are given, particularly Gianci, who manages to conjure up tears at a moment's notice.  John Trent plays Les, and his performance is remarkable, showing a range that has to be seen to be believed.  If his dialogue was pared down a bit, this would be one of the better performances I've seen all year.

Final Grade: 3.3 / 5.

Don't forget to check back here for info on when "The End" will hit the Internet for public consumption and, until then, follow the film on Facebook!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

An EXCLUSIVE Interview With Writer/Director Kirill Proskura ("A Shadow of Dara")

Twenty four year old Estonian writer/director Kirill Proskura first discovered his love for film when he was a little boy, when Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings powered across his television screen.

"The original trilogy is like a bible," Proskura said during our chat last Saturday.  "For a kid who was not really told how all this film stuff works, seeing orcs and hobbits was a bit surreal."

While his native Estonia was not a very friendly place for filmmakers, he pursued his passion in London, and later helped form White City Productions and was instrumental in the production of both short films, "Iscariot" and "A Shadow of Dara".

Kirill was kind enough to sit down and talk about both of those films, the unique difficulties he faced as a filmmaker coming from Estonia, and White City Productions, which is quickly making a name for itself in the field as a company that makes high quality sci-fi content on very limited budgets!

* * * * * *


FCSFR: Hi Kirill!  First of all, thank you for submitting your films to me.  I've enjoyed both of them quite a bit.  "A Shadow of Dara" and "Iscariot" were innovative in their usage of sci-fi, particularly considering the short running times!

KP: No worries.  I'm glad you enjoyed them. We tried to make them as short as possible as festivals like films that not longer than 15 minutes.

FCSFR: What do you think of short films?  Are you partial to them?

KP: I love short films.  I've been involved in making short films in various roles for four years now.

FCSFR: Let's talk about that a little bit.  How did you start working in short films?

KP: Began doing sort of short videos back in Estonia with a couple of friends.  That's how I realized that I like making films.  When I came to London, I went to college and university and started expanding my knowledge on film.

At first, I wanted to be involved as a cinematographer, so I cut some showreels from what I've been filming before and that got me working as a director of photography on various independent shorts, music videos and corporate videos for three years.

Then, ambitions kicked in and I started developing my own ideas and plans, and that's how White City Productions came around.

FCSFR: Some quick background information: where'd you go to university in London?  Also, were you born in Estonia?

KP: Been to City & Islington College and SAE Institute.  I'm originally from Tallinn, Estonia.

FCSFR: Great!  What was the filmmaking scene like there compared to London?

KP: Well, in Estonia there's none, really.  If films are shot there, usually it's companies from Russia or from other countries in Europe.

FCSFR: So it does not sound like a friendly climate for up and coming filmmakers.

KP: Not really, yeah.  London is far more advanced with independent films.

FCSFR: Was moviemaking something you have wanted to do since your childhood or something you have wanted to do relatively recently?

KP: I loved films in general since I was a kid, but an idea to make films myself came really randomly.  It was when one of my friends back in Estonia proposed to go to Estonian film university, but one of the points of admission in there was to have a film made.  So that kinda was a starting point, though we never went to that university in Tallinn.

FCSFR: So now, fast forwarding a little -- you've moved to London, you've attended university and studied film.  Talk to me about forming White City Productions and meeting Aleksandra Petrova, with whom you have collaborated with on a number of projects including "Iscariot" and most recently "A Shadow of Dara".

KP: White City Productions came around as I later wanted to make my own films.  Formed it with originally with Ewa Habdas with whom I worked as DP on her short, "A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste".

Met Aleks when she got me on board as DP for Iscariot.  This was before I took over a producing role.  Later, Aleks joined White City Productions as well and the three of us -- Ewa, Aleks and I have been collaborating ever since.

FCSFR: And Ewa Habdas and Petrova, you met them while in London?

KP:  Yup, met everybody in London.

FCSFR: Was your work on "A Mime Is A Terrible Thing To Waste" your first on film work?

KP: It was one of the early DP works I've done, but it wasn't the first one.  Hope no one will ever see my first ones. (Laughs)

FCSFR: (Laughs) So does that mean you'd prefer we not discuss those then? 

KP: I don't mind talking about them, it's just that they are my first jobs and some of the later ones are bad end products because either a producer or director didn't really care much.

FCSFR: Ah, I respect that.

As a director of photography, your role ties in pretty tightly with the director, so depending on who you're working with, that role can change pretty wildly.  But tell me a little bit about working on "Mime" versus the extremely audio-driven "Iscariot".

KP: As a DP, it was always adapting to the director's way of working.  Though the process of "Mime" versus "Iscariot" is kinda similar, you plan, you talk to the director about what he wants, how he wants it, and you plan the lighting set ups either by myself on "Mime" or with the gaffer on "Iscariot".  So there's always quite a bit of planning going on.

With "Iscariot",  we brought in our sound designer Gethin [Rhys Jones] a bit late after editing was done already, so Aleks wrote extensive sound design notes to him.

FCSFR: Where did "A Shadow of Dara" come from?  It seems like such a big idea, like an epic sci-fi story wrapped into a 15 minute film.

KP: The idea for it came when I was still in Tallinn. I was trying to write feature length at the time, so I created those characters and the world, but then forgot about it for a while.  When Ewa and I formed White City, she told me, "We need to make a short, let's find a script," and I was like, "Oh, I think I got something," and went to write a short script, massively re-doing the world in it but keeping same characters. Then after meeting Andy Mihov on "Iscariot", I gave him that script to see if he'd be interested, so he came back to me with an extended version, adding lots more info and Va-Aya.

FCSFR: Was this your first time in the director's chair?

KP:  I've done some sort of directing before, some kind of shorts but I wouldn't call them my best work as I still was figuring out things and realizing that sound is a massive thing that needs a lot attention.

FCSFR: There's a lot of big ideas in "A Shadow of Dara", not the least some hints of "The Matrix" -- points which I loved, by the way.

KP: Thanks.  The Matrix was inspiration.  When trying to come up with the short script I was thinking, "Let's blend The Matrix and Alien together and see what comes out of it."

FCSFR: Your film had really solid visuals and high production values.  If you don't mind my asking, what kind of a budget were you working with?

KP: Cheers.  It was 5,800 pounds.

FCSFR: How did you come across the grimy, underground locations for the film?

KP: (Laughs) There's a cool location in London, in the Hackney area.  It's a WWII bunker and the owners of it rent it out to people for various events.

FCSFR: It looked pretty authentic.  It gave a nice, grotesque future aesthetic.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting this production off the ground?

KP: The biggest challenge was, I'd say, the budget.  The rest went quite smoothly, surprisingly.

FCSFR: Would you say your pre-production stage was longer than other films you've been involved with? You had action choreography to deal with, special effects, alien languages, epic exchanges -- so much going on.

KP: Pre-production was definitely longer than any film I've been involved with, I think since we decided to go for it.  Pre-production took us 7 months.  But it all went super great because the people who were involved are mega-talented folks.  I'm sure cast and crew will go on to bigger things from now on.

FCSFR: Is "A Shadow of Dara" a small part of a larger narrative?  Will we see a  sequel, or a full length adaptation?

KP: Currently writing two features -- one for "A Shadow of Dara", and a second for another sci-fi.

In the feature length of "A Shadow of Dara", it will be the same characters and more, but as for the narrative, it'll be completely different.

FCSFR: Very cool.  So what's up next on your plate?  Are you working on another White City Productions film?

KP: We have a few films we'd like to make.  Currently concentrating to go to the next level and get one of the features we have in [the planning stages] off the ground.  And if time and budget allows, we might do couple of short films, but it'll be always stepping up the game from now on, even with shorts.

FCSFR: Excellent.  OK just one more question and then we'll be all wrapped up.  I know it must be late there in London. 

KP: 4:45am.

FCSFR: Holy cow, I'm really keeping you up.  Thank you so much for your time and all your very thoughtful answers, I'll make this quick.  

So, if you could go back to your university days offer your younger self one bit of advice, what would it be?

KP: I'd say, "Don't hope that somebody will help you get there, just go and do it yourself."

FCSFR:  Thank you again so much for your time, and I hope we'll see a whole lot more from you very soon. 

KP: Thank you as well.  Hopefully, fingers crossed!

* * * * * *

Thanks go again to Kirill Proskura for taking the time to answer all my questions with incredible patience!

If you haven't had the chance to do so, check out our reviews for "Iscariot" and "A Shadow of Dara"!

Also, don't miss the trailer for "A Shadow of Dara" below!

A Sober Look at Suicide In South Korean Short Film "Bridge of Life"

"BRIDGE OF LIFE"  (2015)
Genre: Drama
Length- 2:44
Company:  N/A

Marie (Rachel M. Josephine) recently lost her parents (Herman Goutama and Me Susanti) and decides to cast herself from the Bridge of Life, a location so named because of the incredible number of suicides that take place there every year in South Korea.

Two years ago, in an effort to fight the deaths, motion triggered inspirational messages were installed along the length of the bridge.

They may not be much, but they may be all that stand in the way of Marie and a watery death.

So what does she choose?  Life?  Or death?


Albert Antonio wrote and directed "Bridge of Life", which comes to us all the way from South Korea with subtitles.  Shot for the MyRodeReel 2015 short film competition on no budget with an inexperienced cast and crew, the results are surprisingly impressive: the video quality is top notch and Antonio's visuals are mature and appropriately moody, considering the subject matter.

The main problem is that there simply isn't much story to work with here, and with the film clocking in well below two minutes, Marie doesn't have much time to make her choice.  The conclusion feels abrupt -- she jumps back and forth emotionally so fast that I didn't have the time to understand her decision.

"Bridge of Life" becomes more of a question mark than anything else -- a question mark for the real life Bridge of Life: what can it really hope to achieve?  Is it an inadequate response for a growing epidemic of suicide, a real national health problem that deserves a bigger and more legitimate response than a few flashing lights and platitudes?

It's up to the viewer to make that decision, and I know that I, for one, have given this issue much deeper thought as a result of watching Antonio's short film.


Writing: 2 / 5.  Antonio's script is bare to the extreme, providing only the simplest A-B-C plot formula.  It works here because of the social/political undertones which lend it some much needed depth, but there's not much more to it.
Directing: 3 / 5.  The visuals are suitably dark, and the shots of the ocean are gorgeous.  Antonio takes the directing credit here, but he's given help by assistants Nindita Garini Caesary Tumakaka and Adeline Deciana.
Editing: 4 / 5.  The movie is cut together about as well as it possibly can be, the film moves at a good pace and above all else the color palette looks great.  I didn't see an editor listed in the credits, but whoever did it, did a good job.
Sound/Music: 3 / 5.  Stock music from Kevin McLeod and competently recorded dialogue.
Acting: 2.5 / 5.  Though admittedly her role is paper thin as written, Josephine is credible in her lead performance.  The only two other roles in the film never appear in the film but in photographs.

Final Grade: 2.9 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "Bridge of Life" and follow Albert Antonio on Facebook!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Playing With Madness: An EXCLUSIVE Interview With Writer/Director Josh Goodman ("Fear Thy Neighbor")

"All those little or big decisions you have to make in a split second, they all matter," writer/director Josh Goodman wrote to me Sunday evening.  "But I remember there was something in me, a 'now or never' type of feeling.  I felt we just had to do this somehow, and if it doesn't work well, do it a different way until it does."

It's that kind of spirit that embodies today's young and hungry DIY independent film movement, and after watching his latest short thriller, "Fear Thy Neighbor", I couldn't help but want to hear more about this individual production and his future projects.

We talked about the difficulties of working on a slim budget and how tough it is to "kill your darlings", as the old maxim goes, in the editing room.

Without further ado, here is Josh Goodman of Goody Bag Productions!

* * * * * *

FCSFR: So, first of all, I'd like to get a little background info on you.  Did you go to film school?  Has film been a lifelong passion?

JOSH GOODMAN: I grew up in South Florida and went to film school in Orlando.  I've always been a movie buff and filmmaking has always been a passion for sure.  After film school I moved to New York and lived in Spanish Harlem for two years where I got my foot in the door shooting music videos and commercials for local businesses.  And I worked part time at a movie theater where I would watch a movie pretty much every day on the big screen.

After a while, I decided I needed to get away.  I did some traveling and ended up living in Thailand for 6 month teaching English at a high school.  It was great, but teaching wasn't for me and I knew I needed to get back to filmmaking.  I moved back to Florida and got work at a media company shooting music videos and commercials.  That's where I met Chris [Morgan] the Director of Photography and we started making short films.

FCSFR: Thank you.  I asked that because "Fear Thy Neighbor" is a very well realized short -- often with genuine new filmmakers, there will be one shining aspect to the movie but by and large it will be amateurish or, at the least, unprofessionally shot or the sound will be bad.  But pretty much the whole package of "Fear Thy Neighbor" comes together and it really does feel like a complete vision, moreso than just a group of folks trying to make a movie.

JG: Thanks, man.  I really appreciate that.  The life experiences and production experiences on set definately helped.  I can go into the history of how that came about, if you want.

FCSFR: Glad you mentioned it, because that's where I was going next.  If I'm reading you right, when you're working on a film, it's pretty much yourself and Christopher Morgan as the creative nucleus?

JG: Yeah, for the the most part.  He was just in school for animation and graduated, but he also knows a lot about photography, lighting and graphic design.  We were both into similar films and TV shows and [both had a] twisted sense of humor. He's good about telling me which of my ideas are horrible and which are good.  That's super important to me.  We collaborate well.

Kisanti [Hathor] is also part of that nucleus. She's a filmmaker too and had a lot to do with the production of "Fear Thy Neighbor" besides starring in it.

FCSFR: Had you worked with Kisanti before this film or was this your first time with her?

JG: Before "Fear Thy Neighbor", Chris and I took part in a 30 day action short film contest. He knew her previously and brought her in to act in and help in the production. She then brought in Evan [Judson, co-star] to act as well.  I did the cinematography on that and Chris directed.  Kisanti got the actors and her and Evan choreographed the action stuff.

It's always so much collaboration, which I love.  And it worked out well.  She won Best Actress. We wanted to keep the momentum going, so I pitched them "Fear Thy Neighbor".

FCSFR: And what's the story behind the two production companies listed on "Fear Thy Neighbor"?  Who's who in Goody Bag Productions and Quixotica Films?

JG: Goody Bag Productions is me.  My high school friend and fellow cinephile gave me the nickname Goody Bags back in the day.  I guess it almost sounds like my last name: Goodman.  I started using it when I moved to New York for music video work.

Kisanti is Quixotica Films.  She can tell you where that name came about better than me.  She supplied the camera we used, found actors, helped on the script and the final edit and much more, including acting in it.  It's part her production I felt, too, in a way, so I labeled it both of us, working together.

FCSFR: Can you talk a little bit about where the idea for the story came from?  Obviously you don't want to drop any spoilers, but in particular the way you play with preconceptions of mental illness and what people are capable of I believe comes off in a novel way.

JG: I first had the idea when I was in high school about a character who becomes infatuated with their neighbor, who is a serial killer, and finds a pretty dark way of toying with him.  In film school and when I was in New York, I wrote a whole script basically about the character, a lonely soul with a growing personality disorder who is determined to . . . well, I wont give the spoiler away there, I guess.

When I was in Thailand, I lived in a 12 room hotel building in the middle of nowhere.  I was the only tenant except the maid, her husband and the landlord.  I was isolated and bored and lonely.  So the only thing I could do to not go insane was to write about insane characters.  I had it all written out with backstory and character arcs and more characters.  When I moved back to Florida, I met Chris and Kisanti.  I told them about my idea and decided to rewrite the script into a short film with the two actors in mind.

FCSFR: If you don't mind disclosing this information, what was the budget for this picture and how did you go about raising the money to shoot the film?

JG: I think the production of it cost about $1,000, then more in post and submitting to festivals, which I'm doing now.  Maybe $1,500.  I used money I saved up from work and then the rest in credit cards.

Mostly in credit cards.

FCSFR: How did you secure the locations for the film?  Was that a piece of the budget?

JG: Chris and I did some location scouting and eventually found a dingy hotel where it seemed like mostly truckers and prostitutes stayed.  It felt legit, so I booked a room for a few nights.  We got kicked out the second night for too much noise so I had to find a completely different hotel.  That cost me some, for sure.  But it visually worked out well.  It was where we filmed the parking garage stuff and the main character's hotel room.

Hotel stay, food, gas and props were the biggest costs for the budget.

FCSFR: What was the biggest challenge of shooting so bare bones and on location?

JG: This story and character has always been very important to me, so I knew that I would invest whatever I had to get it made.  The biggest challenge was filming in and out of the hotel room without getting kicked out.

The stuff outside was difficult.  I had Evan's character going crazy and screaming in anger all over the place.  We also caused attention outside the hotel with the lights we had and the constant laughter from all the fun we were having.  About 2 AM, the cops came and had us pack our bags and leave.  I woke up the next morning in my bedroom, full of film equipment and props.  I was upset and unsure what to do.

I reserved a room at a hotel I used to stay for vacation when I was little.  Everyone showed up and we got it done.  It would've never happened any other way.

I'm happy we did it.  It was all very surreal.

FCSFR: Are you a fan of thrillers in general?  Do you think you will stick to that vein of storytelling for the immediate future?

JG: I like the crime genre, mostly. My favorite films are Reservor Dogs, Taxi Driver and Magnolia.

This story worked best as a thriller, I think.  My next project, I would like to make something less dark.  While I was writing the film I was hooked on "Boardwalk Empire". The season where Gyp Rosetti is stabbed in the back by Tonino, I printed out screenshots from that and used it for inspiration for choosing shots for the climax.

If I had an unlimited budget, it would be a crime or gangster flick.

FCSFR: And on that note, what's next on your plate?  Do you have a follow-up project yet?

JG: I'm in the process of writing another short film.  It's more of a comedy or love story with bizarre characters and ridiculous sequences.  I'm also trying to keep myself involved in different projects.  I worked with Kisanti on one of her productions that is being edited now.  Chris is putting together a documentary that I'll be a part of as well.

FCSFR: Sounds like you'll be busy then!

JG: Yeah man. all that while working five days a week too.  I haven't slept in a long time.

FCSFR: I completely relate to that!

So, I have two final questions for you this evening.

JG: I'm here all night.

FCSFR: Haha, good to know.

So . . . "Fear Thy Neighbor" clocks in at just shy of fifteen minutes.  Thrillers are tricky especially when put into short form, because we simply don't have much time to work with.

How did you set about making sure the audience stayed on the edge of their seats throughout the film?

JG: Editing and editing and showing it to people and re-editing and editing more and cutting out stuff you really don't want to, but know you have to eventually.  I made a 23 minute version of the film initially.  I showed it to one of my friends and his girlfriend.  She fell asleep.  That killed me, so I hit the edit room again and cut it down to about 21 minutes.  I made DVD's of that version, and sent it to the cast and crew and a select few family and friends.  No one will see that version except them and whoever they decide to show it to.  It's the more raw, director's version of it, I guess.

This version is tighter.  Lots of short film festivals are 15 minutes or under so I knew I had to sacrifice stuff.  I took an extra month to cut it down and make it effective.  I think it works much better and has a bigger shot of getting into a festival.  There's not as many complaints or notes now and no one has fallen asleep.

Showing different versions to different people helped out too, I should also say.  I would send certain versions to different people who'd never seen it.

It's been a long process, and it still is.

FCSFR: Great.  So, my last question: if you could go back to before you began working on "Fear Thy Neighbor" and give yourself one bit of film advice, what would you tell yourself?

JG: Hmm.  I guess it would be tell myself to not worry so much and trust in myself that I have what it takes to make this movie.  I think stress and insecurities can alter your decisions.

I would tell myself to relax more and focus on what's important and trust in yourself that you can work through each potential problem or situation that will come about.

Also, more storyboarding.

FCSFR: Tell me a little bit more about that.  Was pre-production a little more rushed than you would have liked?

JG: Yes. I only had a certain amount of time to write the script and shoot.  Evan was about to move to California, which is where he is now, and I also had an inner clock ticking.  I had to write it quick and get it into production before anyone else loses interest or moves on to a different project, including me.

If I had more time I would have spent it in pre-pro.

FCSFR: How much of the film as shot was storyboarded, would you say?  Compared to how much of it was ad-libbed on the spot?  It really felt like a storyboarded film, much to your credit.

JG: Most of it was story boarded.  Anything that was not inside a hotel room was filmed on the spot. I knew that part would have to be run-and-gun style of filmmaking.  So probably 25% on the spot.  As far as improvised scenes, I would like to give a shout out to Eric Stotts.  I had told him very little about the character when I met him and he really owned the role.  On one of the takes, he accidentally knocked down the 6-pack of beer and it shattered.  I didn't call cut and him and Evan stayed in character.  It was movie magic and a happy accident.  I think he felt bad about letting the bottles fall, but he should know how perfect it was.  He pretty much did exactly what the character would do.

That was the Bobby character, by the way.

FCSFR: That was the friend with the guitar, right?

JG: Yep.  Kisanti thought of the song for him too.  That was all improv on the spot.

FCSFR: Fantastic.  Thank you again for taking the time to talk!

JG: It was great chatting with you.

FCSFR: Likewise, Josh!  Have a great evening! 

JG: You too, man.  Talk to you soon.

* * * * * *

Thanks again go to Josh Goodman for his thoughtful answers to my questions and I hope we'll be reviewing a whole lot more of his work very soon!

Interested in more coverage of "Fear Thy Neighbor"?  How could you NOT be?  Well, we also interviewed actress Valentina Isis (Kisanti Hathor) right here!

If you haven't had the chance to read my review of Josh Goodman's "Fear Thy Neighbor", then do so now by clicking on this link!  It will be touring festivals soon, but when it's live and available to be seen online, rest assured I will be posting a link to it so you can check it out because if you're a fan of thrillers, you owe it to yourself to check out this unique twist on the genre.  

Until then, check out the trailer below!

Monday, July 6, 2015

"A Shadow of Dara" A Head Spinning Sci-Fi Action Epic . . . All In Under 15 Minutes!

Genre: Sci-Fi
Length- 14:15
Company: White City Productions

There's no time like the future -- because in "A Shadow Of Dara", in 2280 AD the Earth is destroyed by an evil race of alien creatures.

Bummer, right?

Well, fortunately for all of us, freedom fighter Nataly (Jo Price) leads a band of misfits back in time in an attempt to stop the evil aliens from manipulating pencil pusher AJ (Jonny Spurling) into giving up the crucial coordinates they need to eventually go forward with their genocidal plans.

Will Nataly and company succeed?

Only time will tell, as they say . . .


White City Productions is the team responsible for bringing us "Iscariot" earlier this year, and as far as tone and subject matter, not a lot has changed: we're still dealing with fairly dark stories, the question of identity, and whole worlds at risk of destruction.  These are big stakes we have on the line here, and director/editor Kirill Proskura pulls out all the stops to deliver as high quality a product as possible.

The result is a sometimes uneven short film that moves at lightning pace and manages not only suspense, but genuine fear and awe.  This is a truly huge story that Proskura and co-writer Andy Mihov are cramming into this short film, and the result may feel at times confusing but if you can jump over a couple of those hurdles, it's really quite a trip.


The first half of the film is without question the best -- with the insanity just out of reach and perfectly represented within the reach of the limited budget.  When the action kicks in, it's forced and the choreography is stilted.  Even so, you roll with it because the first half is charismatic and Proskura and company have built up so much steam that you genuinely want to see where this is going.

And oh, where it goes!  There's shades of The Matrix, there's bits and pieces of the best episodes of "Star Trek" here, and even a touch of Star Wars.  All these threads attempt to come together, but they never quite do, and the thriller-ish beginning doesn't quite explain sufficiently the setup for the action-ish middle.

Which brings me to the ending . . . inevitably, it's a bit of a letdown, but only because this is a fifteen minute short and not a two hour feature.  I enjoyed this short tremendously, and I'd have loved to watched a whole lot more of our characters' adventures.

I liked "Iscariot", but "A Shadow of Dara" demonstrates filmmakers who have developed their talent and are ready to move to the next level.

I cannot wait to see where the next adventure takes us!


Writing: 4 / 5.  Proskura and Mihov's script delivers all the genre specifics fans are going to crave and then some, while at the same time entertaining some pretty deep thoughts.  The only problem -- and this is fairly minor -- is that the film moves at such a lightning pace that those deep thoughts have to be discarded almost as soon as they're introduced to make room for the next moment.
Directing: 4 / 5.  Proskura's visuals hit the mark once again.  I loved the part where AJ discovers the truth about the people around him in the beginning -- I don't want to spoil anything, but the shot of Jane (Lana MacIver) was chilling as she rose.  Brilliant.
Editing: 4.5 / 5.  Proskura is on editing duty here as well.  We move quickly, but the action (shot to shot) never gets disorienting.  The coloring looks great here too, with some other-worldly blues and reds used to good effect at various moments as our intrepid heroes explore an enemy ship.
Sound/Music: 3.5 / 5.  The music by Jacob Cetkowski was OK, though the first battle scene's song seemed silly.  Gethin Rhys Jones handled the sound design well, with all dialogue being audible and every sound effect ringing clear.
Acting: 3 / 5.  Price, Peter Imms, and Lana MacIver all were credible throughout.  Spurling was OK overall, but he sounded more like he was complaining when he was supposed to sound scared.  Some of the supporting cast were a little flat.

Final Grade: 3.8 / 5.

Don't forget to check out "A Shadow Of Dara" and follow the creators on Facebook!  When it comes out for online viewing, I'll post the link -- but until then, check out the trailer below!

And if you haven't had the chance to check out my review of White City Production's previous short film, "Iscariot", then check it out right here!

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!