Thursday, March 26, 2009

Small films, big ideas

In which our Diva has a shiny new character to play and a tangent to wander off on

A pretty nifty first yesterday: Landing a gig on the basis of my reel, with no audition as such. \o/ Just a great meeting, chatting at Starbucks with the director, writer/producer and leading man of an HD short with a very interesting story to tell. I'm playing a mystery woman named Blue, with some definitely challenging aspects! It's funny -- I've been fretting about having so little dialogue to put on my reel, but that ends up being a big part of why it stood out, because this project is going to have a lot of nonverbal storytelling. (There she goes with the broken record again!)

Without giving too much away, I can say it involves one man, one woman, and one set. Not a romance, but a connection between two isolated people that could only happen this way under these circumstances.

And in formulating that description in my head, I was reminded of a completely different film, telling a completely different story, that nonetheless fits the same description, which I hadn't thought about in quite a while: The Cold Equations. (I know a lot of people consider it inferior to the New Twilight Zone episode that adapted the same short story, but the movie version gets the benefit of first impression with me. Although I mostly ignore the stuff about the Big Bad Company, which seems to be what most people object to.) In 1996, I don't think "Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie" was even a label yet, let alone one with the baggage it carries now. There was just this little film that popped up on their schedule one day, with no whiz-bang or fanfare, and kinda blew my mind. It showcased facets of Billy Campbell we hadn't really seen before, and introduced Poppy Montgomery to American living rooms in a far more lasting impression than the high-profile college comedy that landed her in the multiplexes the following summer. (I don't even remember what that was called. Just that her face was either sideways or upside-down on the poster.)

A dizzying number of independent movies have been collected and stamped with that "original" label since then. Occasionally they're even still good ones -- if you missed Splinter recently, you missed one of the best old-school horror flicks anyone's made in ages. But the Sci-Fi Channel hasn't been that Sci-Fi Channel for a long, long time. So its imminent rebranding as "Syfy" is just style matching substance. (Though, Mr. Howe? The focus-group folks who told you they'd text it that way? Have to have been frakking with you.) It's no big surprise that they don't really get it, when even the final behind-the-scenes special for Battlestar Galactica had talking heads banging the same old tired drum: "It's sci-fi, but it's about people!" As if that were something amazingly new and innovative!

I'm going to let you in on what is apparently still a secret to many: Good sci-fi has always been about people. Good fantasy has always been about people. Good horror has always been about people. Rayguns and magic mirrors and fangs, robots and pointy hats and the plural of apocalypse: All just trappings. Means to an end, and that end is telling a story. And stories? Are about people. Pretty much by definition.

I'm really rambling now, but I guess the point is that I'm getting more interested in where the "little films that could" go, now that I'm increasingly the one working in them. A lot of it is happening online, of course, on YouTube and MySpace and Vimeo. And we're up to our eyeballs in film festivals these days. I wonder what else is going on that I know nothing about? Here's to learning!

Song for today (and lots of days!): "One More" by Superchick. Another booked-up weekend coming up... Take those vitamins!

1 comment:

marleyingram said...

I remember that movie! It really got my hopes up, expecting more from that channel. I didn't even know there was another version of the story out there.