Tribeca Film Festival 2020 review: Short films, ‘I Can Change’, ‘Beyond Noh’, ‘Grey Zone’, ‘Look At Me’.

Beyond Noh

Beyond Noh rhythmically animates 3,475 individual masks from all over the world.

The transitions are meticulously crafted. The specific choices of masked on a downbeat are no accident. Even though you are experiencing over 3 thousand masks in under 3 and a half minutes, each one make an impact much larger than you can immediately process. I actually spotted one we inherited years ago. The story behind it makes us fearful to toss it. It presently lives in a closet. Beyond Noh is a simply stunning short.

 

I Can Change

The night before his wedding, an underachiever (John Hoogenakker) receives the power to stop time, so he attempts to make major life changes his fiancé (Lucy Cudden) wants him to make, all before morning.

The transitions are meticulously crafted. The specific choices of masked on a downbeat are no accident. Even though you are experiencing over 3 thousand masks in under 3 and a half minutes, each one make an impact much larger than you can immediately process. I actually spotted one we inherited years ago. The story behind it makes us fearful to toss it. It presently lives in a closet. Beyond Noh is a simply stunning short.

Look At Me

On a winter night in New York City, a young, intoxicated boy’s (Connor Vasile) fate is determined by his brief encounters with strangers, and a deeper American truth is exposed.

This poignant short puts a mirror up to society, especially here in New York City. We want to believe we’d do right by own fellow city dwellers, but the longer you live here the thicker the protective armor becomes. The writing and editing lead you to out yourself in multiple character’s shoes. It’s incredibly well done from every single angle. This is one of the festival’s best this year.

 

Grey Zone

On an urban crosswalk, Neta (Rachel Yaron) finds herself following a man (Udi Pers) who touched her abruptly and without her consent.

In the era of #MeToo, this short is incredibly powerful. From the specific dialogue choices to women empowering other women, to the recapturing of your own narrative. All this in just 10 minutes. It’s a brave film.

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 interview: Filmmaker Justin Fair on his highly stylised short, ‘Sloan Heart Neckface’

Synopsis: Sloan (Clara Mamet) has a not-so-low-key crush on Neckface, an anonymous graffiti artist. Neckface (Raúl Castillo) has less-than-resolved intimacy issues and a no relationship policy. Which he makes abundantly clear to his obsessive fan girl. That is, until Neckface realizes he and Sloan may be the same kind of crazy; and embarks on a mission to win her back. Which may or may not involve exploiting his roommate (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), stealing a much-coveted pair of sneakers, and incurring the wrath of a ferocious lunch lady.
Appearing in the New York Shorts Program at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival 2020, Sloan Hearts Neckface is something special. It’s an incredibly engaging 15 minutes. It was like watching a tennis match of NYC characters. As a New Yorker, it really felt like home. It’s visually vibrant and quite emotionally turbulent. I was lucky enough to speak with filmmaker Justin Fair on what makes Sloan Hearts Neckface as unique as it is. Check out our interview and the teaser trailer below.
Did the initial script look and feel like the now finished film?
Yes! I hope so anyway. I hope we captured what was great about the script. Some things we captured quite literally from what was written, a lot we cut, and a lot we elaborated on, but I hope the essence remained intact.
I adore that each character has a signature color. Whose decision was that?
It’s great to hear that translates! We had an extremely talented Art Director, Lydia White, who lives in a Shell House. She created these beautiful mood boards consisting of a lot of Blues and Reds and we decided to run with that. I wanted not only for the characters to have a certain color, but also to have those colors impose themselves on the other characters at certain times of the story.
Have you ever had someone who was, shall we say, “a little more than enthusiastic”, pursue you?
Haha. I can’t say that I’ve ever been pursued in the way Sloan pursues Neckface in the film. I’ve never had that pleasure.
Who does the art on the letters?
We had a whole team of artists work on the art. I thought it important that each character’s artwork came from a different artist. The Neckface character actually had several artists: Jeff Weinberg did the sketches on the Priority Mail stickers, Landon Webb designed all but one of the tags. The big practical tag that Neckface rips off the fence was done by John Gagliano. Jenny Herbert created all of Sloan’s artwork. Henry White did Lester’s portraits of Sloan, and Ruth Sylvestre did the other Lester drawings. Really proud of all their work, thank you for asking.
Are Neckface’s tags real? 
Absolutely not haha! There’s actually only one practical tag in the film and that was one made on our own materials. The rest of the tags that appear on subway beams, buildings, and monuments were created and then added afterward by a great VFX guy, Matt Brant. He did all the compositing, tracking and rotoscoping.
I love that this is essentially a string of monologues. Did Ian Grody sit in on casting? 
It is a string of monologues! Initially, it was just two monologues that Ian wrote for a magazine, if I’m not mistaken. Later he expanded it to several more monologues for an evening of staged readings at NYU- which is where we met. He eventually adapted it into the short film script. Ninety percent of the actors in the film are friends of Ian and mine. We never held auditions.
Do you have a favorite short film?
No, I can’t say I do. I don’t get to see enough of them. There are a lot of places online to see them now, but I prefer to see them in a theater. The earliest short films I remember seeing are Charlie Chaplin’s. I still have a big love for them.
What directors inspire you?
So many greats. I love both the classics and contemporary stuff. For inspiration, I look to Scorsese, Cassavetes, Kubrick, Ozu, Billy Wilder, Hitchcock, Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Oliver Stone, Michael Mann, Denis Villeneuve, Wes Anderson
What is the most rewarding part of directing for you, and also what is the most challenging? 
The most rewarding part of directing is for me is being surprised by my collaborators. If your collaborators feel like they can take risks and be heard and their contributions will be honored (as opposed to having their job/performance dictated to them), then they will give to the film in beautiful and surprising ways. In other words, if I’ve created the space for everyone involved to feel like they own a piece of the film, then we all got to do what we came to do and that love will show up on the screen. That’s when I feel most successful as a director. The most challenging part of directing is the discipline of rolling with the punches because things will always go wrong. When they do, the challenge is to embrace it as a chance for creative problem-solving. I try and trust that it’s just the film finding its own way. It pretty much always leads to something better than what was planned.

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 interview: Best Narrative Short Winner- writer/director Abraham Adeyemi and his film ‘No More Wings’

At a divergent point in their lives, two lifelong friends (Ivanno Jeremiah, Parys Jordon) meet at their favorite South London fried chicken shop.

 

The directorial debut from Abraham Adeyemi, ‘No More Wings in the Don’t Look Back program was the winner of the Best Narrative Short Competition at Tribeca 2020. Once you experience the film for yourself, you’ll immediately understand why. With captivating storytelling, in a mere 10 minutes, you will experience two lifetimes of memories, regrets, and choices. There is a heavy cyclical feeling you cannot shake as you watch. The authenticity of the writing, directing, and performances will stick with you long after the credits. I was lucky enough to interview Abraham during the festival and get to peek behind the curtain of the process and the mindset. I cannot wait to see what is coming to audiences next.

 

 

Abraham, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about this extraordinary short. This feels like a major labor of love for you. Can you describe the specific inspiration for a story that will undoubtedly resonate with so many?

Hi Liz, thank you for having me and for the kind words about the film! Sure thing. Well, whilst this film isn’t biographical… My upbringing wasn’t too dissimilar to the two characters. I was raised in South London, went to a Grammar School… What really inspired me was spending some time thinking about two friends I grew up with whose lives have turned out quite differently, and imagining what it might be like if they were to meet at this point in their lives. And, above all in some ways, trying to understand why their lives have turned out differently when things were so similar for them.

 

What did you learn from your mentorship with Sam Mendes? 

There was something that Sam said to me on set of 1917 which I actually wrote down… He said that I needed to make sure there was somewhere on set that I could be to concentrate and watch takes alone, without anyone’s opinion and that I always needed to be sure for myself that “this is what I wanted”. As I learned whilst on set, there are times where – for a host of different reasons – people might think they hit a scene but if it’s not how you imagined it, even the smallest detail, then it means it needs to be done again until it is. And whilst I didn’t have the gigantic set-up that Sam had – it was like a blacked-out marquee with TV screens and all sorts of tech that probably cost more than our film – in our own low budget way, we were able to ensure that I could concentrate and watch takes back without anyone else’s opinions but my own.

 

Being both writer and director, did you find yourself changing the script as you shot?

There were no major changes whilst we were shooting, no. I did quite a lot of work on the script beforehand. I initially wrote the script with just my writer hat on. Then, eventually, I had to switch to the director hat. On the morning of the first shoot day, I made a final few tweaks – things that probably came off the back of the rehearsal we did the day before – but I went in pretty happy with what we had on paper and I was more concerned about getting great performances and how things looked visually. On occasion, actors may have asked me if they could tweak a line, or just done it off their own volition and I’m usually fine with that as I trusted the actors I was working with and their understanding of the characters they were playing.

 

Thank you for adding subtitles. It was helpful to put regional slang in context. It was reminiscent of how our vernacular changes when we are most comfortable. 

Ah, thank you! I’m really glad the subtitles helped. That was actually a suggestion made by Sharon Badal at Tribeca and I’m really glad I took the advice if it means ultimately that it made it more accessible for a wider, global audience.

 

How long did you shoot for?

We shot the film over two summer nights, which also meant shorter nights! Once that sunlight even began to creep up… It was game over. The first night we shot felt straightforward but the second night… The pressure was really on. But it could have been worse, up until about ten days before the shoot I was still clinging tightly to an ambition of shooting the film as one continuous shot and my first thoughts – maybe an hour into the shoot – was that I was so glad that I was convinced to scrap that idea. 

 

Having three distinct roles, writer, director, producer, which was most enjoyable, which the most frustrating, which did you learn more from?

Ooh I love this question! I enjoyed all of them but the one which I am without a doubt most in my element with is the writing. I always say in life that I am most at peace when I have my head buried in writing and, actually, in these strange times it’s been the saving grace for my sanity. I’d have to give the frustrating award to producing because there are just so many things that go wrong but I can’t complain because, for all the hard work I did, my producer Abiola Rufai did 100x more in producing! So my frustrations must be so minimal compared to all she has to deal with… Without a doubt, I learned the most from directing. As a producer, I’m always learning but you have to remember, this was my first time directing and prior to this, I hadn’t been to film school nor taken a conscious interest in directing. From the moment I won the competition that gave me funding for this film (where one of the rules was that whoever wins must also direct the script), I had approximately ten weeks to learn how to direct. That was reading books, studying the art of filmmaking,  the great advice that my more experienced peers were able to give me and so much more. Directing was definitely a steep learning curve but I’m so excited to get behind the camera again (something I never thought I’d say!).

 

Can you give us any clues about your upcoming feature-length script? 

Which one?! There’s a concept for a No More Wings feature. 

But, as for the one I reckon you’re asking about… I’m holding it tightly to my chest but what I will say is that Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is one of my favorite films. The entire trilogy, in fact, I love those. 

 

Abraham, congratulations on Tribeca. I cannot wait to share your film with our readers.

It’s been a pleasure talking with you, thank you for taking the time to watch the film and talk to me.

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 Shorts Program review: ‘Update Required’

Tribeca Film Festival 2020 Shorts Program- UPDATE REQUIRED

Out of this world Sci-Fi shorts.

Playing in this program:

Toto

Rosa Forlano, a 90-year-old Nonna, falls in love with a Robot while teaching it how to make spaghetti. Unfortunately, her recipe is forgotten after a software update.

A charming look at companionship through the eyes of a 90-year-old woman and her robot. Marco Baldonado, writes, directs, produces, and voices our titular character. It’s a lovely look at generational relationships in more ways then you’d expect.

Abducted

A tongue-in-cheek Southern thriller about a rookie cop’s (Jenna Kanell) first date gone horribly wrong.

This film immediately sent me into panic mode as a woman. Never leave your drink unattended. Don’t worry, the universe works in mysterious ways.

Jack and Jo Don’t Want to Die

Jack (Justin Kirk) works at a suspension facility where people choose to halt their lives. On the night of his suspension, Jack’s life takes a turn when he meets Jo.

Justin Kirk plays a heartbroken man who is confronted with his own mortality. This film beautifully explores the small moments that make living so wonderful.

A Better You

Living in a dystopian, neo-steampunk world, a shy young man named Douglas (Seán T. Ó’Meallaigh) invests in a customizable carbon clone to help him win the girl of his dreams.

This shirt is a gorgeously stylized look at being confident in your own skin. It’s one of the most endearing performances of the festival this far.

Carmentis

An injured and grief-stricken miner (Ben Mortley) on the desolate planet Carmentis must overcome his personal demons in order to survive, but can he get there before the planet freezes?

Human instinct Vs the AI created to protect it. This short is completely unpredictable. It’s a beautiful commentary on the fragile human spirit.

The Light Side

An aging Sith Lord (Joseph Ragno) must come to grips with his past and discover why humility may be the greatest force in the galaxy.

Utilizing a booming voice over from Tim Plewman combined with lead actor Joseph Ragno’s physical performance, this film shines with true humor. It is pure fandom fun with a side order of redemption.

System Error

George works at a convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend. But George is a robotic service unit, and robotic service units do not have friends. Not yet, anyway.

This short challenges how emotion and information alter a being’s perception of others. It will leave the imagination running wild. I can safely say I would watch an entire series or full-length feature based on the storytelling laid out in this 13-minute cut. It sounds like I’ll be getting my wish, as the filmmakers have a development deal at Screen Australia for a dystopian rom-com TV show based on the characters in System Error. I could not be more excited. There is so much more to explore and laugh at here.