This was supposed to be a review of six short films by Chapman University students that screened last week at the Temecula Valley International Film and Musical Festival. Unfortunately, three mysteriously disappeared, so apologies to David May, Steve Suh and Ryan Parrot, whose short films were not viewed, but were obviously brilliant.
Stacey Kattman wrote and directed Love Thy Neighbor, your standard girls meets boy, loses boy, grieves and recovers. It's told and filmed straightforwardly, but with enough dollops of wit and sensitivity to keep you interested (and lead Sunny Doench is fantastic as our beauty-in-crisis). One wishes Kattman didn't so neatly wrap up our protagonist's journey. As is, it ends with a step sideways rather than in a direction that signals genuine personal growth.
Kattman's other script, Look Away, is far different, a tense thriller about a white trashy mother-to-be (Roxanne Meyers) and the impossibly sweet senior citizen midwife (an excellent Barbara Fuller) who takes her in. While the plot feels implausible from the start, Zach Goode's stylish, inventive direction excuses the gaps, tautly propelling the action. Both scripts display genuine writing talent, but both are also wholly formulaic. It'd be interesting to see what Kattman could do with a fresher story.
Director Scott Albanese's All That You Love, is based on Steven King's short story about a suicidal salesman who scribbles rest stop graffiti in his notebook. Albanese's visuals are impressive and adaptor Matthew Sheppo skillfully distills King's toilet humor and Existentialism 101 insights. But droning narration and a questionably upbeat soundtrack hamstring the proceedings.
All three films look highly presentable, but all three have a been-there, seen-that, feel. If they're test runs for careers as commercial and TV directors and writers, they work just fine. Maybe the grand announcements of provocative, artistic genius will come later.