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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Shine Like Gold (2011)

Director: Travis Mills
Stars: Rob Edwards, Michael Coleman and Morgan Darian
This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in Phoenix in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
It seems utterly amazing that Running Wild Films was only founded in 2010, given how much it's already done. Every month seems to add another short film to a portfolio that I really need to begin working my way through. I thoroughly enjoyed their first feature, The Big Something, and their second, The Detective's Lover, just premiered at FilmBar in Phoenix, where director Travis Mills has also done some solid programming. As if to highlight how busy they are, this turns out to not even be a Running Wild Film per se, merely one made by Running Wild crew for IFP's Beat the Clock Film Challenge in 2011, presumably during a moment of downtime. Beat the Clock is a popular local film competition which tasks teams with making a three to five minute film in 48 hours, with some limitations added for good measure: the genre to work in is mandated, as are a prop and a line of dialogue. Tough, huh? Well, this beat Paul DeNigris's Covet into second place.

It's not difficult to see why this won. It's slick and polished filmmaking, simple but effective and full of palpable technique. It doesn't remotely look like a film made in 48 hours. The only catch is that it's a film we've seen before, maybe not exactly like this but not far away in a hundred other movies. It's an archetypal piece, merely one put together very well indeed. I liked it even though it's quintessential Americana: all baseball and country music as a dad mourns the death of Tim, his young son, who had presumably earned the many trophies in the cabinet. After the title, it's about beer and a game on TV, with Tim there as always, but this time only in dad's mind. The room itself only holds abiding grief, a growing collection of empty bottles, and Julie, a daughter who can't take the place of his son, even though she'd like very much to help him move on. And if you can't write the rest yourself from there, then you haven't watched enough movies.

It's worth reiterating that the predictability is the only flaw and it's hardly surprising, given the restrictions that the short was made under. Mills and co-writer Jordan Goria spun this gold out of those restrictions: an inspirational film with a helmet as a prop. IMDb only lists two other names in the crew: James Alire and Todd Hunt, who, like Goria, each wore three or more hats and have Running Wild films on their respective filmographies. Certainly others were involved who don't have IMDb presence yet, but the end result is the same: each player in this company is honing his or her respective craft by making film after film, demonstrating that the best way to learn is to do. Many of their films are available to watch for free on Vimeo so, like me, you should check them out to see how they've grown and how good they're getting. If you're in the Phoenix area, you should also go to see one of the encore screenings of The Detective's Lover at FilmBar.

Everyone involved should be proud of the masterclass of technique unveiled here. Each frame is well composed and shot with the right light. Every camera movement and angle is exactly as it should be. Each set is so natural and populated with just the right props that we can't help but fall into the story from the outset. The highly appropriate music aids that to no small degree and it won Gregg Caraway a Beat the Clock award. Morgan Darian won one too, as best actress for playing Julie, the daughter. She is excellent but Rob Edwards and Michael Coleman are no less note perfect as her screen father and brother respectively. Edwards is a Running Wild regular; the others probably will be as they rack up credits. I just wish they had something less obvious to be this good in, but such are the results of working with restrictions. This is emotional Hollywood film condensed to its purest essence, as sweet as apple pie but surely just as familiar.

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