Friday 6 July 2012

Should've Been an Engineer (2011)

Director: Jason Smart
Star: Tommy Schaeffer
This film was an official selection at Filmstock 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of all 2014 films.
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.
Even more simple at heart than Granted, this five minute short is summed up admirably by its title, so there are precisely no surprises to be found here. However Keenan Murray's screenplay features only one character and one set, so it's as minimal as can be, just the sort of thing to put on a small stage or turn into a short indie film with not a heck of a lot in the way of budget. It succeeds because Tommy Schaeffer, the actor who plays the unnamed character credited only as 'The Writer', understands from personal experience the dilemma his character finds himself confronted with. His biopic could easily be called Should've Been an Actor. It doesn't hurt that he has more energy than the Energiser bunny so has no problem whatsoever with carrying a movie where he's the only visible human presence. Jason Smart and Aaron Markus are tasked with the rest: directing, shooting, editing and making sure that the focus stays where it should.

That job is tougher than usual because the subject matter is writing, inherently not cinematic in the slightest. I'm reminded of the Monty Python sketch about Thomas Hardy writing The Return of the Native in front of a crowd that roars with approval, even though it takes three hours for him to write a single sentence. This short highlights the same thing, namely that you don't just sit down and churn out pages of finished product, unless you're someone like Robert E Howard. You're distracted by everything and most of what you write ends up in the bin, so any portrayal of the process is less about what the writer writes and more about what he does instead. What's important is that if you're a writer, and writing is in the blood, it's all worth it. If you aren't... well, you'll find out just like this writer does, if not with as much oomph. Schaeffer is good at oomph and while it may take a writer to truly grok everything here, that isn't needed to enjoy it.

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