Continuing Vimeo's commitment to curating quality content, a live screening of five Staff Pick short films played on one of the largest screens at SXSW 2016. Below, you can watch each film and read the director's commentary on its themes and production.
A Reasonable Request by Andrew Laurich
Shot in a diner in South Central (the cheapest they could find: $800 for 6 hours, and apparently Morgan Freeman's favorite restaurant), A Reasonable Request is an unusual brokerage between a father and son.
"The guy that co-wrote it with me, Gabriel Miller, pitched me this idea of the classic hypothetical-turned-real," Laurich said, "but we polarized it and made it the most taboo version of that that you could possibly imagine, which ended up being giving your dad a blowjob."
"John Ennis is a renowned improv actor from LA. I had blindly sent him the script. He wrote back and said, 'Thank you for reaching out. I'm not interested at all.' And then a week later he emailed back and said, 'I actually just read the script, call me.'"
"When I finally shot it I showed it to [my dad] and said, 'What do you think?' He was like, 'It looks really good...' And then it played at Sundance a month and a half ago and my dad called up and said, 'I'm coming on out!' And he made a bunch of buttons that said, 'You would too for a million dollars.' So he's on board."
"The initial ending to this was instead of the dad saying, 'I want you to have all the money,' he leans back and says, 'Okay, 60/40.' Like he's gonna split it with his son. I thought it spoke to how economically driven the dad was and likewise how similar the son is and how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
"The coolest reaction I got was a 70-year-old woman coming up to me after the screening saying, 'This is amazing, I need to show this to my son.' I don't know why; I think she saw something in it that clearly wasn't intended."
All Your Favorite Shows by Danny Madden
A frenetic stitching of home-made animation and hundreds of clips from well known films, All Your Favorite Shows inhabits the brain of a generation that is constantly living life vicariously through media.
"This movie is a product of having a little cousin," said Madden. "80% of what he's talking about is something he's seen before, and 20% is something that's actually happened in his life. I found that ratio very strange. I don't know what's going on in that kid's head but I imagine it's something like this — a crazy world of images running through. He talks about things as if they are memories of his and then you realize halfway through that the story he's telling you is not something from his life."
"I called my 5 or 6 nerdiest friends and said, 'Guys, we need to get together and find all the clips that coincide and hit all these action movie tropes and anything we can piece together into this weird editing experiment.' So we had these very geeky movie-watching parties. Our editor Mari Walker has a wall of DVDs in her apartment, so we had each person go through and grab a stack, and start going through and marking time codes."
"All the animation is pencil on paper and then our friend Hannah Elder colored them with watercolors. I thought it would be a cool thing to differentiate that home animation feel to cut in between all these very pro movies. That juxtaposition was fun for me."
"A big challenge in this film was to make a movie that builds to a point where you can just have clips from other movies for like 15-20 seconds and have the audience's brain follow a character that isn't involved in any of those pieces."
"There were no rights involved at all, none of that stuff. We just did it and put it out there."
No Seasons by Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva
This film is a candid fantasy of a young man who lives on the waterfront in Miami as he recounts a story about defending his boat from pirates. Julian's charisma quickly brings us into his world and the playful re-enactments give us a sense that he's not always telling the whole truth.
Leyva: "When I met this kid, Julian, he told me this story and I asked him if I could come to his house and film him saying it. Then a few years later we were at SXSW with a couple projects we had directed and we met Brendan Kennedy, who is with MTV, and he helped us make 8 episodes of this — all of which are true stories according to Julian, but as the show progresses you sorta realize he's not the most reliable storyteller."
Mayer: "He's kind of a liar, but it's hard — are you a liar if you believe it to be true?"
Leyva: "We didn't stage that his mom actually brought him a sandwich."
[The filmmakers proceeded to call Julian in front of a live audience and ended up talking to his mother before Julian came to the phone.]
Leyva: "He really likes doing this show because he gets to meet a lot of girls doing it."
Julian (on phone):"Thank you for watching, people!"
Leyva: We tried to cast the actual people that were in the stories in the re-enactments, but for this role we used our friend Otto who is a famous EDM musician in Germany. That's really his neighbor on the Jetski.
Mayer: That's one of the fastest Jetskis in the world. I think it goes 80 MPH.
Leyva: No, 95!
Leyva: So, that's the end of the episode; there are 7 more online. We actually have a second season planned in Cuba but MTV doesn't want to do it. You want to go to Cuba, Julian?
Julian: Yeah, that's all I wanna do!
Not Butter by Brandon Dermer
An interpretation of an agency's expectation during the development and note-taking process, this film highlights the ridiculous heart of advertising-driven content and creative decisions made by non-creative people.
"I wrote this after a bunch of music videos got developed to shit and never got made. The labels [would say]: 'There need to be more hot chicks.' So I made this. This is a fake brand agency we came up with, Titanium Meadows. For anyone in the entertainment business, you always hear of these branding agencies with weird names."
"This house is from the Asher Roth I Love College video, which I asked my producers to find, and somehow they did."
"The actress who was supposed to play this role dropped out the night before and said her friend would replace her. I was like 'Oh god, I have to explain this again to another actress, this terrible thing...."
"'Romance the drama' is a real note I got on a commercial."
No Film School's coverage of the 2016 SXSW Film Festival is sponsored by SongFreedom.