It all started with a simple idea: "What if I move my mom into a middle class neighborhood in the metaverse?"

Sarah Lasley's "Welcome to Enclave" took this premise and and ran with it full send, learning how to craft a hellish digital suburban nightmare from scratch as the backdrop for her piece. What begin as a 36-minute art piece was meticulously reworked into a wonderfully weird 12-minute short film selected for this year's Slamdance experimental shorts black.

What begins as a perfectly innocent absurdist concept—two women living their best lives in a picturesque middle class suburban neighborhood in the meta verse—slowly devolves to chaos when they use Reddit to further fund their digital home. And once reddit trolls get ahold of a digital space, well, you know how that can go...

Below, Sarah tells us the process of balancing cringe comedy, learning to create a suburban neighborhood with a game engine, and keeping it weird with the help of her actress and co-writer Brenna Palughi.

Not mentioned is her credited "Sarah Lasley 'Coming Around Again' Karaoke Cover" used for the six-minute outro. But if that isn't a testament to how fun this short is, I couldn't tell you what is, dear readers.

The following quotes from Sarah Lasley are edited for clarity.

How to Develop a Video Art Installation into a Short Film

"I come from video art, so the choices... There's a 36-minute version of it and it's more of an installation. It's like a Twitch feed that's supposed to just be on the whole time, so it's like the camera's roaming around and it's these empty parts [of the neighborhood] , and then every now and then you encounter the women.

"And I made that and I showed it in a gallery, and then I was like, "I think this could be a short film.

"I'll cut it from 36 to 12 minutes, but we're keeping the last six minutes of the long shot." And actually, in the beginning it didn't get into a lot of festivals. It had a real slow start. I was like, "It's got to be that it's just too... That end is just too experimental, too video art-y.

"And then it just started hitting. That's the real answer, is I actually create a... I see an image and then I make the image and then I'm like, "Okay, what's next?" And it's this clue-gathering thing. And it was only because I thought that there was 12 minutes in there that could work structurally."

How to Find the Sweet Spot of Crude Comedy

"Welcome to Enclave"

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

"How Many Dicks Would Really Bother My Mother?"

"[Crude humor and troll culture] I've always been obsessed with, partly because my little brother's the sweetest little boo-boo there ever was and then he's a nasty troll online, and that always... I like complicated people, so I obviously thought that was really interesting.

"And I teach, so I have a lot of those gamer kids in my class too, and they're always some of my favorites. So I've always had a fascination with that culture, but I'm also well aware that my movie doesn't go as far as they go.

"There are avatars that still exist in the sex dungeons of Second Life, and so I went to Second Life and I was scouring the sex dungeons, and all that's there are perfectly built, really realistic dick physics. And I also think that part's so funny and I was like, "We have to know this exists." That there's a dude in the internet doing this on loop all the time. It's all he does.

"A friend of mine is doing my publicity and she was like, "Do we really need this sentence about a sea of dicks and buttholes?" And I'm like, 'Yes, we do. Very much.'

"The worst was when I got invited to Harvard and I was like, "Yeah." And I screened it there, and no one laughed the entire time."

The Origins of Enclave

"Welcome to Enclave"

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

"I was going to shoot on the Texas-Mexico border this project about white women inscribing their hero's journey onto landscapes, and so that got canceled because of COVID. Everybody was picking up a hobby and I was like, "I want to learn how to build inside of these game engines." Because I was doing visual effects work.

"So I started just tinkering and building, almost like The Sims. I used to play The Sims in college.We would always troll... You could buy Christina Aguilera and not take care of her and she would cry and pee on herself. That's what we would do. It was like I started building this subdivision and I think that natural propensity flowed back in.

"Then one day my mom called me— Moni, the main character, is my mother. She's wearing my mother's clothes. She sounds like that. It looks like my mom—And my mom was like, "Sarah, did you hear about this metaverse?" And she was like, "That sounds real cool."And she was so into the metaverse and thought that it would be the way out of the uncomfortable conversations I was trying to have with her in 2020.

"And so I was a little stoned one night and I was like, "What if I move my mom into this neighborhood?" That's how it started. And I was like, "All right. Well, I'm going to have to watch some tutorials." And so it's interesting because I built it all in unity piece by piece"

Sarah's Advice to Filmmakers? Keep Making the Weird Stuff

"Welcome to Enclave"

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

"There's only two of us in this whole project; it's me and the actor, Brenna Palughi, who made the whole thing and she didn't go to film school. And I've been making these weird movies for seven years now, and somehow I'm at Slamdance.

I always say this to my class, and this would be my tidbit, is, "You've got to just keep making the weird shit." And I feel like students are always looking for how they fit in, and I'm like, "No, you should really see... Keep trying to make the..." Like I said, I tried to make narrative films, but I can't. I only know how to make this weird stuff, and I think it's by just consistently being true to that that I finally landed on one that hits."

If you're lucky enough to be at Slamdance "Welcome to Enclave" has one more screening in the Experimental Shorts Block at 2 PM MST.

No Film School's coverage of Sundance 2024 is brought to you by Canon.