Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Festival View - Sorry About Tomorrow

Sometimes, you can have good and fast...

 It is fully possible to make a movie in 48 hours; I’ve done it myself, in fact. It’s nigh-impossible to create a film that is layered, intelligent, and ambitious in 48 hours, but it does happen. In the case of Sorry About Tomorrow by Motke Dapp, well, it took slightly longer, but the end result was 100% the best science fiction film of any length I saw in 2013. 

The 48 Hour Film Project has been around since about 2001. It’s one-part contest, one-part internal filmmaking challenge to get filmmakers who tend to sit around talking about making movies to actually dedicate a weekend to making a movie. It grew and there are dozens of 48 Hour Film Project competitions in cities around the world these days. You’re given a list of musts – a genre, a line of dialogue, a character, and a prop. These can be interpreted by the filmmakers in a variety of ways. I started to see films come through our programming queue in 2003 or so, and they all tended to feel like they had been made in 48 hours. I did two films for the San Francisco 48 Hour Film Project, one where we won best script, and another where I was really just craft services. A few years later, I was one of the judges who helped determine the various winners and by that time, 2012, the quality of the films had gone from surprisingly good, to just plain whoa.

Now, in 2013, in Nashville, director Motke Dapp was given the genre of science fiction. Dapp, a working director who has become known for his comedy work, has an incredible eye for texture. As far as cinematography goes, texture imparts sensation to a scene. It’s an often underrated aspect of film shooting, but when you’ve got a director of photography who knows how to make things feel plastic (see Barbie: The Movie which did so incredibly without going the way of those 1990s Duracel commercials) or gritty (pretty much anyone who worked in Film Noir in the 1940s and 50s) they are going to leave a mark.

The story of the film is simple – Baldwin, a tinkerer, meets Emily, a scientist, at a party for Sen. Tom Tuckerbee (the required character for the project.) She’s working on time-travel and has discovered The Milk: a semi-synthetic substance that is the catalyst for time-travel. Baldwin is quickly smitten with Emily’s lab partner, Cricket, and as soon as he’s on the scene, he comes to a breakthrough that appears to be putting everything in motion, including the Baldwin-Cricket relationship. After they confirm that time travel works, and leads to some dicey territory, they start to be terrorized by time agents. 

All that is kinda prologue, though, as the film is really about Baldwin breaking up with Cricket. Well, he’s breaking up with the Cricket from 15 years in the past. 

The thing is, everything comes together. The story, kinda simple and kinda complex, bounces off the edges of over-down genre tropes in an incredibly smart, but sincere way. Yeah, we see time cops a lot, like in a personal fave Timecop, but here instead of winking at the idea, they are there and they are a menace, and they’re dealt with deftly. The characters are well-drawn, but each and every performance is played to a level of perfection, from John Ferguson’s Baldwin, who has the genre-acting chops that make folks like Sam Rockwell so affective, to Collen Helm’s Cricket, who somehow skirts maniac pixie dreamgirl portrayal in a role where many actors and directors would dive right in. 

But really, it’s Emmaline Weedman who absolutely steals the show. 

Child actors can be positioned a number of different ways. Smart writers and directors get that they can’t carry the weight of the film itself, performances like Natalie Portman in Leon, The Professional notwithstanding. They can, though, carry elements of the film and if they’re good at the thing, they can give weight to anything they deliver. Weedman delivers so damn hard, and while it’s only a minor twist in the scheme of things, it’s so well done, partly because it’s cleanly written, partly because it’s perfectly delivered.  That it’s followed by a great montage that 100% understands how you move a story towards a climax while telling the viewer what they should have been taking away from the entire piece only makes things that much better. 

Sorry About Tomorrow has shown all over the place, and you can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIO05LVPqKQ. We showed it at the Silicon Valley Science Fiction Short Film Festival and it won our big award. I was always shocked that it didn’t win the Nashville 48 Hour Film Project, but apparently it took a little bit longer than 48 hours, though it still won many of the individual awards, including for acting, which it certainly deserved. Still, this is a film that has all the layers of quality that a film in development for years would have trouble developing. 

Chris Garcia - Archivist, Zine Nerd, Curator, Pro Wrestling Enthusiast.