Here are the first two minutes of All I Think of is You, prepared by director Shad Clark exclusively for You, Me & Charlie.
The face of a bloodied, terrified man on a stretcher opens Shad Clark’s All I Think of Is You, a sci-fi mystery short that premiered August 11th at the 12th annual HollyShorts Film Festival. As part of our ongoing coverage of the festival, YM&C spoke with the director of this film for an exclusive interview.
This is the face of Nate (Rowan Brooks), who dies in a traffic accident, leaving behind his wife Claire (Simone Varela) as well as a dubious legacy as a scientist. Adrift in grief and confusion, the widow’s hysteria is augmented when she receives an unsettling phone call one early morning. The man on the line, who looks and sounds nothing like Claire’s dead husband, identifies himself as Nate.
Flashbacks to a sterile operating room show the real Nate (Brooks), lab-coated, unveiling a test subject to his colleagues. More flashbacks, and flash-forwards within flashbacks, reveal that Nate’s brain was transplanted into the body of Subject 0001 (L. Jeffrey Moore), the man on the phone, who died of a coronary embolism. The Subject has all of Nate’s memories and emotions.
Funded through Kickstarter for $3K and shot in less than four days on-location in the Bay Area — a place director Shad Clark described in an interview as “incredibly scenic and cinematic,” asking why “there aren’t more films made here” — All I Think of Is You explores the uneasy concept that someone else, a stranger, could replace a dead loved one.
Nimble, electronic sound design percolates an atmosphere of foreboding. Ominous portents abound — tight close-ups on eyeballs, shock cuts, the whole gamut of cinematic technique. There is a constant, low, dull tone coursing through the film, which reminded me of the sound design in Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002), another entry in an increasingly growing canon of cinema extreme. (Remember when Monica Bellucci gets raped for 10 minutes in a tunnel? That film.)
ALL I THINK OF IS YOU / Teaser: “Our lives.” from Shad Clark on Vimeo.
Clark, who playfully defines himself in his Twitter bio as a “provocateur,” not only wrote and directed the film, but composed the score, too, as he has done for all three of his shorts. Possessing this kind of creative oversight, Clark succeeds in overcoming many of the pitfalls and pratfalls of burgeoning short filmmakers: the film is polished, tight and atmospheric. At less than eight minutes, it views almost as an extended Red Band trailer auguring a bigger film to come.
Clark had been sitting on the script for a few years, and it was Kickstarter who approached him about submitting a project. “At the time I had a lot going on, and I just couldn’t get my head around campaigning for investors. It seemed like a lot more work than it eventually proved to be,” Clark said.
“Studios obviously have money to invest in films, but they tend to have too many business types second-guessing the creative decisions,” Clark said. “This, of course, has led to the studios becoming increasingly risk-averse.”
To wit, Clark said that “The desire for new and exciting ideas is part of what fuels sites like Kickstarter. Crowd-funding allows audiences to green light the projects they want to see or read or listen to.”
Clark has produced all his short projects independently, but he is openminded about industry attention. In 2005, he won “Best Horror” at the Alameda International Film Festival for Anonymity. The film remains a featured short on the Independent Film Channel, and it’s worth checking out: this lo-fi cinematic seizure of a film suggests Clark’s ideas for All I Think in their earliest stages of incubation.
The fact that Clark, like other independent short filmmakers, had complete control of the material of All I Think alongside executive producer Kristin Schwarz — also his wife — enabled him to work on his own terms. “I honestly believe most audiences want to be captivated and surprised by new material and fresh ideas,” Clark said. He cited the massive success of TV shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” and the literary franchises “Harry Potter” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series.
Some scenes were shot on a soundstage in Emeryville, while other locations demanded a more guerrilla style of filmmaking, where takes were “essentially stolen in places I probably shouldn’t reveal,” Clark said. But this is the plight of the cash-strapped indie filmmaker with a tireless imagination.
And Clark is not just a movie-maker — he’s a movie-enthusiast, and it shows here. When the Nate-surrogate tries to prove his pseudo-identity to Claire he offers details about her that only the real Nate would know. “Your favorite color is red, and your favorite movie is Blue.” Play-on-words aside, this is no doubt a reference to Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 1993 film, part of a trilogy known as Three Colors (that director’s last film). The protagonist in Blue, played by French actress Juliette Binoche, is also beset by the death of her husband (and child) and seeks another sort of human facsimile of her husband — though in less literal forms.
Along with Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchock and the three “Davids” — Fincher, Lynch, and Cronenberg, all of whom have addressed themes of doomsaying doppelgangers — Clark cites Kieslowski as a favorite filmmaker.
“I gravitate toward the type of science fiction in which people become their own worst enemies,” Clark said, “generally by being too shortsighted to fully realize the implications of their accomplishments, especially when those accomplishments are living beings.”
With its abrupt and bewildering climax, Clark’s film unfurls the extent of Nate’s accomplishments in a coda of everything we’ve seen, treating narrative time as an accordion — folding in on itself, destined to repeat — rather than arrow. But the film’s cagey ambiguity secures a life ahead for this film.
As the way we make, show and watch movies is continuously in flux, independent filmmakers have to think on their feet. Clark has considered releasing the film as an app, complete with the script, storyboards and behind-the-scenes materials. “I also do want to continue growing this story’s world, ideally through the production of a feature or series.”