Over a year ago, manically talented screenwriter Zeke Farrow and I began developing a puzzling, film-in-film psychological thriller about identity and obsession in the digital age. As the feature script evolved, it became clear we needed to test our premise. When it was time to shoot, would I really be able to create gripping suspense and compelling mystery with just an actress, an apartment, and a computer screen inside a logic-defying world?
I set out to answer that question with a short meta-film: A FILM BY VERA VAUGHN. Written specifically for the short format with an M.C. Escher-like circularity and inspired by the early work of Roman Polanski, I assembled my dream team and got to work.
With my usual partners-in-crime on board — producer Stephanie Haberman, cinematographer Jeffrey Kim, editor M. Brennan, and costume designer Erika Munro — I knew our craft would be solid. But with such an intricate script focusing on two women played by the same actress, the whole thing hinged on the performance. We needed someone with serious chops.
Working with casting directors Allison Twardziak and Jodi Kipperman, we found her. Known as much for her work in film and television as for her virtuoso stage performances, Marin Ireland put on a master class of sharp precision and delicate vulnerability that had our entire crew spellbound, take after take.
After three grueling nights (and the very real threat of eviction), it was time to begin the edit. Because of the technical complexity of the screen-in-screen scenes (all of Vera’s shots are horizontally flipped to create subconscious discomfort), editor M. Brennan and assistant editor Jay McConville had prepared extensive pre-cuts of select sequences. Slotting these together worked seamlessly but the art of it lay ahead. Four months ahead, to be precise, as M. Brennan and I tweaked the cut’s pacing to hit the heights of tension without losing our audience's interest.
We’ve been honored to have the film premiere at the Nashville Film Festival and go on to play the Maryland, Brooklyn, Portland, and Paris Film Festivals as well as win the Jury Prize for Best Narrative Short at the Sidewalk Film Festival. Our online premiere through Short of the Week has been another great privilege as was receiving a Vimeo Staff Pick. We’re all looking forward to bringing the feature version of this odd story to a theater near you.
Finally, I’m immensely proud of, and deeply grateful for, the top-level work our crew put into this film. It simply would not exist without their incredible contributions which is why the film begins like this: