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 the premise needed testing. 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, my dream team and I 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.
The creative contribution of three special artists carried us across that finish line. The creepy but hypnotic score of Leanna Primiani, the exquisitely detailed audio engineering of Joseph Miuccio of Pure Sound, and the subtly enriched color grade of Mike Howell from Color Collective.
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 and 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. Thank you!
Starring Marin Ireland as Vera Vaughn
Directed by Sorrel Brae
Written by Zeke Farrow & Sorrel Brae
Produced by Stephanie Haberman & Sorrel Brae
Production Designer: Maxwell Nalevansky
Editor: M. Brennan
Associate Producer: Arle Bordas
Casting Director: Allison Twardziak CSA
Composer: Leanna Primiani
Music Supervisor: Ryan McLean
Costume Designer: Erika Munro
Asst Editor & VFX: Jason McConville
Production Supervisor: Dashiell Robb
Second Assistant Director: Camila Lianeza
Key Hair & Makeup Artist: Tara Zielenski
Gaffer: Yusuke Naito
Electric: James Regan
Grip: Kelley Nesper
B Camera Operator: David Brickley
Steadicam operator: Korey Robinson
Assistant Camera: Neil Kelly
Camera Checkout: Timothée Arene
Set Dresser: Kathryn Chadason
Sound Mixer: Jordan Moser
Production Assistants: Anna Babs Schneider, David Melendez, Charles Carter
Colorist: Mike Howell
Color Producer: Claudia Guevara
Re-Recording Mixer/Sound Designer: Joe Miuccio
Additional Music: Ryan McLean
Music and Lyrics: Ryan McLean
Vocals: Derick Petersohn
Produced by: Momma Music
Camera Equipment & Lenses: Abel CineTech
Lighting & Grip Equipment: Xeno Lights
Color Services: Color Collective
Background Casting: Background Inc
Background Extra: Stefan Alexander
Stand In: Ashlyn Alexander