by Faruq Oyekan
The Shift, is a short film by writer and director Francesco Calabrese. The film all in all is a stylish flash back to the past, with a Twilight Zone and sci-fi-esque twist that will leave you wanting a full length adaptation.
The film is a period piece that takes place in the good ole days of the American 1950s. While watching this film you will find yourself transported back into the past where James Dean was the epitome of cool, polio was ramped, and your neighbor was probably a communist. Full down to detail sets and more than accurate costume designs shine in this short film.
This film makes great use of its time, which is a mere 8 minutes, from its start it gets straight to the action! The protagonist Joe arrives home, to discover that something has gone awry in his white picket fence suburban home. Once he enters through the front door, he finds evidence of a struggle, and even more mysteriously his stay at home housewife isn’t there to greet him.
Alarmed, the protagonist enters what appears to be a kitchen and then… blank. When we meet up with the protagonist next he is tied up to a chair, and his slice of suburban domestic life has been shattered.
In an effort not to spoil the sci-fi twist, I’ll leave it there.
What I will say is that even though the plot progression may not be anything new for those who are fans of sci-fi, the vivid set design and amazing cinematography in Calabrese’s short film gives this classic tale a new refreshing look.
Calabrese demonstrates his brilliance as a filmmaker through this short.
The film ends with a cliffhanger and more than enough unanswered questions. However, don’t worry that is a good thing. It is one thing to tell a classic tale, but it is another thing to tell it in such a way that leaves the audience intrigued and grasping at signs for what happens next.
For the sci-fi viewer or period piece enthusiast Calabrese’s short film is an amazing mix for both of you.
INTERVIEW with Francesco Calabrese (Director/Writer)
First, how long have you been film making? What got you interested?
I think it's been about ten years since I shot my first video ever. It was a music video for some friends of friends.
Like everyone else, it's probably the chance of being able to do something memorable and to move people in a way or another. I don't think there's any other medium that can be as powerful as cinema. Only literature maybe, but it's less accessible. The visual aspect of it makes it more appealing.
Where did the idea for this short originate from? Why the 50's look?
It's the 60's…. Anyway, the idea originated from my interest in elevated genre and finding a way to tell a classic alien invasion story in a new way and from a different prospective. I enjoy playing with clichés from other genres. The period setting on the other hand is just a fun way to play with visuals and experiment with a new narrative approach.
Ah the 60s my bad! What was the process like getting the sets and wardrobe?
Painful…. When you work on such a tight budget and against time, it’s very hard to get what you want.
Any cool onset stories?
The coolest story is probably about the TV set. We found this great late 50's TV, but there was no way to plug it to computers or DVD players. I hate how television or any other screen looks when composited. Luckily Jim Breen was on set and had the idea to bring his own home video projector, hide it under the small table in between the chairs and project the TV program on to the glass of the physical TV set.
Were there specific sci-fi films or stories that inspired this short?
Not really. I never take inspiration directly from other films, but I’m sure Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Twilight Zone had a great influence on me.
It seems like you left a lot of questions unanswered in the short. Any plans for a sequel?
That’s what I like to do with shorts, and yes I’m working on a related long form project.
How has the reaction to the short been like?
Pretty amazing I think.
A lot of people seem to like it, and every review is flattering. But the greatest thing is that there is interest in the development of this storyline.
What projects do you have lined up for the future?
I’m writing scripts and developing the feature version of Lovely Monster with Lionsgate.
Any advice to filmmakers?
Never stop shooting.