AWKWARD ENDEAVORS - TOP SHORTS REVIEW: Turning Rom-Com into Comedic Cringe
Director Derek Frey turns the rom-com genre on its head in his short film, Awkward Endeavors. Written by The Minor Prophets, this film stars Gil Damon as Greg, a lovelorn middle-aged piano student of Melinda, the talented, kind piano teacher played by Kathleen Kozack. What in other films may have been the climax of a rom-com film, the heartwarming profession of love, turns into a cringe-worthy comedy, a schadenfreude for the audience.
Greg doesn’t have a lot going for him. He is a middle-aged pizza man who presumably lives alone. His one desire is Melinda, who seems to have a lot going for her. She has multiple students including a child prodigy piano player, Desmond Frey, whose immense skill highlights Greg’s un-remarkability. Melinda also has a loving husband and a home. Nothing about Greg’s love for Melinda appears reciprocal, and yet Greg pursues her in an endearingly pathetic way.
The presence of Melinda’s husband, Jerome played by Steve Kuzmick trimming bushes in the backyard as the love declaration is about to happen ramps up the film’s tension. While Melinda deals with Greg inside the house, Jerome has his own awkwardness to deal with outside the house in the form of a chatty neighbor named Paul played by David Amadio. Paul has an obsession with movie trivia. From Jerome’s exasperation, it sounds as if Paul has come over to bother him multiple times in the past.
This film would not be possible without the clever breadcrumbs of backstory built into the screenplay. Moreover, the performances nail the backstories - from each look to line read. The audience is only given a moment with all of these characters, and yet every perspective seems clear and unique.
While the film is simplistic in production, lighting, and sound design, it captures the story elements well - the rising tension, the awkwardness, the characters, and the comedy. The film had an animated short film feel to the comedy. That is, it was full of visual gags that gave it charm.
The cleverness of this film comes from questioning genre conventions and the honesty within absurdity. If a man like Greg hit on a married woman like Melinda, a response like the one in Awkward Endeavors seems more realistic than the plethora of rom-com love declarations out there.
Awkward Endeavors isn’t Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meeting in a park “for the first time” in real life ala You’ve Got Mail or Tom Cruise having Renée Zellweger at hello. It’s a poorly timed, poorly executed, reading-all-the-wrong signs comedy of errors. The reversal is refreshing and delightful.
REVIEW of Awkward Endeavors - World Premiere Film Awards
There are many who don’t see value in making short films. "Nothing meaningful can be said in ten minutes or less,” or “It’s impossible to tell any meaningful story with a short." To be honest, I may have muttered something similar once or twice. The truth is, it’s all about the story! A good storyteller knows how to entertain and not every film is going to be Titanic or Schindler’s List. Sometimes it’s simply about provoking a thought or emotion or simply putting a smile on the viewer’s face.
Greg is a stocky, middle aged pizza delivery dude. The film opens with him parked outside a pleasant suburban house. Instead of a pizza, he grabs a Leila Fletcher piano lesson book and jumps out of the car, leaving behind a Guns & Ammo magazine on the passenger seat. From the walkway we hear birds chirping and a piano running through exercises. The pleasant atmosphere quickly turns cold when he is greeted at the door by Jerome who offers a beverage. There is a definite tension between the two.
Continuing into the parlor we find a child prodigy riffing up and down the keyboard. Next to him sits Melinda, his teacher. Greg is noticeably intimidated and glances around the room pausing on some family pictures next to him. One is a shot of Melinda and Jerome. He flips it over. Greg is obviously hot for teacher. When the kid finishes his piece, he gives Greg a growl on his way out. This is a fun project with no deep meaning or life lesson. Just a goofy pizza guy with a mad crush on another man’s wife.
The story works and you’ll definitely be left with a smile on your face. The best moment for me was watching Jerome pruning the hedges outside the parlor window, with Paul, a quirky neighbor running over his favorite M. Night Shayamalan films. Jerome has his eye on Greg, and Paul… well, he’s all about Shayamalan.
Silly and absurd always work in the hands of a gifted storyteller. Blake Edwards and Carl Reiner come to mind as does the gang from Monty Python. Gil Damon (Greg), Steve Kuzmick (Jerome) and David Amadio (the Shayamalan fanboy neighbor) wrote the script… and it’s funny and quirky and slips into gear right away. After watching the film I scanned the overview and was more than impressed with the team that put the project together. Director Derek Frey’s list of credits is a mile long. This guy knows his way around Hollywood.
The story is actually an excerpt from a feature written by The Minor Prophets. I have always believed comedy is a state of mind. It’s how you see the world around you. These guys could’ve written about painting a bathroom and it would’ve been funny… because life is funny. It’s all in the way you see it and as filmmakers, how you tell the story.
Awkward Endeavors clocks in at just under ten minutes. The actors did their jobs and were believable. Desmond Frey, who plays the child prodigy, is an absolute scene stealer! What makes this work is how Frey paced the film. Sometimes the difference between a gag working and not working is simply how long you hold a shot. He’s a pro and obviously knows his stuff. The lighting and camera work were great. I love what these guys do and am pleased to see that this is simply one of a series of projects the ‘Minor Prophets’ have done together. I can’t wait to see more. Very nicely done.
Brian Lutes – World Premiere Film Awards
REVIEW OF AWKWARD ENDEAVORS -Madcap Comedy International Film Festival
September 12, 2022
Director/cinematographer Derek Frey and writer The Minor Prophets’ short is certainly one of the funniest in this year’s Festival, with what seems to be a standard tale of slightly cringing unrequited love taking a terrific, WTF-type turn. Gil Damon, Kathleen Kozak and Steve Kuzmick are all good here, but it’s David Amadio who steals the show with his out-of-nowhere, walking non-sequitur Paul, a character that seems to exist in a world of his own, and who keeps calmly yabbering on over the end credits and the lovely Mendelssohn. He really should have his own movie, and yes, it should be directed by the very unfunny M. Night Shyamalan.
REVIEW of Awkward Endeavors - Filmnet.com 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Let’s talk “Awkward Endeavors”! Now originally when I saw the title I was like OK I should be in for a wild ride with this. Let’s just say the film remained true to the title!
This short shows three lives of men that are trying to find where they fit in the world with weird conversation and odd objectives. The main character is a guy that takes piano lessons from a lady and it’s clear that he has not practiced or worked hard to know anything for class, so when he gets to class they practice on very simple skills and it is clear that he is there for one specific reason. Now the beautiful thing about what they do with the short it’s not just solely focused on him. While his plot is running there are other storylines running outside of the house as well. One of my favorite characters in particular is the neighbor that is obsessed with giving random movie facts; he reminded me of myself. That was very relatable content. Now let’s talk about the cinematography side of things! I love that the director took a still approach with the camera; it wasn’t much shakiness it was just very direct ,very clean, very crisp. It made the watching experience very smooth and fun.
One of my favorite things about the short is the script was very grounded. They didn’t push it but they also had some hints of comedy and drama in there. Overall, the theme of loneliness really tied nicely in with the plot. I’m really really excited to see what this director has in store. Let’s talk about the actors chemistry throughout. The cast had a really really strong chemistry. I was really in love with the star actress that portrayed the piano instructor. She had such an ease and such a sense of smoothness about her. Now let’s talk about the creepy guy that was trying to just take lessons from her because he found his self to be in love with her; he truly gave me the creeps which means he did his job amazingly!
This short should be shown to the world for many reasons. Number one…. everyone needs a friend and sometimes we can judge others and not really know why we’re judging. Number two.. beware of people just trying to use your services just to get close to you for ulterior motives. And number three.. kindness goes a long way and that’s what the world needs a lot more. Thank you for this story that both made me laugh and also enlightened me along the way!
Directed By: Derek Frey
Awkward Endeavors: Emptiness and All We Do to Get Away from it.
Review by Indie Shorts Magazine
November 13, 2022
In Derek Frey’s Awkward Endeavors the lives of three men intersect, for barely an hour, but which shines a bright, unflattering light on who they are. Only one of them may have any awareness of it.
Itself nine minutes long, the film brings together these three lonely men as they make varying attempts to find connections with others. The first is middle-aged Greg (Gil Damon), who has arrived at his much younger piano teacher, Melinda’s (Kathleen Kozak) place for his lesson. He encounters Jerome (Steve Kuzmick), the teacher’s husband, unexpectedly at home. Jerome, in turn, has to contend with his neighbor Paul (David Amadio), who loves to talk about M. Night Shyamalan. As Jerome tends to the garden and puts up with Paul, Melinda is abruptly confronted with the truth of Greg’s visits. As is Jerome.
The narrative intercuts between the unfolding drama between Melinda and Greg inside, and Jerome and Paul outside. Melinda tries to carry on with her lesson, Greg makes advances, Paul talks about Shyamalan, and Jerome prunes. Several threads thus run simultaneously and each discordant with the other, Paul’s running monologue being particularly entertaining.
The clumsiness of Greg’s advances, the awkwardness of the whole situation (including Paul’s ramblings) is the crux of the film’s comedy, and derivative of first, Jack Nicholson’s act in About Schmidt, and then, The Man on the Train. There is an intentional blandness to the visuals, particularly emphasised by the 16:9 aspect ratio, that embodies the stasis and lack of meaning in the characters’ lives. Greg seeking out Melinda, Paul seeking out Jerome, and—in the midst of it—Melinda and Jerome’s marriage, are all driven by a languor. It is important that there is no ill-feeling, but mere manifestation of an unbearable discomfort with existing as is.
Awkward Endeavors creates humour out of a certain kind of loneliness that grows best behind neat suburban facades. The three men express it differently, all directed outward and twisted into something divorced from the original problem.
REVIEW of Awkward Endeavors - by Film Threat
The lives of three lonely men intersect in director Derek Frey’s short comedy, Awkward Endeavors.
Home for the day is Melinda’s husband, Jerome (Steve Kuzmick), who is cutting the shrubbery outside her window and peering in on the suspicious Greg. Soon, Paul (David Amadio) arrives to bug Jerome about his latest M. Night Shyamalan conspiracy theories. Finally, a series of awkward events is set off when Greg becomes a little too handsy during his piano lesson.
Awkward Endeavors finds its inspiration from the crime thriller The Man on the Train, but without the crime. It’s pretty much a comedic sketch about these three men and their seemingly inconsequential relationship with one another. Like a wind-up toy, the film puts these three characters in this potentially awkward situation and lets them go. The humor is mild as it becomes much more interesting to see where the story takes us.
By Alan Ng | October 9, 2022
Film Snobbery review of AWKWARD ENDEAVORS.
Directed by Derek Frey and written by David Amadio, Gil Damon, and Steve Kuzmick, AWKWARD ENDEAVORS is a tidy short comedy film about a man professing his love for his piano teacher. Unfortunately for him, she happens to be married, and even more unfortunate, he’s home.
The gentleman caller doesn’t stick around for long, as the piano teacher makes it quite clear that she wants nothing to do with him, and escorts him out of the house.
The humor in this piece is subtle. Good for a few chuckles rather than belly laughs and guffaws. The neighbor character who constantly talks about movie trivia is someone very relatable to the lives of anyone who works in the film industry (chances are, they ARE that person).
The cinematography is fairly standard for a lower budget short, but it would have been nice to have the audio cleaned up a little more. It seemed a little un-mixed in places and overdriven in others.
The acting was on the mark. The brief scene with the child actor, giving the blank stare to the gentleman caller was really well-played. Kathleen Kozak is pitch perfect in her role as the piano teacher (and pulls double-duty as the composer and performer for the end piece “Our Song”).
A solid outing by Frey. It’s a short film that doesn’t overstay its welcome and doesn’t leave you disappointed.
A film critic for over a decade and a die-hard supporter of independent film and those that make it. Nic LaRue hails from the state of Massachusetts and spends his free time running a woodworking business (LaRue Creations), cooking, and taking time outside with his dog, Luna.
CULT CRITIC FILM MAGAZINE REVIEW OF AWKWARD ENDEAVORS
Reviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
Our lives are filled with instances that shape us into better versions of ourselves in the long-run. Some of these circumstances are happy or depressing, and some are simply awkward. Despite all of these embarrassments, these “Awkward Endeavors” define our personalities, and often bring us closer to other awkward individuals. Derek Frey’s aptly named short, “Awkward Endeavors” tells us a similar, awkward tale of three men, whose lives are entangled by a rather cumbersome thread: a thread of circumstances, that they might have desperately wanted to rid themselves of. While someone makes it out of this awkward mess with a smile on his face, and a song in his heart, others were not that lucky.
The film starts with a long-shot of a man sitting in a pizza delivery car with a house behind him; while he looks at his reflection in the rear-view mirror, we hear the faint sound of a piano. He picks up a music book, and heads out with confidence. Interestingly, as he lifts the music book, we see a guns and ammunition magazine underneath it. By the way he carried himself, it was somehow understood that he was going to meet someone he was romantically interested in.
With merely expressions, the actor was able to make the audience relate to his character, and bring about an air of nostalgia that might have resonated with many of us; that anxiousness one feels when they head out to propose the love of their life. As the man approaches the house, the sound of the piano booms. He knocks, and the door is opened by a man he had not expected to see. The man invites him inside, and after an awkward exchange of one-sided greetings, the pizza delivery man enters a room where a woman teaches piano to a child, who is extremely good at it. Later, we realize that the man who had opened the door was in-fact the woman’s husband.
Nevertheless, the pizza delivery man was determined to propose the woman today, and so he did. However, things didn’t go quite as he had expected them to. Despite the premise of the film being quite simple, the director has beautifully handled the cinematography, it almost felt as if he was intentionally trying to add on to the awkwardness that was brilliantly built by actors and their splendid performances. Awkwardly rigid shots, and occasional close-ups of the expressions added on to the awkward beauty of the film. Moreover, the choice of wider lenses while shooting indoors with the pizza delivery man, and the piano teacher was appropriately made; it brought about a sense of openness to the homely teaching environment. Similarly, the director’s choice of lens for outdoor shots of the husband, and his friend was extremely appropriate, and blended well with the context. The shots felt claustrophobic and tense, and we could visually relate to what the husband was feeling while he could literally see the pizza delivery man trying to make a move on his wife. Derek Frey’s use of natural lighting, and color palette can certainly make the audience relate more to the scenes in the film.
It is truly strange how the audiences can relate to almost all the characters in some way or the other. We have been in the shoes of the pizza delivery man, trying to confess to the person we have developed a crush on. We have also been in the shoes of the insecure husband, who loves his wife so much that he’s afraid to lose her. The director’s treatment of the husband’s friend as a character was beautifully executed; we could see how someone’s words that might have been important in any different situation became white noise to the husband whose mind was on something more important to him.
Finally, the book on guns and ammunition and the leaf-cutter added intrigue in the film. Some in the audience might feel something dreadful might transpire at the end; however, it was quite pleasing to see that they served a completely different purpose altogether. While the pizza delivery guy sacrificed his passion for guns in order to learn the piano for the teacher’s sake; the teacher quite literally cut him out of his life by pointing the leaf-cutter at him!
LARGO FILM AWARDS REVIEW OF KILL THE ENGINE
It takes a very clever writer and director to take a topic that is so negative and emotional such as suicide, group suicide no less, and turn it into a comedy sketch that still has heart and meaning. Fortunately, in this case that’s exactly what happened.
The film begins with three guys trying to start a car and through the conversation and sub textual inferences we make, it becomes clear they are trying to gas themselves. From the off the three main characters have a great rapport which helps the audience connect with them. They aren’t your typical suicidal characters which makes them more human, they have identity.
The fact that they can’t get the car to start is what brings in the humor but it is subtle and done well. The overlaying joke is the fact they are trying to breathe life into a car (literally at one point) that is eventually meant to kill them. It’s that sort of ironic dark humor that works really well here.
The script is clever, both in its subtle use of dialogue which isn’t over used or too expositional, and in the structure of the narrative. It’s simple yet clever and effective. The audience are given just enough to get in on the jokes, and just enough physical comedy that it doesn’t turn slapstick. The ending works particularly well. This suicide attempt has actually brought these guys together and the fact that they accomplish their goal leaves them elated, until they realize what it ultimately means. The end. But we never see what they choose to do. The hose pipe in the car window offers a suggestion but it isn’t conclusive, and it’s that which leaves the audience questioning and talking. That is what effective film does, it stays with the audience.
An excellently constructed short film that utilizes its dark comedy perfectly. With strong performances and a well-written script, this is definitely one to watch
Flickering Myth Review of IN SEARCH OF TOMORROW
July 25, 2022
Directed by David A. Weiner.
Produced by Derek Frey, Robin Block, Nick Bosworth.
Starring Lance Guest, Clancy Brown, Sean Young, Wil Wheaton, Catherine Mary Stewart, John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, Paul Verhoeven, Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Jenette Goldstein, Joe Dante, Carrie Henn, Bruce Boxleitner, Shane Black, Dee Wallace, Mark Rolston, Barry Bostwick, Ivan Reitman, Billy Dee Williams, Ronny Cox, Bill Duke, Alex Winter, Jesse Ventura, Gene Simmons, Bob Gale, John Knoll, Oliver Harper, Corey Dee Williams, Adam Nimoy, Brad Fiedel, William Sandell, Stewart Raffill, and Ed Gale.
If you’re a fellow Get Xer who grew up on 70s and 80s science-fiction films, you’ll want to check out In Search of Tomorrow, a massive five-hour documentary that explores sci-fi cinema during the 1980s. Many well-known actors, actresses, writers, directors, and others were interviewed for the film, which is on sale now through August 7th. It’s available on digital and Blu-ray and well worth your time.
I recently saw a tweet that asked aspiring screenwriters to pitch themselves as writers using existing movies as comparisons. A friend from high school responded: “Raised by Indiana Jones and Star Wars, along with my siblings Back to the Future and The Goonies.”
If that quote gives you a warm feeling inside, then you’re squarely in the demo, as they say, for In Search of Tomorrow, a five-hour (yes, five-hour!) documentary that digs through sci-fi films of the 1980s while also exploring the cultural, technological, and socio/political trends of that time.
It takes you through that decade year by year, using a series of what I’d call micro-featurettes about select films released that year, followed by one of several discussions of different aspects of moviemaking at the time, such as that era’s ascendance of practical effects while ushering in the nascent days of computer-generated images.
The documentary also does a good job of establishing context for that decade, touching on movies from the 70s and 90s to explain where 80s sci-fi cinema came from and where it was headed. Wil Wheaton of Star Trek the Next Generation fame is more or less your host for the documentary, popping up repeatedly to comment on various movies and trends from that era.
I don’t think the list at the top of this review covers every single person who was interviewed for this gargantuan documentary, but it hits the highlights for sure. Many participants speak to not only the films they were involved with but also movies and people they admired during the 80s. In Search of Tomorrow touches on pretty much all the major movies of that decade while delving into plenty of minor ones too, including some that I’ll confess I’ve never heard of. A repeated visual motif uses a wall of images that I assume were meant to evoke VHS covers as the camera zooms in on the particular movie that will be discussed next.
You may wonder about some of the inclusions and omissions (for me, Mac and Me getting a micro-featurette while Brazil was barely touched on in a couple quick clips was an interesting choice), but those are minor quibbles. To anyone who really makes a big deal about the filmmakers’ choices, I can only say: Make your own documentary, then.
I watched the film on a Blu-ray disc that looked very nice on my setup, and I noticed that most of the movie clips were high-quality too. (It looked like they procured pre-Special Edition clips for Return of the Jedi, which was a nice touch.) The movie trailers that were sampled varied in quality, but that’s not a surprise given the fact that a lot of old film trailers aren’t really worth restoring.
The Blu-ray also includes a physical booklet that has messages from Weiner and Block, who was executive producer, along with photos of many participants and a checklist of the featured movies. The disc’s menu allows you to quickly access any year or any of the interstitial chapters that you want to revisit.
The sole bonus feature on the platter is a discussion with Weiner and Block that’s moderated by host Rocco T. Thompson and runs a little over an hour. It was conducted via Zoom or some other videoconferencing solution, which isn’t a surprise given the pandemic that was happening while they created the movie and is still persisting today (The fact that they’re in different time zones probably played a role in that decision too).
It’s an in-depth discussion about how the project came about and their approach to it. Toward the end, Weiner answers a question that was on my mind while examining this disc: Yes, there is plenty of extra material from the many interviews he conducted, and it’s being saved for a potential sequel, much like he followed up his In Search of Darkness documentary about 80s horror films with a second installment.
I had been wondering why there wasn’t a section for cutting room floor material on the disc, but now I know to watch my email inbox for news of In Search of Tomorrow: Part II. I’m eagerly looking forward to it. In the meantime, make sure you grab your copy of In Search of Tomorrowbefore the sale ends August 7tj.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Forbes Review: ‘In Search Of Tomorrow’ Is Expansive & Poignant History Of 1980s Sci-Fi
August 3, 2022
Directed by David A. Weiner.
Produced by Derek Frey, Robin Block, Nick Bosworth.
It seems only fitting that a behemoth-sized documentary chronicling the history of the greatest science fiction movies to come out of the 1980s be described with the same adjectives we often use for the cosmos at large: epic, sprawling, awe-inspiring, mysterious, grandiose, beautiful, and perhaps most important of all, a stark reminder of the lofty heights we as a species might one day reach.
In Search of Tomorrow (or ISOT for short) — writer-director David Weiner’s latest exploration of Reagan-era pop culture — is all those things and more, effortlessly living up to its subtitle, which heralds the film as “The Definitive ‘80s Sci-Fi Documentary.”
The rather ambitious project represents essential viewing for the post-Stranger Things era, where modern-day storytellers re-contextualize the themes, narrative beats, and watershed special effects and creatures made famous by the likes of Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, Dante, Zemeckis, Reitman, Scott, Miller, Carpenter, Verhoeven, and other moviemakers who dared to dream big and make an indelible mark on Hollywood.
“Grand stories of the imagination have always taken center stage in my life,” Weiner states in the official press notes. “As a teen in the ‘80s, I was at the perfect age to get lost in the big-budget blockbusters and straight-to-video fare that shaped perceptions and inspired creativity like no other.”
As he did with his equally excellent In Search of Darkness trilogy (which placed ‘80s horror films under the same multi-hour microscope), Weiner doesn’t just touch on one facet of ‘80s cinema, he explores them all, gleefully skipping from decade-to-decade like the time traveling spaceship voiced by Paul Ruebens in Flight of the Navigator.
The pendulum swings from the mainstream (Star Wars, E.T., Back to the Future) to the more obscure (Saturn 3, Cherry 2000, Earth Girls Are Easy) and back again with ease. Interviews with and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from a vast array of creatives, actors, and experts — including the late Ivan Reitman — keep you dialed in the whole time, even if you might find yourself sporadically wishing for a larger roster of participants.
It would have been amazing to see input from industry titans like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Henry Thomas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Sigourney Weaver, and others, but their absence from the proceedings is, as Mr. Spock would say, pretty logical. There’s still plenty to chew on here, especially when you factor in testimonials from trailblazing VFX wizards and unsung heroes, Phil Tippett and John Dykstra, whose iconic visuals helped turn that aforementioned list of filmmakers and actors into household names worth billions of box office dollars.
In any case, the documentary’s wide breadth of topics underscores the magical ability of stories, especially the ones projected onto the silver screen, to bring us together and shape an almost universal understanding of the world (a core tenet of science fiction, particularly where the Star Trek franchise is concerned).
At other end of the spectrum, you have the dichotomy of a certain idealism envisioned by the genre and the disheartening reminder of how far we still need to go in order to obtain it. One of the first movies discussed in ISOT is 1980’s Galaxina and while it might not have been the pinnacle of the art-form, you still find yourself experiencing a cognitive dissonance stemming from the movie’s satiric jubilee of all things sci-fi and the absolutely tragic murder of its star, Dorothy Stratten, the same year.
The eternal struggle between our baser instincts and a desire to keep pushing forward, both culturally and technologically remains the beating thematic heart of Weiner’s impressive undertaking. There is a certain disappointment over the fact that humans are not perfect creatures, as evidenced by the documentary’s interlude on the Challenger disaster in 1986. Sometimes, our reach exceeds our grasp. Despite the utopian visions of the future we keep coming back to in science fiction (this idea of living in harmony and settling amongst the stars), we cannot put aside our penchant for violence, selfishness, destruction, bigotry, miscalculation, and negligent oversight.
Nowhere is that sense of pessimism more apparent than in the ‘80s when the specter of nuclear annihilation once again reared its ugly head — first in Cold War geopolitics and then in movies like The Day After and Miracle Mile. The notion that the civilization we worked so hard to build could instantly disappear in the plume of a mushroom cloud felt all too real in those days, more so than humanoid robots and a United Federation of Planets.
That’s not to say In Search of Tomorrow is a total downer. Quite the opposite, in fact. Weiner has crafted a well-researched, tightly-edited, and eminently engaging celebration of the genre touchstones that have shaped our culture for a little over four decades. Sci-fi has captivated our imaginations and, in turn, made our lives better with technological progress inspired by the big screen entertainment we hold so dear (not every step forward signals another tick on the Doomsday Clock).
Yes, the world is a scary place, but the documentary never dwells in the dumps for too long. One minute you’re having an existential crisis and the next, you’re embarking on an adventure across the Eight Dimension with Peter Weller and Clancy Brown, or else hearing the writer-director of Mac and Me praise Paul Rudd for keeping the E.T. knock-off in the public consciousness for so many years.
The craziest thing of all is that despite its hefty runtime, ISOT feels like it’s only just scratched the surface. But like I said at the start, this movie shares a lot in common with our own universe, whose own mysteries we have barely started to unravel. Should Mr. Weiner come back for a second helping of ‘80s sci-fi in subsequent installments, rest assured that he’ll boldly go where no one has gone before.
Review by David Weiss for Forbes Magazine
Independent Shorts Awards
Review – Kill The Engine
With 32 titles as a director on his résumé, along with helming Tim Burton Productions since 2001 and the production of dozens of films, including Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Dumbo (the new reimagining of the classic Disney musical), Derek Frey is a reference name in the film industry.
In this context, not surprisingly, ISA award-winning Kill The Engine is a high standard work on all levels, above all because of the challenges it surmounted, namely turning a drama into a comedy, with no clichés and an effective 10-minute story spent in a garage.
The plotline is simple: three men decide to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning. But what would happen if the car fails to start? Actors Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio form this suicide group and they do everything they can to get the car to work on behalf of their demise. And here begins the secret to the effectiveness of Kill The Engine, brilliant performances based on a black-humored text that does not give in to the easy joke. Neither do the trio of actors, who manage to put out an excellent rhythm and many subtleties in their performances.
Derek Frey’s experience is evident with a safe and highly competent cinematic approach. Fast shots, alternating between closeups and mid shots, with a camera that infiltrates all the space available in this small set, not repeating itself, always looking for fresh points of view, capable of recording the nuances and participating in the action as an element of humor. Derek Frey’s excellent technique is reflected yet again in the lighting and fast-paced editing perfectly suited to the film’s goals.
It is not easy to film in such a small space with three characters and a black-humored story that essentially lives on the dynamics of the dialogue and how the characters evolve – so that a connection with the audience is established and viewers can laugh. Moreover, it is not a physical comedy, but mainly psychological, so the challenge is even greater: start with a dramatic element to do a caricature of it, the suicide decision that stumbles onto an unexpected setback.
It is true that we know very little about the three protagonists and their reasons for attempting suicide. The film does not give any clues, which may lead some to question the density of the characters, if they are real persons with an emotional core, or if the short is a mere caricature of a limited situation with no other narrative aspirations. It can be a relevant aspect for more demanding viewers. Still, this lack does not neutralize the fun of this 10-minute film.
Kill The Engine is, therefore, an excellent example of entertainment production, consistent in technical terms, and perfectly effective with the impact it seeks. Lake View International Film Festival
Review – “Kill The Engine”
Kill The Engine is a film written by the Minor Prophets, and directed and produced by Derek Frey. It depicts three broken men who decide to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, the film is about reinventing oneself and not giving up.
In a span of time lasting ten minutes, thirty seconds we see the beginning of an end, frustration turned into inspiration, need into invention. Through excellent scripting and smart storytelling, we witness the mental journey of three men who are about to give up on life. In no way could one be bored or distracted – for the film definitely grabs your attention. It is compact, entertaining, and meaningful. The message is clear and hard-hitting. The storytelling is neither too complex, nor is it cliché.
Derek Frey has directed the film at his very best. Perfect shots, perfect lines, and perfect actions carried out at the right time with just the right emotions. Transitions are simple, no complicated cinematic techniques to startle the audience. The storyline is extremely intense and strong. There is a constant flavor of comedy prevalent throughout, keeping one hooked to the screen until the end. The constant process of trial and error seen throughout the film is a depiction of life itself. The story begins with hopelessness and ends with happiness, yet keeps the audience wondering. Like a truly good film it leaves the audience with a handful of questions for them to interpret and contemplate. It successfully ignites a multitude of thoughts in the minds of its audience.
The leading men were damn good to watch on screen. The key cast members, (Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio), have given praise-worthy performances. Their expressions and delivery capably establish the mood of the film. The dialog stays crisp and fun, without too many lengthy exchanges. The only location in the film is a garage, yet it gives viewers a variety of experiences packed together in one small capsule.
In short, Kill The Engine is among those few films which successfully deal out complicated and heavy messages in a way that is relatable, easily understood, and palatable. Overall the film is a lot of fun to watch, and a great lot of things to understand.
Voices From The Balcony, “GREEN LAKE” Review
by Jim Morazzini
Green Lake is the larger of two freshwater lakes on the island of Hawaii. Residing in the crater of an extinct volcano and reputed to be bottomless. It is a beautiful place and the legendary Mo’o is tasked with keeping it that way. When a group of friends decide that it would be the perfect place to take hallucinogenic mushrooms, they awaken its wrath.
The 36-minute short GREEN LAKE is a cheerful throwback to films like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON with its amphibious creature wreaking havoc on those who would defile its domain. Unlike the Black Lagoon’s Gillman, the Mo’o is a supernatural being which does change the dynamics of things a bit, but the feel is much the same. This extends to the creature being portrayed by a person in a suit, not CGI. Like the older classics, it’s also light on gore, relying on its script, camerawork, and atmosphere for shocks.
Director Derek Frey has helmed many shorts and worked as a producer on a number of features, several with Tim Burton such as ALICE IN WONDERLAND and DARK SHADOWS. His experience shows in the finished film. Frey has referred to shooting GREEN LAKE as his “mini-Apocalypse Now” due to how difficult it was. A quick look at the cast and credits shows everyone was filling multiple roles in front of and behind the camera. The results were worth it as the film pulled in a huge number of awards in its festival run.
Frey remains proud of his film, and its message. “It was the most challenging shoot I’ve ever been part of but also the most rewarding and I’m so proud of the result. Green Lake is more than your typical horror film, it’s a warning to everyone that we must maintain our balance with and respect nature, or face the consequences.” And he’s put the film up on streaming site where it can be seen free. And you can’t beat free, especially for a good film. And GREEN LAKE is a very good film.
Long Story Shorts Film Review of GREEN LAKE
Derek Frey’s project showcases some beautiful surroundings from around Hawai'i, highlighting the deep and powerful mystical vibe of this land. Starting from an apparently simple premise, this short film draws inspiration from the Hawaiian lore of the Mo’o - a female, shape-shifting-type of lizard that used to protect freshwater-based systems in the islands.
A group of friends decide to go on a short trip in the remote areas of the Big Island of Hawai'i. They’re young and restless and some of them decide to delight in the warm water of the famous Green Lake, while others are exploring the area. The water has a dark-green-ish color and though there seem to be no snakes or other predators, it still gives us the chills and makes us expect something strange to come out of it. Suddenly, while one of the guys seems to have found some magic mushrooms, a character that resemblance the girl from ''The Ring'' film appears on the screen and her presence totally frightens the viewers. Moreover, this is just the beginning of what the supernatural imagination of Derek Frey is capable of.
The film looks like its main influence comes from the classical horror films, managing to create a tensioned atmosphere for the fans of B-Horror and monster movie types, without using a great amount of blood or violence, like in the nowadays horror films. Although it’s a microbudget film, the setting is very complex and pays great attention on the details. The beauty and mysticism of Hawai'i is enhanced by the mysterious tone of the soundtrack that conveys an intimidating atmosphere, always anticipating a second jump scare. The actors don’t make an exceptional performance, being very unconvincing especially in the stressful situations.
Derek Frey’s short film is fascinating, but somehow very entertaining at the same time, because it’s not an usual horror film. Starting from an urban legend, he managed to create an interesting experimental film with the help of a committed crew. We bet that the shoot must have been really exciting and we’re expecting future projects created in the same enthusiastic manner.
CULT CRITIC FILM MAGAZINE REVIEW OF GREEN LAKE
Derek Frey’s 30-minute featurette, “Green Lake” (2016) reads like a classic horror movie. A “Creature of the Black Lagoon” of sorts, with the added intrigue of being filmed on location, at one of only two lakes in Hawaii. Mythological shapeshifters are the fabled guards of these precious fresh water sources, and legend has it that if their land is disrespected or trespassed upon, a Mo’o possesses the power to wreak havoc.
Frey gives us a classic horror set-up. A group of friends, unaware of the danger that lurks in their surroundings, decide to make the worst possible decision. The lush beauty engulfing the lake does seem like the perfect backdrop for a good old fashion psychedelic mushroom trip. And it could be a great bonding experience, except for the issue with the pissed off protector of sacred land who woke up to join the party.
The dark shape of a woman materializes from the murky waters of Green Lake. Her visage is reminiscent of Samara moving toward the audience after emerging from the well, in Gore Verbinski’s famous scene from “The Ring.” Unlike Samara, the Mo’o is seductive. She hypnotizes her victim as she slinks ever so slowly in for the kill. Her skin is smooth and reptilian. Her hair, long and matted with seaweed gives her the appearance of a being who is part of the eco-system.
Frey’s use of practical effects blends into the natural world. A CGI creature would have appeared too perfect, too modern in this setting. Instead, using costume and make-up, along with body movements and some clever editing produced a believable rendition of the mythic creature. It’s no wonder Frey has such a strong affinity to practical effects; he has spent his career working with Tim Burton.
Matthew Reid’s original score adds substance to the opening narration, transforming the narrator’s words into folklore. The music drifts and bounces throughout the film, moving seamlessly connecting scenes. Reid’s score combined with the skillful use of foley sound adds a sense of anticipation, and outright panic, perfectly timed. Frey also called in some of his Big Island musician friends, Technical Difficulties and Delight Talkies, who wrote songs specifically for the film.
In true Indie fashion, everyone had multiple roles; cast doubled as crew. For nine grueling days, the small band of filmmakers weathered the elements and went without sleep to the point of exhaustion and mental breakdown. Frey calls “Green Lake” his mini “Apocalypse Now.” The Mo’o rising from the water does call to mind one of the famous scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s movie; however, Frey could be referring to the mental and physical pain that he and his friends went through to produce the film. The sacrifices must have been worth it because the result of their perseverance has garnered numerous festival awards.
“Green Lake” is a solid, entertaining horror film that keeps you hanging on until the end. All great horror movies have an underlying meaning, a warning about some mistake that humanity is making, and “Green Lake” is no different. It’s a warning to everyone that we must maintain our balance with and respect nature or face the consequences. Always remember, “Horror Dwells Deep.”
Independent Shorts Awards Review of God Came ‘Round
ISA award-winning filmmaker Derek Frey gives life to the song “God Came ‘Round” by Trever Veilleux cleverly and beautifully. While Frey plays with the appearance of God, aliens, and ghosts, and creates a fantastic supernatural atmosphere, the influence of his past work with Tim Burton Productions is clear to see. At some point, “God Came ‘Round” can be interpreted as a satire of all clichés in romantic comedies.
It tells the story of a flower seller (Deep Roy) who makes a connection with the girl of his dreams, but immediately God gets in the way and doesn’t allow the pair to interact. Next, we see the seller try to cope with his heartbreak, and this is shot and performed in a way that makes it hilarious to watch. Roy’s performance is very impressive. Through his facial expressions, he tells us everything the character is feeling. It is always a significant challenge to perform without any dialogue, but Roy does it amazingly. Perhaps it is a contrast between the performance and the song that makes it so funny, but it sure is hard to do what he did.
The cinematography is something that should be highlighted as well, especially when the seller has his first encounter with an alien. The lighting is breathtaking, as well as the shot composition. The fog in the background references all the alien tropes found in movies, forcing the idea that this piece is a satire of clichés. Yet it is done subtly, in some moments it might not even be noticeable on the first viewing, but it is the small details that make it so extraordinary.
Even though “God Came ‘Round” was based on the song and serves the purpose of illustrating the lyrics, the images are so strong and carry such narrative, that sometimes it even takes the spotlight away from the song. For the viewer, the performances are so incredible and the story so engaging it leaves a certain curiosity in the air – wanting to know what is going to happen next, making one drift away from the lyrics of the song (not to say that the song is not as amazing as the video, because it indeed is excellent).
Everyone involved in this project did a fantastic job and created a unique piece. It is hard to make an audience laugh, but with “God Came ‘Round” it’s even harder not to laugh.
Cult Critic Magazine Review of MOTEL PROVIDENCE
Directed by Derek Frey | Reviewed by Rich Monetti
Statistics show that 15-20% of Americans have cheated on their spouse at some time in their marriage. A lot of unhappy people, why shouldn’t there be a branch of behavioral therapy that tries to facilitate the process and maybe minimize the damage. Who knows, these restless souls might get it out of their systems, and ultimately, everyone lives happily ever after. So no heavy objects thrown or families laid waste, Motel Providence by Derek Frey has a couch all set up, and for your viewing pleasure, what could possibly go wrong?
The healing takes place at a seedy roadside establishment, where it looks like a read of the guest list would include quite a few Mr and Mrs Smiths. There appears to be no shame in the work either.
The number 5 room is clearly labeled as “Cheating Counselor” and inside the professional fields an incoming call without missing a beat. “Look, I’m with a client right now, I’ll see you in a little bit,” the Cheating Counselor (Steve Kuzmick) assures.
The interruption passing due, the client succinctly lays out his feelings. “I want to cheat but I don’t know how,” Gil Damon completely legitimizes the suffering.
In accordance, the therapist’s matter of fact intervention reinforces the possibilities of establishing a new branch in the field of behavioral science. He methodically takes his client through the scenarios as though they were dealing with a pressure filled job interview or the stress of their mother-in-law’s next visit.
The same goes for the cinematographic framing by Frey. The shot is cropped closely like we feel in the reassuring solitude of a session, and thus, the overall tone of normalcy sets the comedic stage when the actual intervention goes off the rails.
In turn, the two parties don’t even realize how decadent a course they’ve set in motion. In this, Kuzmick masterfully conveys the satisfaction of another happy customer upon session’s end, and Damon exits with the glee of someone who has finally found himself.
Obviously things must then go awry, and Client Two (David Amadio) throws the wrinkle. The married man seeks help in hopes of getting the Cheating Counselor to derail the urge to be unfaithful. So true his profession, the counselor upholds his job description and keeps the slow burn comedy on track. “I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place, my job is to talk you into it.”
Kuzmick doesn’t ’carry a hint of duplicity, and done so well, the viewer willingly allows the professionalism and sleaze to coexist to the point of hilarity. Client Two doesn’t let the Cheating Counselor off the hook, though, and brings the potential carnage of each case home in a very personal way.
The Counselor suddenly has his professional ethics go out the window, and he becomes one of us. Defensive, angry and while holding his ground, the Cheating Counselor requires all his muster to not be moved to violence. He may just be persuaded to see the error of his ways, but thankfully, the therapist didn’t go to college for nothing.
He gathers himself, remembers the degrees on the wall and stays the course. As it turns out, nothing can go wrong, so let’s hear it for The Cheating Counselor and the hope he brings.
Rich Monetti was born in the Bronx and grew up in Somers, New York. He went onto study Computer Science and Math at Plattsburgh State. But after about a decade in the field, he discovered that writing was his real passion. He’s been a freelancer since 2003 and is always looking for the next story. Rich also dabbles with screenwriting and stays active by playing softball and volleyball.
Moviescramble review of Motel Providence
The sexy bastards at Moviescramble have been asked to judge the self-professed grass roots Loch Ness Film Festival 2015. The Festival takes place on the 24th to 26th July in venues along the stunning shores of Loch Ness in the village of Drummnadrochit. You can find further details of the venues here (http://lochnessfilmfestival.co.uk/festival-info/venues/). If you haven’t managed to venture to that part of Scotland yet, it is well worth visiting. The loch itself has a wonderful presence, and can be enjoyed from the various walks along the Great Glen Way and by boat on the loch itself.
Entries for the festival have come from all over the world from a diverse range of talented filmmakers. We are rather excited to have been asked to judge Best Film, Best Comedy and Best MicroShort Film. One of our notorious discussions is already underway about which filmmakers deserve to be recognized for their ability to move us, make us laugh, or encourage our sense of wonder at the incredible world we live in.
Nominated for Best Comedy is “Motel Providence”.
Pennsylvanian Derek Frey more famous for producing Tim Burton movies collaborates here with The Minor Prophets, an award winning troupe of film makers, actors and musicians.
“Motel Providence” is like a joke realized on screen, as a “cheating counsellor” is forced to question his own theories when one of his clients brings him a problem that is all to close to home.
Confident and assured, “Motel Providence” is a tongue in cheek skit.
Writer and film geek with as much love for the classics as the films that turn everything on its head.
Film Review: GOD CAME ‘ROUND, Romance/Comedy
March 14, 2018
This five minute romantic comedy is a bizarrely literal take on a music video. Sandeep (Deep Roy), a flower peddler who can’t catch a break, falls passionately in love with a beautiful passerby he believes to be the girl of his dreams. She, however, doesn’t feel the same way. Sandeep is dragged through depression, hope, despair and desperation while trying to win her affections.
Utterly hilarious with its vibrance, literal comedy and the wonderful performance stylings of Deep Roy, GOD CAME ROUND will make you laugh. A comical trip worthy of watching for its absurdist comic style and total commitment to literal humor. The piece sparkles with Deep Roy as the star and Derek Fey’s direction is sharp and effective. A film to sure to entertain.
Review by Kierston Drier
Film played at the 2018 ROMANCE Film Festival on Valentine’s Day in downtown Toronto, Canada
FEEL THE REEL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: REVIEW OF KILL THE ENGINE
When it was first published in 1996, Andrey Kurkov’s "A Matter of Death and Life" was a game changer in the novelistic world; the story of Tolya, a man living a hard life in post-soviet Ukraine who is trying to make the most out of his existence. And when we say the most we mean an impeccable and (why not?) artistic death. Tolya hires a hitman to assassinate him in a café in order to make his death spectacular. And the situation is almost the same here in Derek Frey’s short movie ‘Kill The Engine’. Three friends are trying to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning, but their plan falls apart when the engine of the car they are using refuses to start. What can they do next? Well, the engine needs a fix-up, and this is exactly what they will do… more or less!
We must admit it has been a while since we’ve had such a good and funny comedy short in our festival, and 'Kill The Engine' made the entire wait worthwhile. The three main characters are amazingly funny even though the main theme is not. The dialogue is insane you literally cannot watch this short without bursting into laughter. The cinematography is really neat, having at the same time some Wes Anderson influences that are easy to spot, giving this short great cinematic effect.
The ending of Derek Frey's film is priceless – after trying multiple possibilities to get the engine running again, the three men work it out and succeed. The engine is purring like a cat, the men are hugging each other and are insanely happy… but they seem to have forgotten something! If Jerome K. Jerome lived today and watched this movie he would be jealous. This type of comedic discourse and narrative is always a good sign that this world is going places.
LARGO FILM AWARDS REVIEW OF GOD CAME 'ROUND
‘Unrequited love’ is, and always will be a popular topic to explore within film, and all media, as it is one that resonates with most audiences and one that is fraught with emotion but also often a ridiculousness that in hindsight is hilarious.
This is what we see in this film. A look at unrequited affection and how it manifests itself. The loneliness and the sadness that you often feel when life is happening, ridiculous things that you need to share, but have no one to share them with because they won’t pick up the phone. This film deals with this topic in a satire, almost slapstick style which gives it an ‘easy’ air and makes it an enjoyable watch, yet at its core is still this unrelenting truth and sadness.
The body of the film is structured around a song, which adds to the juxtaposing uplifting feeling of the film, despite the content. The overriding musical element means that the cast have no dialogue, yet the emotion is still evident throughout which is a testament to both the acting talent and the direction. Being able portray a character effectively with no words is no mean feat, but it is one that is achieved in this short film.
The FX in the film are obviously cheap and cheerful, but this is the whole point and it adds to the B movie farce-like elements of the film which offset the trauma well. The camera work is well executed, shooting POV shots from the height of the lead. It results in the rest of the cast looking down on him which is often how unrequited affections feel. Overall a well-executed film that makes light of an emotional issue without losing respect for it.
KILL THE ENGINE – “WE CAN’T EVEN DO THIS RIGHT”
by Helen Wheels, Cult Critic Film Magazine
Fade in … A big, hollow, steady drum beat begins to play. We’re looking head-on at the outside of a classic red barn somewhere in the rural countryside. Cut to … a close-up of a garden hose duct-taped on one end to a car’s muffler. Jump cut to … a side-view of the car. We see the hose has been inserted inside the car’s window and sealed with more shiny silver tape. The steady beat of the drum continues. Inside the car are three men: sullen, depressed … ready to die. The man in the driver’s seat attempts to start the car. It won’t start. The drumming stops.
Kill the Engine is a twisted little buddy film about three men who attempt to commit suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. The car, or perhaps some universal intelligence would have it otherwise. The engine will not start and the trio are therefore unable to finish their plan to take that long road trip in the sky. This turn of events inspires them to work together to fix the car so that they can finish their final group project. The relationship between the three is both ridiculous and charming. It is apparent that they have experienced a lot of life together.
There are some laugh out loud moments in the dialogue conjured by “The Minor Prophets”: Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio. The trio are 100% believable as long-time friends who have given up on life and want to end it all in the same way they lived it, together. Their true friendship shines through and is part of what makes their interactions so entertaining. Damon and Kuzmick play the typical buddy film duo who are like a couple that has been married since high school, while Amadio cracks one-liners that make him the “nagging parent”.
Director Derek Frey has a lot of experience with stories that are bent. He has helmed Tim Burton Productions since 2001, and more recently produced Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Big Eyes. The influence of this Dark Comedy style of filmmaking shows in Frey’s short film through the positioning of the characters within the frame and the angle of the camera. In one shot, Frey has the camera angled up and the characters framed in a tight close-up, giving the impression that not only is the trio looking at the engine, they are being observed. Maybe the engine not starting wasn’t just a case of bad timing. Maybe there is a lesson here to learn.
The comedy in Kill the Engine lies in the relationship between these three misfortunate souls, who consequently are not so misfortunate after-all. The theme of depression and suicide is no laughing matter. Yet, the response to laughing at things that make us uncomfortable or scare us is not unusual. University studies have led psychologists to agree that “having an opposite reaction to an emotional situation helps to regulate emotional responses”. Derek Frey’s Kill the Engine elicits this response and by placing three lifelong friends in the situation together, he leaves us feeling that connection to others is the ultimate answer.
Short & Sweet Film Festival
Review – God Came ‘Round
God Came ‘Round is Derek Frey’s visual interpretation of the song by Trever Veilleux. Derek is known for award-winning works such as Frankenweenie, and blockbusters like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The film features actor Deep Roy, who does an amazing job delving into multiple characters, including the main protagonist, Sandeep.
We feel bad for him. We root for him. In return he makes us laugh a little. Aiko Horiuchi does an amazing job with her role as Deep’s love interest. She and Deep Roy play well off each other. The talent pulled together in this video goes to show how networking can pay off and give us something worth watching, as each of these people have worked together on previous projects and know similar artists.
God Came ‘Round was filmed in a very short time period of time and in several locations - including Camden Town, Primrose Hill, and Belsize Park in London. It’s easy to tell that the cast and crew had a great time shooting this music video. It’s a pleasure to watch the myriad of characters interacting with one another, in public and also on a more personal level, while maintaining the lightheartedness found in the song’s lyrics. It’s almost like this song was written so Derek could make a music video about it. And he relishes the opportunity to play with his favorite paranormal elements, which he says are “commonplace” in his works.
The cinematography, shots, angles, lighting, and scenery are truly enjoyable to watch, and the use of visually rich locations enhance the experience. For the shoot, Derek brought together a cohesive and productive team. It really pays off when a cast and crew work well together like a well-oil machine, because the end product is what will benefit, and ultimately the audience’s experience. Initially, this project almost didn’t come together, because Derek and Deep Roy were working on projects on different continents, but then the universe “came ‘round” and gave us an amazing music video.
It’s also worth mentioning that the editing of God Came ‘Round is very well done. Each scene has just the right tempo, moving along perfectly with the song. The sounds and music are cool. The costumes are done nicely. The sets are simple yet full of life, movement, and color.
The whole video is enjoyable from beginning to end. The thumbnail image is what first grabs your attention, and then the rest takes you on a fantastical journey… wondering what will happen to Deep Roy’s character(s) next.
Film Review: KILL THE ENGINE
The Farsighted Blogby Garrett Smith (excerpt)
The short of the day was the final film in the block, Derek Frey‘s Kill the Engine, which basically asks the question “What if the Three Stooges tried to kill themselves via exhaust inhalation?” This was absolutely hilarious, featured a great cast, and in just 10 minutes developed some really great characters. I had a ball with this one, and want to point out that this is from the same filmmaker as God Came ‘Round, which I distinctly did not like, and just goes to show that you should never write an artist off, even if you don’t connect with all their work. Man was this movie funny, I absolutely loved it.”
Frightfest Review of The Day the Dolls Struck Back!
Right out of the gate, this one had the audience roaring with laughter. It was a trailer for a movie series that doesn't exist, treated as part of an ongoing saga (the first 3 parts were supposedly made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, respectively). The premise is just what it sounds like...plastic baby dolls wreak havoc on the world! This was some hilarious shit, let me tell you. The sets, effects, costumes, editing, all excellent quality. Total b-movie homage all the way, served with tongue firmly in cheek. Experimental genetically-altered spiders crawl into the dolls and turn them alive! How cool is that? The highlight for me was the reel from the 80s w/ the breakdancing doll."
Cult Critic Film Magazine Review of “GOD CAME ‘ROUND”
by Dr. Nabadipa Talukder
The existential angst of all human beings is what “God Came ‘Round” conveys and deals with throughout the wider section of its plot. And this is something that connects us as an audience, as we live through the regular humdrum affairs of our lives.
Directed by Derek Frey, “God Came ‘Round” is a story of the dramatic turnout of a man, with his love life as the baseline. The story is about romanticizing the unachievable, with wisdom taking responsibility when everything goes topsy-turvy.
Sandeep (played by Deep Roy) portrays all the honest emotions of joy, sorrow, anxiety, and despair over the course of the film… ultimately giving in to patience and returning to his normal life after his anticipated venture with the girl he dotes on takes an unfortunate turn.
What’s striking is that Sandeep, who is a flower seller, looks for hope each day through his fantasies – so much so that he starts to believe he has imaginary friends. An alien visits him, but real life hits him straight in the face (literally), and optimism leaves his side. He is visited by his conscience in the form of God, only to be reminded of his nugatory trials.
The editing and the cinematography are done with sheer excellence and makes the music video hit all the right emotional chords. Through the expertise of the director, the story is knit into a sublime emotional tragedy. It seeks the attention of all lost and forlorn in love and the particular scene I fell in love with is where the protagonist offers each passerby a rose to buy for a dollar. We see how this simple rose is ignored by, which would hardly cost them a buck. This emotional paramount wraps us sentimentally and shoots us back to reality. A topic so versatile yet so unexplored; most of the time, we choose to neglect ourselves and seek happiness through bleak and unrealistic desires. Seen wonderfully executed here is the constant war between our inner and outer world and our consciousness gripping us with questions of who we really want to be.
Brilliant acting is done by Deep Roy, who suits the role perfectly with his sensitive performance. What leaves a spectator confused is how abruptly the plot ends. The depth of the story lies in how the character would have handled the situation which is compromised in the climax. Yet here, the question remains: how shall we spend our lives; waste it away just to get what we want the most; or be content with what we already have and find bliss in it. Overall it is a warm film, laying all the fundamentals of emotions, with layers of stories, sending up a message that no matter what… you have to stand up for yourself; you are your own Savior and you have to find your own bliss.
VAMPIRES KISS/BLOOD INSIDE - Review by Richard Trejo of Trulydisturbing.com
If you crave 80′s goth rock and love yourself some vampires than the next film is right up your alley. We started off Day 2 with one of the most unique horror shorts shot in two parts set to the music of UK Goth rockers Witching Hour. “VAMPIRES KISS/BLOOD INSIDE” is Produced and Directed By Derek Frey with a cast starring Yusura Bush Watcher, Valery Richardson, Sabrina Lecordier, Leah Gallo, Benoit Moranne, Chris Nuttall, Malcolm Davis, and Tim Burton as Van Helsing. That’s right folks the Edward Scissorhands man himself makes a cameo as the famous Vampire hunter.
The film is shot as a music video with the music providing the pacing of the film. The film follows 3 women who wish to invoke the powers of the vampire goddess. I found the imagery to be almost dream-like heavily infused with the sexuality that vampires used to be associated with.
With recent vampire adaptations falling short of portraying true vampire nature it is refreshing to see that Derek still respects the vampire genre and this film is a direct reflection of that. All the way till the very end of the film you are entertained and you’ll be left with the sultry tunes of Witching Hour for hours to come.
FIlm Review: The Ballad of Sandeep
The Ballad of Sandeep is a drama-comedy film with a sharp message about fairness. It represents the current economic hardship of American workers being less valued because of competitive advantages from other countries. Taking place in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania the film tells the story of middle- aged , Indian-born Sandeep Majumdar (played by Deep Roy) who suddenly loses his IT job because the company has outsourced his work to Bangalore , India. After a futile effort to find employment elsewhere, he manages to get back his job, only by pretending to work from Bangalore under the alias Sudesh Patel—with a significantly reduced salary and increased working hours. The writers, The Minor Prophets, have created a unique, humorous and poignant tale which is quite timely considering the world's economic climate.
Carrying on this social virtue, Derek Frey , the producer, direct or, cinematographer, and editor of The Ballad of Sandeep has brilliantly demonstrated his burning passion to make this film e ntertaining and interesting. His original and creative compositing of shots, combined with s mooth editing, allows the story to flow fluently. A s an American, Derek Frey has succeeded to make an Indian styled film.
The score to The Ballad of Sandeep is entertaining with the main theme song pleasantly jolting the audience with its world music style combined with a funny and light rhythm.
Deep Roy has successfully enlivened the character of Sandeep Majumdar , a neat and noble man who refuses let his predicament become the graveyard of his American dream.
Once again, a cultural approach towards humanity and betterment for life is created by this excellent short film . It is fit with our mission, and therefore, The Ballad of Sandeep is a finalist in our festival.
International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality
REVIEW OF AMERICA'S GAME by the Miami Movie Critic
"A hysterically funny tribute to faux Americana."
America's Game is a little easier on the eyes than other Minor Prophets movies, but what really sets this one apart is the score by Steve Portland. It's absolutely dripping with fake ultra-patriotism - think of John Williams' score for Saving Private Ryan but pumped up on steroids - and it perfectly captures the comedic tone the Prophets are going for here.
An extremely proud American (Gil Damon) suffering from osteoporosis goes out to the local ballpark to watch some kids play a game of baseball. He just about weeps at the apple-pie wholesomeness of it all as he recounts how baseball is the only original American sport. He notes that Lacrosse was stolen from "the Injuns" and football is "just a gay version of rugby." His sentimental views come up against some harsh realities when he gets beaned in the head by a baseball and robbed.
The man is under the mistaken belief that Abner Doubleday invented the game. This myth has been debunked by many sports historians, but of course the Minor Prophets know that. That's why they make great movies.
Damon provides a hilarious voiceover that sounds like those old Pepperidge Farm commercials. You'll fall out of your chair laughing when he talks about savoring "the smell of the hot nuts and the rosin bags."
Director Derek Frey cleverly splices in such symbols of American freedom as the bald eagle and Hulk Hogan.
America's Game is a hysterically funny tribute to faux Americana.
Open Film review of 4th and 99.
"Kind of like Broken Lizard’s Club, except funny."
4th and 99 is the funniest thing to come out of Pennsylvania since M. Night Shyamalan. The difference here is that the filmmakers, a comedy troupe known as The Minor Prophets, are intentionally trying to make us laugh. Kind of like Broken Lizard’s Club, except funny.
As played by TMP regular David Amadio, football player Bobby Makefield is somewhere between 12 and 35 years old. Bobby is at loggerheads with his dad (Gil Damon). That’s because Mr. Makefield botched a call while officiating one of Bobby’s games, thus preventing his son from scoring the winning touchdown. He instigates a confrontation between Bobby and another player, Tommy Johnson (Steve Kuzmick), and the “boys” face off in an epic one-on-one match on the field.
The hostile parenting on display here is simply hysterical; wait until you see Mr. Makefield do a belly-flop victory dance after Tommy scores a touchdown. TMP movies always have an element that’s a little… well, insane. Here, it’s Brian Gillin as “Favre.” I have no idea why he’s named Favre. He wears the former Greenbay god’s jersey, and he has a picture of the quarterback strapped to his wrist. The first time we see him, he’s walking out of a women’s restroom. This is the stuff of bizarro, unexplained comedy, like when Ron Burgundy and his friends got into an all-out brawl in Anchorman.
4th and 99 is better filmed and better edited than other TMP movies I’ve seen. The action on the field is excitingly choreographed and easy to follow. The actors and filmmakers find just the right note of comic cruelty – they tickle our funny bone, but they do it with a jagged edged sword. Long live TMP!
Two Handers, for the most part – Vancouver International Film Festival
October 10, 2014
My two absolute favourite shorts of the night just happened to be the two shortest films in the package: Sky Blue Collar (dir. Derek Frey, 8 mins) and In Passing (dir. Alan Miller, 5 mins). Sky Blue Collar is a modern day twist of the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet, only here, it is the tale of a businessman and carpet warehouseman who must sneak away from their class-conscious bosses to share a joyous ride on a forklift.
By use of subtle dialogue and delightful acting, viewers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about the details of the relationship.
Both Sky Blue Collar and In Passing engage their viewers in serious topics, but they do so in silly, unique and uplifting ways. Both shorts work so well, they stand alone. They both tell complete, interesting, and engaging stories, and do so in less than ten minutes.Some stories are just meant to be short.
Open Film Review of The Upper Hand by the Miami Movie Critic.
March 11, 2001
"It's got helluva trick up its sleeve."
About half of this movie is in no way believable. Get this: It's about three college-age slackers who find a secret map and go digging for treasure. That scenario might have worked with Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade (from Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes) or maybe The Goonies.
Still, don't write this movie off too early. It's got one helluva trick up its sleeve. Following an enigmatic dream sequence, the story proper begins with three roommates (played by Brian Diederich, Scott Ford and Josh Jacobson) hanging out on a boring Saturday. The mail arrives (delivered by the surprisingly hot Jill Kocalis), including a mysterious treasure map. There's also a note explaining that the treasure must be found by tonight. Whatever, just go with it.
Where the movie starts to get good is when the treasure-hunters get to the beach where the treasure is supposed to be buried. One of them claims that the beach is haunted, and tells a story about a Chinese fisherman who laid a curse on the place sometime in the 1800s. This turns out to be pure misdirection, like the long subplot in What Lies Beneath where Michelle Pfeiffer thinks her neighbor has murdered his wife. The twist at the end of The Upper Hand turns out to be very clever. I'm guessing this was the initial idea that Derek Frey and Aaron Tankenson had when they sat down to write this story. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that if you wanted to cover up a crime, this would be a fairly ingenious way to do it.