Monday, February 27, 2017

Cinequest ’17: Real Artists (short)

Are all the screenplays slavishly written according to a pre-conceived “beat sheet” really so different from what the storied Semaphore animation studio practices? It certainly has produced hits, but it might be a bit much for aspiring animator Sophia Baker to take in when she interviews with the accomplished chief animator in Cameo Wood’s short film Real Artists (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Cinequest Film & VR Festival.

Baker has always wanted to make movies—preferably for Semaphore. Anne Palladon appears to be willing to give her that chance, but she will have to do it the Semaphore way. What is the secret of their success? You will have to sign a NDA before she can tell you about it. Apparently, Semaphore is more “security-conscious” than Amazon, Google, and the now bankrupt Solyndra combined. It is safe to say their techniques are speculative, but not to a very great extent.

Real Artists is the second short adapted from a story by science fiction writer and translator Ken Liu, following last year’s Beautiful Dreamer. It is also one of several recent shorts using genre premises to explore big picture ideas, starring Tamlyn Tomita (from The Joy Luck Club amongst numerous other credits), like Seppuku. Frankly, she makes Palladon look like a tough boss, but perhaps a corporate leader you can believe in.

Neither the near-future technology nor the final twist are hugely shocking, but Real Artists comes in a super slick package and it really invites us to question the nature of the films we see. Arguably, in the focus-grouped world we live in, film production is already not so far removed from the techniques of Semaphore. It is also rather refreshing to watch Tomita and Tiffany Hines verbally circle each other as the co-leads.

For a short film, Real Artists boasts an impressive cast, along with Liu’s Hugo-winning pedigree. It also represents a lot of encouraging trends, particularly the adaptation of literate science fiction short stories that require little or no special effects. Recommended for sf fans and those who recognize any of the personnel involved, Real Artists screens this Thursday (3/2), Saturday (3/4) next Monday (3/6), and the following Friday (3/10), as part of this year’s Cinequest in San Jose and Redwood City.