Prism Of Light starts with teenager Seth (Alec Ybarra) driving down a desert road. He gets distracted by the light emanating from a crystal bauble hanging from his windshield. As he is looking at the object, he accidentally swerves into the oncoming traffic lane, colliding with a car.
Three months later, Seth sees Mark (Jack Armstrong) at school. Seth approaches the younger boy to see how he is holding up, as it was Mark’s sister who died in the automobile crash Seth caused. Mark is having none of this and in no short order, tells Seth to leave him alone. Later the same day, the fire alarm blares out and all the students and teachers race to leave the building. Due to the chaos and commotion surrounding them, Seth and Mark get left behind. As the flames spread quickly throughout the school, the boys are forced to run up the stairs. Trapped in a stairwell, the two are now forced to help each other or perish.
Alec Ybarra, who plays Seth, wrote and directed this slightly over seven-minute short, which is impressive in its own right. No matter what else is said, let us acknowledge the tremendous undertaking that he pursued and saw through to the end. Aside from that, yet slightly similar, Prism Of Light is most notable for its acting.
“Trapped in a stairwell, the two are now forced to help each other or perish…”
Ybarra is believable as the broken Seth, whose momentary dumb mistake has changed his life for the worse. Armstrong occasionally sounds whiny when exasperated or grief-stricken might have been the better choice, but overall he is good as well. The duo share chemistry and the ending conversation works thanks to these two.
As a writer, Ybarra attempts to tell a reconciliation tale, of a fashion, about two people that don’t want to but must confront and help each other. That is not a bad setup for a drama, but he fails to make the characters feel very realistic. Seth being distracted in the beginning is understandable and wanting to see how he is affected months later is a nice take on the material. However, the conversation that takes place before the fire breaks out feels like it should have happened a week or two after the accident, not three months removed. The way they talk to and interact with each other feels overly melodramatic, nearing soap opera levels, to be honest. That makes the story and characters hard to empathize with.
“…good performances and excellent visual eye, there is a lot of promise in Alec Ybarra’s future…”
The young man’s directing is much more assured. While the first scene between Seth and Mark ends a bit abruptly, the editing is quickly paced and good throughout. The car crash is not shown; instead, the camera fades to black and lets the sound design do all the work. This is an effective technique that gets around the low budget and still sells the impact of the event. A tracking shot down a hallway as Mark runs from the fire, then sees Seth on the other end of a clear path and turns around wrings out an impressive amount of dramatic weight from the scene.
Prism Of Light is impressive in that the person who made it is so young. Thanks to good performances and excellent visual eye, there is a lot of promise in Alec Ybarra’s future as a filmmaker and actor. He does need to fine-tune his writing though, as the movie’s dialogue is too over the top and the characters aren’t deep enough to help overcome the issue.
Prism Of Light (2019) Directed by Alec Ybarra. Written by Alec Ybarra. Starring Alec Ybarra, Jack Armstrong.
6.5 out of 10 stars