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By Alan Ng | April 16, 2020

For one young man, the good life comes at a price in the short film, Artifice. Directed by Frederick Tabiyus Nah IV and written by Kera McKeon and Jeremy Trombetta, Artifice is the story of Tony (Anis Maknojia), whose wealthy parents cut him off financially. To maintain his lifestyle of raging parties and hot women, his buddy hooks him up with a quick $15K to deliver a few “packages.”

Years later, Tony finds himself deep into a life of organized crime, and Tony’s only saving grace is his relationship with Sarah (Thida Pham), his longtime girlfriend. When your occupation is crime, the money comes fast, but so does the danger. It appears that Tony’s “guys” stole a valuable shipment, and now he is responsible for fixing the situation. After an awkward confrontation at a beach party and in front of Sarah, Tony has to decide to leave town indefinitely with Sarah or suffer extended physical pain.

“…Tony’s ‘guys’ stole a shipment, and now he is responsible for fixing the situation.”

Artifice is adept at building tension by telling a story and presenting the facts. It plays out as a straightforward tale of a young man lured into organized crime and ultimately finds himself too deep. From a production standpoint, the filmmakers make excellent use of stock footage for establishing shots of Los Angeles. They employ some clever guerrilla filmmaking to elevate the final product, including car interior shots at Burbank Airport, to bypass permits and security. It also looks like they invited their friends over for a rooftop party, just to get some good B-Roll. I also thought their use and selection of music was a great way to establish the right tone for the story.

Where the short could have elevated itself to levels of excellence was by connecting the audience with Tony’s character in more profound ways. It’s the difference between presenting Tony’s plight versus emotionally connecting with him and his fate. For example, rather than tell us, “your parents cut you off,” show us so that we can empathize with him. Also, why is Sarah so crucial to Tony as a girlfriend? Why would losing her be such a loss?

Overall, Artifice is a well-rounded story about a young man forced to make a life-or-death choice to atone for the bad decisions he’s made to this point in life. The filmmakers made small, but smart choices to give their production a professional look and feel. It delivers a story with emotional impact but definitely could have dug deeper into its characters for maximum effect.

Artifice (2019)

Directed: Frederick Tabiyus Nah IV

Written: Kera McKeon, Jeremy Trombetta

Starring: Anis Maknojia, Zac Clejan, Sean Nateghi, Thida Penn, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Artifice Image

"…a young man lured into organized crime and ultimately finds himself too deep."

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