This movie should be required viewing for any grass-roots filmmaker. Sure, it’s shot on low-grade video. Sure, the lighting is minimal (read as: nonexistent). Sure, the cast and crew consisted almost entirely of the director’s family. But what makes a movie work – the pacing and story and vision – are all there.
The story is simple – Erik Anderson is a high school student who has recently broken up with his girlfriend. He is moping at home, watching infomercials and making leftovers in the microwave. As he’s hanging out one night, he gets a call from his ex with hopes of a rekindled relationship. However, one of the other messages on his machine is one of terror – something out of an urban legend: “Get out of the house!”
Okay, I’ll admit: it’s not the most unique story, but that’s not the strength of the piece. Where “Evening Message” works is the quick cutting and camera placement – one of the joys of video over film because you can get a small 8mm camcorder in corners and in tight spots like microwaves where it takes a set designer, carpenter and some heavy thinking to get a 40 pound Panavision 35mm film camera in the same spots.
Now, of course, JD Funari doesn’t have a multi-million dollar directors contract with the major Hollywood studios. But then again, there are dozens of directing students from film schools who don’t either. Hell, just watch “Inside the Actor’s Studio” sometime and count how many directing students who are in the audience who *don’t* go on to make a mint in film.
Funari includes on the video a director’s commentary where he takes the audience through how the film was made. The vision behind the movie and the run-and-gun style of shooting including how Funari develops the storyboards and composes the shots within his own head reminds me of the early films of Robert Rodriguez.
Funari’s commentary also reveals some of his other ideas for storylines and ending. Admittedly, some of these earlier ideas were better than what ended up in the film. But the weak story structure is very much forgivable in light of how well put together this film is for a weekend family project.