Self-Discovery Image


By Alan Ng | June 18, 2024

As a young woman’s life spins out of control, her only help is a self-help book in Roger Artola and Noel Leon’s short film, Self Discovery. Noel stars as Erin, a woman living a humble life as a booker for a Hollywood tour company. During a Zoom meeting, her supervisor calls out Erin’s lackluster job performance and chalks up Erin’s low sales numbers to her drab appearance and personality.

Trapped in a go-nowhere life and wrestling with suicidal ideations, Erin receives a book entitled, “Self-Discovery.” What could it hurt to read the book? Maybe now is the time to change. Inspired, Erin decides to start making changes in her life, including physical activity and starting an ASMR channel.

As Erin starts to come alive, what appears is the manifestation of her “twin,” she dubs Alice. Alice is the more outgoing version of Erin. She dresses the way Erin doesn’t have the courage to dress, and her attitude embraces a more vibrant life…a life that Erin’s anti-social self would never embrace.

Alice’s presence inspires Erin to take a huge step forward and ask her co-worker and the love of her life out on a date. Yet, when this dream date turns into a nightmare, there appears to be more to Alice and this “self-help” book than meets the eye.

Self-Discovery touts itself as being an LGBT, sci-fi, psychological thriller. In all honesty, I’m not exactly sure what the LGBT aspect of the story is. The tale feels much broader and more relatable to those not in that community as much as it is to those within it.

“As Erin starts to come alive, what appears is the manifestation of her ‘twin,’ she dubs Alice.”

The story plays on the fact that Erin is an anti-social introvert who is expected to be more open and outgoing if she hopes to succeed in her career and in life. Now, add a sinister force that will take advantage of Erin’s moments of weakness and push her past the limits she is comfortable with. I can see the LGBT elements, but at the same time, I think we all go through this.

Overall, I enjoyed Self Discovery, and Noel Leon turns Erin…and Alice into compelling characters. The horror and thriller elements are on par with low-budget indie fair, and its roughly 30-minute runtime is perfect—never feeling rushed and boring at any point. There is a solid story in Self Discovery.

It’s also a DIY project as well. Though the equipment used is cheap, director Roger Artola creates compelling imagery to enhance the story, as well as creative use of lighting to establish the story’s tone.

As much as the filmmakers can overcome the DIY no-budget hurdles visually, the problems that I have are also caused by the no-budget nature of the film. I’m referring to sound. Sadly, the sound is one hurdle that must be overcome in virtually all indie films. Audiences will forgive visual imperfections, but they rarely forgive similar imperfections in sound.

First, the overall balance of sound is off. Some scenes are louder than others, and much of the ASMR dialogue is too low to understand. Second, the sound of Zoom and cellphone calls need to go through some filter to make it sound like a Zoom or cellphone call, or it sounds like general voice-over narration. This may sound like a critic’s nitpicks, but I call it out because audiences will call it out.

The other nitpick is the acting of the supporting cast. The dialogue feels like people acting when you really want to make it feel authentic. Noel Leon gives a fantastic performance, and you really want supporting actors to match Noel’s performance or come close to it.

In the end, Self Discovery lays a good foundation for a low-budget psychological thriller. Good setup and payoff in the end. The film’s problems are all solvable, which means whatever Roger Artola and Noel Leon have coming up next…I’m in.

Self Discovery (2024)

Directed: Roger Artola

Written: Noel Leon

Starring: Noel Leon, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Self Discovery Image

"…Leon gives a fantastic performance..."

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