Bryce (Justin Riley) is an aspiring filmmaker working as a videographer for Channel 22’s South Texas Digital News, or STD 22 as it is more readily known. Biding his time until he can finally make that breakout film, Bryce’s main function seems to be to introduce us, the audience, to the daily activities and personalities at STD 22. Whether it be the abusive reporter Maggie Tyler (Nikki Young), the latest in an ever-revolving door of news directors (Kirk Harrison), the nutjobs in creative services (Brett Mauser and Bradley Bates) or the other underpaid, occasionally suicidal cameramen (Taylor James Johnson, Aidan Nutting and Aaron Chandler), no one is safe from Bryce’s mocking gaze or commentary. Aside from the kindred spirit Bryce finds in reporter Samantha (Pamela D. Hardy), who sees the local news for all its flaws and hypocrisies too, everyone seems to be caught up in daily nonsense, for better or worse, and we get to see it all.
While there are definitely absurdist elements to Brett William Mauser’s feature film VOSOT: Voice Over / Sound on Tape, most of the humor exists in how realistic the film is in satirizing the behind-the-scenes of a news program. In that way, the film is not only funny, but almost tragic in its comedy. I don’t want things to be like they are in this film when it comes to my local news, but for some reason I’m convinced this film is more on than off.
That said, the film seems to operate in that satirical-yet-educational vein more so than it utilizes a traditional narrative plot or arc. Our main character is Bryce, as he navigates us through the day-to-day news toils while also narrating along, but beyond his status as an aspiring filmmaker just biding his time at the station, there’s really no narrative to speak of. More like instances and examples of news situations that Bryce can comment on, with some lunacy via the creative services department for major comic relief thrown in too. The film is almost too meta for its own good, more like a smattering of comic moments and curious characters and personalities, almost forgetting to have a real narrative throughline.
Still, if you have no idea how your local TV news works, or are thinking of working at a local station, this film is a hilarious and educational crash course. Just because I saw no real character growth, arc or major conflicts, it doesn’t mean the film isn’t extremely entertaining as it is. It’s got more than a few quotable lines (my favorites being, “What did reporters do before Facebook? Their jobs…” and “TV news, where failed filmmakers go to die…”) and is just generally really funny. Sure, it’s not as out there as Anchorman, but it’s also not trying to be; then again, those damned creative services guys…
And before I forget, the visual effects in this film are wonderful; green screen compositing isn’t as easy as some plug-ins would lead you to believe, so when you see filmmakers who know how to get the most out of their effects, it’s a joy to behold. Had the effects been weak here, it would’ve lessened the realistic feel that the newscast elements have. There are few things worse than phoney news programs in movies with shoddy effects and lower thirds.
In the end, VOSOT: Voice Over / Sound on Tape is a funny flick that tackles local TV news with a satirical gaze that is as informative and educational as it is humorous. Again, I would’ve liked a story somewhere within there beyond Bryce being an aspiring filmmaker who mocks his current job all the time, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it as is. If you’ve ever been curious about what goes on behind-the-scenes of your local news, this film is great place to start your education.
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