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Ship Shifters (2013)
Tonight's Short Presentation

SHIP SHIFTERS (2013)

Starring: Erin Neal, Keiko Green, Angela DiMarco, Rachelle Henry, Samara Lerman

Written By: Persephone Vandegrift, Rick Reynolds Directed By: Collin Jospeh Neal

See It Here: youtu.be/OheywuN5LM0


The Story

Space/Time.  The final frontier.  These are the voyages of a ship with no name.  Its ongoing mission: to travel the corridors of time and – wait a minute; how the hell did we end up 1500 years off course?  Is it mechanical failure?  Is it simple human error?  Is one of the crew trying to make the not-so-subtle suggestion that after untold numbers of adventures through history and days of future past, the only part of space/time worth returning to is the one called “home”?  Or was someone just that desperate for a decent cup of coffee?


The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

PARTY TRAY.

It’s not a bad way to introduce oneself to the crew of the time travelling boat thingy that crushed your coffee shack, all things considered.


Pairs Well With...

GUINNESS.

The beer equivalent of coffee.


“Dude!  You totally crushed my coffee shack.”


Consider what it takes to make a science fiction movie, even a short one. 

  • Come up with a concept and characters.
  • Write the script.
  • Cast roles.
  • Secure locations and develop the production design.
  • Actors need to learn lines, blocking, etc.
  • Film.
  • Create visual effects, source and/or compose and record music, etc.
  • Take care of editing and other post production tasks that may or may not involve small goats, white candles, and the light of the full moon.
  • Present the finished film for showing.

If you’re not in the business of filmmaking, all of the above sounds like a whole lot of exhausting work, doesn’t it?  Now consider that the people reading this who are in the business of filmmaking are getting ready to yell at me for all of the things I left out, like figuring out how to feed everyone.  (Believe me; the real list is a lot longer.)

Now imagine doing all of that, including the stuff I didn’t mention, in 48 hours or less, and having the results come out as something other than a complete disaster.  Sound impossible?  Surprise.  Challenges like this happen on a regular basis in cities across the globe, and the results can be out of this world.  Case in point: the Seattle-born Ship Shifters.

I’ll admit it: I wanted to like Ship Shifters even before I started watching it, because that title is just outstanding.  But I also know that a catchy title doesn’t guarantee anything fun on the screen (I’m looking at you, Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory), and so I set any hopes and expectations aside once I pressed “play”…

…and proceeded to like Ship Shifters in a way that I hadn’t expected or even considered.  Back to that in a moment.

As a rule, I do not approach short films as “exercises” or “reel filler.”  When I watch a short, I expect a story that stands alone and makes sense, just like I would from a feature length picture.  On that score, Ship Shifters may be rushed, but it works: people are introduced, a sensible story is presented, and dots are connected.  Just as importantly, the goings-on are fun to watch.  Just think “Douglas Adams” and “Shatner,” and you’ve found the right frame of mind for letting it all fall into place.  I particularly enjoyed the contrasting characters of Clutch, the No-BS Engineer (even playing the “grit” character, Angela DiMarco brings a polish to her performance that carries the sort of deceptively effortless ease that to any discerning eye is anything but effortless; she’s got honed skill), and Gina, the Easygoing Barista.  Bringing a cheese tray to welcome the crew of the strange ship that just flattened your coffee shop: that’s fantastic. 

Meanwhile, wonderful advantage is taken of the fact that the crew was able to film Ship Shifters aboard an actual destroyer, and the director and cinematographer in turn do an excellent job of showcasing the close quarters.  The vintage-style costume selections seal the deal with regard to setting the shipboard stage, while the music and the visual effects – yes, a no-budget indie flick made in less than two days has actual full-on visual effects (including a spaceship exterior) that stand up pretty well, all things considered – take care of the science fiction side of things to an extent that I just wouldn’t have considered probable for a 48 Hour Film Project.  Color me impressed with regard to the production quality.

So, taking Ship Shifters as a standalone short film, my expectations were met and exceeded.  Yeah, it’s rushed – there’s no fat all on this bird, one can’t help but feel that some parts are missing, and there’s no room for sides – but it’s fun, and especially considering the constraints under which it was made, it’s well done fun.  Worth your time to see?  Absolutely.  By all means, click the link up top for seven minutes of cool.

But wait!  Before you do that… there’s more.

Given my standard approach to short films and knowing this one’s pedigree as the product of a 48 Hour film challenge, I certainly didn’t expect to come away waiting for the next episode… but that’s exactly what happened.  Whether or not the people who made Ship Shifters intended it, I couldn’t help but come away feeling as though I’d watched a dry concept run for a webseries.  The audience never learns why the nameless ship’s crew travels through time or what they do on their travel… and I want to.  I want to see Gina the Barista adapt to the new life she stepped into on less than moment’s notice, and I think Clutch would make a very interesting mentor for that journey.  There’s so much potential for having fun in this world… why not go for more?  If the people involved make this film on a budget of good wishes in less than two days, imagine what they could do with some time to polish and some crowdfunding cash.

It’s worth a thought, at any rate.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, August, 2013

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