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Short Films in Focus: The Event

“I’m your friend. I’m just not your audience.”

We’ve all been in this situation or something like it. Your friend or family member has created something you have no interest in, but they insist on your opinion and your time. If the creation is great, no problem. If it falls really short or is outright bad, you have to fake your admiration and we’re not all good at that. Nicole Holofcener’s recent comedy “You Hurt My Feelings” focuses on this conundrum as an author (Julia Louis Dreyfuss) copes with learning how her husband really feels about her latest book and what that says about honesty in their marriage. Sometimes being supportive feels like the right thing to do, but sometimes it doesn’t help at all.

But what if your friend or family member doesn’t even want to show up for it in the first place? That situation exists at the center of Frank Mosley and Hugo De Sousa’s comedy “The Event,” in which a Jack (Mosley) is awakened in the middle of the night by his best friend, Vince (De Sousa), who demands to know “why haven’t you watched my short film yet?”

It’s a tough question to answer, but eventually Jack gives Vince a reason cloaked in love and friendship, even though it’s a dance around the real answer which eventually comes to light. At first, we sympathize with Jack for being put in this situation and being caught off guard, but when we learn that it’s Vince’s first short film ever and Jack still won’t give it a chance, our sympathy shifts and Jack becomes more deserving of being put in the hot seat. Even his girlfriend (Jennifer Kim) won’t let him off the hook that easily.

I mentioned Holofcener earlier and this film feels right at home in that genre of films about being put in that familiar life situation and having to confront it head-on. It has that same easygoing nature and deep knowledge of character that makes both films so strong. Given Vince’s penchant for metaphor and determination to get an answer, I would watch his short film. On the other hand, if put in the other’s shoes, what if it’s bad or uninteresting? It’s not easy being on either side. I’ve made some short films that I know my friends and family didn’t like. Not because they told me, but because they didn’t say anything. They didn’t have to. 

“The Event” is a smartly written and wonderfully acted film about the need for validation and the resistance against providing it just to be on the safe side. We all want to play it safe, but we also want to be celebrated after a personal accomplishment (and making a short film is no easy feat). “The Event” ends by thanking you for watching it for two reasons: 1. It’s obviously a funny way to end this particular film. 2. Because this is clearly a labor of love for both Mosley and De Sousa and they know as well as I do that it takes a lot of convincing to get someone to watch a short film. 

I hope I convinced you to watch this one. 

Q&A with De Sousa and Mosley

How did this come about? 

DE SOUSA: I was trying to find someone to work with during the lockdown and Frank was one of the few that answered the call and matched my desperation (and excitement). During that time, I was embarrassingly pushing my work on friends and family and getting crushed every time by their lack of engagement and general unresponsiveness. I quickly realized that I was putting them in a ridiculously funny position where they have to sit down and watch something from someone they've already heard and seen too much of. I tried to portray that experience in the film in a way that shows solidarity for both sides because it's an impossible situation. After a long period of "research" and a lot of tense and awkward conversations, I wrote the script in two days. Underneath the jokes it's kind of a sad movie about wanting to be seen and loved and not getting to decide when that happens for you.

MOSLEY: I mean, how many times have we checked our Vimeo stats to make sure that festivals were watching the private link, or have we checked in with friends to see if they'd gotten around to watching our cuts for notes? We both felt this idea was the one, and so we immediately went about prepping production. 

With the two of you co-starring and co-directing, did you each have a specific skill set for directing that made the dividing easier? Or did everything just come naturally as co-directors?

MOSLEY: It all came naturally to co-direct. It made it easier, especially, when one of us had our closeup---that the other person was there to direct and give notes from behind the camera. We carefully plotted out our shots together during our rehearsals at Hugo's house which was the film's only location---which also made it easier since we knew the layout of the home and could plan our shots accordingly.  All that being said, and while Hugo and I did everything together, I would say that I focused a bit more on lenses and some of the technical elements with camera and lighting, and that it was really great that Hugo, as the film's writer, was the one focusing just a bit more on the performances and the pace of the dialogue. It all made sense. We also edited the film together, and it was pretty much a shot-to-edit project, so there wasn't any shot wasted from shooting. 

DE SOUSA: Frank and I decided to co-direct without ever meeting in person and based on just having a great time essentially getting to know each other over Zoom a handful of times. It's the quintessential 2020 partnership, and probably something that couldn't have happened in 2023. Frank took the reins as far as communicating our vision to our team. He's really good at staying on top of emails, checking in, restating things, basically making sure the whole team is on the same page. That's a huge part of making a film and I learned a lot from him in that regard.

I’m only guessing that the name of Vince’s film is “The Event.” If not, why name your movie “The Event”?

MOSLEY: We talked about the title at great length. To us, Vince's film remains a mystery. We don't know what it's about, or even what it's called. And I don't think we need to know. Because “The Event” is not about Vince's film. It's about how Vince's film has created this drama between friends—its very existence has created feelings of paranoia, rejection, sadness, and frustration. The reason the film is called “The Event” is that Jack mentions earlier, as a way to squirm his way out of the bedside chat, that Vince should have a screening night at their house and invite lots of people over ... to make it "an event" with popcorn ... so that it feels more special ... a grand, celebratory occasion. I think it's hilarious that Jack brings this up—since this party doesn't end up happening, but this intense conversation instead snowballs into a long dark night of the soul for these two men (and one of their significant others), becoming in its own way ... an unexpected "event" of the night, and one that will ultimately shake the very foundations of their friendship. To call this film something as simple and innocuous as “The Event” seems to wink at that aspect of the narrative to me.

I love the final shot but was wondering if you had other endings in mind for it. 

DE SOUSA: The short always ended with Jack watching Vincent's short. Vincent walking in on Jack was something I found a day before shooting, and Frank was 100% on board with it as soon as I said it. It felt like the perfect ending. And that is a good example of something that I really appreciate about working with Frank—he is always happy to hear a new idea.

You sent me this film while I was neck deep in film festival stuff and I didn't get back to you for a couple weeks. Watching this film became a meta experience for me. Are you still waiting to hear back from friends and family on their thoughts on “The Event”?

MOSLEY: Ha, I'm actually glad you experienced the film that way! Funny enough, even during our editing process, some people didn't give us notes for quite a while, and then it felt meta to them as well. In fact, some people have waited months and months to watch it, and then when they see it, it almost feels like a personal attack somehow, that we somehow made it only for them ... I almost encourage people to take their time and to put off watching the film--I think it only adds to the experience, like some kind of interactive performance art! But to answer your question, I'm thankful that, if anything, the film has resonated enough with family and some friends that they want to share it with others. And that's the best thing we could hope for. They become like Vince in a viral way: just wanting to share something that can be seen and experienced and felt. And it means a lot that they would want to do that!

What’s next for you?

MOSLEY: I'm planning to direct a short written by my partner Joslyn Jensen—a body horror short set around a seemingly innocent basketball game—and I'm writing the script to what I hope will be my third feature film—a spare, mystical chamber drama set in the PNW revolving around language and faith. I'm also knee-deep in a fiction-hybrid-documentary I'm producing/writing with filmmaker Keith Maitland that's about the unsolved murder of a Dallas woman in the 1980s—and how my father was one of the last people to see her alive.

DE SOUSA: Frank and I are back on the festival circuit with another short called “Good Condition,” also shot in my house but this time during the day. "It's just Hugo and a table", is how we've been describing it to our friends. Frank directed, I penned the script and am also performing. Other than that, I just secured a writing fund that will hopefully put me on the right track to write and direct my first feature sometime in the next year. 



Collin Souter

Collin Souter has been reviewing films in Chicago for 14 years, most notably on WGN Radio where he has been a part of the movie review segment every week on The Nick Digilio Show.

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