Easy as ABC

A critical reflection on the Alphabet Soup Project.

S is for Suicide is a comedy short and was created as part of our Alphabet Soup Project. 26 teams of two were each tasked with producing stand alone 60 second short films to form part of an anthology of blood themed mini-films for every letter of the alphabet.

The original concept for this film was a time-bending drama that would start with a teenage boy laying on a mattress with slit wrists then would reverse in time showing the events leading up to his decision, e.g. abusive step-father, school bullies and friend’s suicide and ending with a friend asking the teenager if he is okay. The teenager would reply by saying no and this would set him on a different path, with the overall message being ‘it’s okay to talk’.

The most difficult part of this was organising ourselves for the shoot as my team mate had a lot of pre-arranged commitments. Once our actor pulled out of our first shooting date I was never able to rearrange the shoot. In the end, I decided that I would enlist the help of Zachary Pierce and Jaden Bowen while utilising my younger brother as the actor and my house as the location.

The final product is far from what we had originally imagined. Going from a serious in tone drama about a suicidal teenager to a comedy about teenager failing to kill himself in multiple ways in his attempt at getting out of visiting his grandmother. I wanted the film to be a dark and gloomy affair with a heart string pulling score making the audience feel for the teenager instead we went with warmer sit-com style lighting, where the audience laughs at the teenagers failed attempts instead of feeling empathetic towards him. In the original concept the empathy towards the character came from the damaging experiences he went through but in the final product, the relatable moment comes with the punchline of the teenager going to these extremes to get out of a family event.

Left: Original concept lighting inspiration | Right: Final product lighting inspiration

A major strength of our original concept is that the idea for the ending came from the organisation OK2TALK. The organisation is founded on the idea that teens and young adults can feel hopeless and alone, especially when dealing with issues such as mental illness, and we wanted to show that by talking it could change the outcome of events.

Unfortunately, we were never able to put that idea into production and instead went with the comedic approach. Although the short does have it’s funny moments utilising a subject such as suicide is always difficult. When it comes to many aspects of life I personally am fond of seeing the funny side of every and all situation but I do know that everyone deals with loss in different ways and I definitely understand that seeing something personal to oneself ‘being made fun of’ could be taken as very disrespectful, even with personal connections to such a subject. However, my intention of the comedic approach is, of course, to entertain but to do so in a way that shows it is somewhat okay to laugh at such a taboo subject by making it about the attempts of evading a family event.

Even with the weaknesses of the absolute failure of producing the original concept in a lack of adequate pre-production and even greater lack of communication between myself and partner and then the last minute change of concept, with the help of Zac, to make the short a much more manageable production. The shots, though safe in some places, reflect the comedic approach taken by showing the audience what we want them to see. Just like the setup of a joke, we wanted to show the audience the entire scene and the actions our character was performing and then the reveal of the character’s failure was carried out in close up, revealing the ‘punchline’.

Overall the strengths of my directing and cinematography along with, Zac’s experience with camera, audio and editing and Jaden’s strength as 1st AD this production, once rolling, was fast paced, enjoyable, smooth and with the help of Zac and Jaden my favourite production yet.

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