One of the gems of this year’s Cinequest Film Festival is the World Premiere of Status Pending, the story of a social media junky and the man who wants her attention.
Filmed in New Zealand, the writer/director Ben Zolno actually once lived in the Bay Area. He left California a decade ago, to help Bay Area non-profits address the environmental crisis through documentaries. But this, his first narrative feature, was funded completely out-of-pocket. He is counting on film festivals and word-of-mouth to spread the word.
This film explores the question, “can analog life survive in the digital age”. After spending six months with the guy she met on Tinder, Lizzie must decide whether to take a one-year, last-minute trip around the world, or opt for stability, settling into a career and a relationship. Can Lizzie make up her own mind? Will she be manipulated by the social media forces and by Ryan’s controlling efforts? In an attempt to prove to Lizzie that she can have everything without leaving home, Ryan helps Lizzie make a list of everything she’s ever wanted in life, and they set about fulfilling them all in a day. Of course, as is the case with many millennials, there is always a third member of the relationship: social media. Her on-line world becomes increasingly judgmental, adding to the pressure she is feeling.
The film also took an unusual direction with its script; the dialogue is actually improvised. Once the story was developed, Ben (Ryan) and his co-star, Ivana Palezevic (Lizzie) spent 15 character-building rehearsals to get to the point where the “right words” would come out. Then, in order to get an intimate feeling, they worked with an acting coach and the Meisner technique to focus on being real in the moment, no holds barred. They rehearsed for eight weeks, sometimes hours at a time and sometimes in public, so that the backstory could come alive, and their performances felt real.
And, in an attempt to make the third main character, social media, realistic and also perhaps as a marketing ploy, the characters in the film have real social media profiles that audience members can interact with. So, when you see a Facebook account on a phone in the movie, you are looking at the real thing, with real posts from 12 different real Facebook friends, all coordinated to reply at just the right time. And, in true cyberspace fashion, those profiles live on. People continue to interact with the characters in the film, as if they were real people.
There is still time to catch a screening at Cinequest. (You might even get to meet Ben.) If you miss that, you can catch it at the Sonoma International Film Festival. Or, watch for it at a film festival or theater near you.
- World Premiere: March 3, 5:10PM, Century 20, Redwood City
- 2nd Screening: March 5, 7:05PM, Century 20, Redwood City
- 3rd Screening: March 7, 2:45PM, Century 20, Redwood City
- 4th Screening: March 10, 8:45 PM, Hammer Theatre, San Jose
- March 21 – 25, 2018 (exact screening times TBD)
More information on future screenings at: https://www.statuspendingmovie.com/
All photos (C) Ben Zolno and used with permission.