Instructional videos on how to survive an active shooter attack send a paranoid man into a self-fulfilling spiral, in this meta examination of radicalization from filmmaker Dylan Redford.
A selection of Short of the Week, the web’s leading curators of quality short films.
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Emergency Action Plan
Directed by Dylan Redford
“A quote by Benjamin Franklin is popular in management and self-help circles— “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Good advice, huh? Old Ben also is attributed the famous line “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The dude was really into preparing! The filmmaker Dylan Redford is also into preparing, but the characters he plays in his films take this virtue to an illogical extreme, transforming the sheer act of “planning” into myopic and quixotic journeys of obsessive compulsion. From the “amateur content creator” who fundamentally misunderstands the pleasures of travel in his previously-featured short, My Trip to Miami, to this film, Emergency Action Plan, where he plays an office worker drone who takes his boss’ suggestion about preparing for a catastrophe a bit too seriously, Redford is adept at taking surface-level absurdity and spinning it into over-arching satire that condemns far-ranging trends and institutions.
In Emergency Action Plan, Redford takes on media sensationalism, corporate ass-covering, YouTube radicalization, and America’s gun culture that serves as fuel for all these feedback loops. The film is interestingly structured as a thriller for the social media age, a mixture of Homeland and vlogging, as Redford stars as a version of himself who relentlessly documents his descent into paranoia as he goes deeper and deeper into preparing for the possibility of an active shooter showing up at his workplace. Redford’s previous film, My Trip to Miami, was one of my favorites of 2018, I called it a “…self-consciously sloppy, diy piece, one that takes on farcical dimensions, yet is, in its small way, a masterpiece”, and Emergency Action Plan shares a lot of the same DNA—it is richly metatextual, via the semi-autobiographical nature of the story and Redford’s presence as the main character, and similarly mixes in direct-to-camera monologues and found footage.
Emergency Action Plan is much more ambitious and polished though. Inspired by an art installation Redford did in 2015 at the University of Minnesota, the centerpiece of the exhibit was a performance piece of him doing “Run, Hide, Fight drills” in an office “set” (the footage of this exists in the film as the office sequences). Taking inspiration from this, the emotional core of the film is a really pretty staged reenactment of a formative experience in the character’s life, a time when, as a kid, he was tapped to play “dead” in a school preparedness drill. Earthquakes were the culprit at that time, but the inclusion of these sequences provide context and emotional ballast to the present-day plot. These sequences also break up the film visually, providing a welcome dose of color and production quality to the film’s otherwise chintzy Go-Pro and screen-life sequences. They also befit the thriller aspect that Redford goes for, allowing him to play with temporality in complicated ways. There are 3 separate timelines to the film, and the interplay of them allows Redford to construct a twist ending that is genuinely surprising and narratively satisfying.
Following a successful festival run which included stops at Fantastic Fest, Maryland Film Festival, and Palm Springs Short Fest, we’re pleased to welcome Redford back and host his online premiere. The filmmaker tells us that he is currently writing a feature loosely based on this short, and, in the meantime, if you want to learn more about his work and unique voice, click the link to his website below.” – S/W Curator Jason Sondhi
DP: @bennncareyyy and @waylandbell
Sound mix/design: @singlemaltpapi
Production Design: @deonrubi
Little Dylan: Coe DesMarais
Principal/Emergency Worker/SWAT: @jondavidkane
SWAT: @3futur3 Omar Cabello
Production Coordinator: @camerarolltrash
Art Director: Rafi Lorie
Art PA: @homosuperiorr
AC: Brett Frey
Grip/Gaffer: Andy Futo and Paul Olson
SFX: Frank Mainade
Post Production Supervisor:
Opening titles: @harrisonfishman
Poster/Graphic design: @jotapepsi
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.