On Saturday night, a couple hundred people at the Just Off Broadway Theatre demanded a murder. “Kill her!” they shouted to a character on a roof overlooking those whirligigs atop Bartle Hall.
The character complied, and those of us watching cheered our throats raw.
This year’s One Night Stand, the annual contest from the Independent Filmmakers Coalition, screened 17 5-minute films, each shot that day — we could tell because most were watermarked with summer rain. Each entry had to incorporate a mask as a prop, redemption as a theme and, at some point, this atrocious line from Men in Black: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.”
The results? Comedy ruled, drama stiffed, and sound problems scuttled the lone documentary effort. Nairiba Sirrah took top honors with a satire of every movie that deploys a killer to polish off horny teenagers. (The “redemption” involved the murderer ponying up for tickets to 311 at the Beaumont.) Joe Carey grabbed third place for exposing something rotten in McDonaldland. He even taught us something: “Have it your way” works both as ad slogan and action-movie one-liner.
The highlight, though was that collaborative killing, which climaxed Buzz Visconti and J.J. Brudt’s entry. It opened with a narrator instructing us to read words on the screen aloud; soon, we were doing so, issuing commands to an office-worker. “Make something up!” we called, and he spouted nonsense to a co-worker. Then: “Get out of there!” and he dashed away from his boss. By the time we were egging him on to murder, the room crackled with pleasure. Here was film’s voyeuristic impulse made hilariously flagrant. Imagine Rear Window as a sing-along, with a whole audience ordering Grace Kelly into Raymond Burr’s apartment.
This wonder garnered second prize from the judges, but the crowd awarded it Audience’s Choice. That’s fitting, because this short seemed, at the time, like the greatest advance in crowd-pleasing since Hollywood first started blowing shit up. So here’s one last command: Make more.