As a film journalist who dwells within the world of indie cinema, it’s not particularly rare to come across films that are considered “no budget” or “microcinema” or “low budget” or even films that are portrayed as “low budget” but really are surprisingly well budgeted cinematic efforts.
You get the full spectrum.
Sometimes, you’re really impressed.
Other times? Not so much.
The Human Project is one of those films where you finish watching it, then you find yourself poring over the credits and can’t help but notice that the modestly budgeted project accomplishes really great things and leaves you mumbling to yourself “You can make a really great film for not a lot of cash.”
Indie filmmakers take note.
Written by co-lead David Beatty and directed by K. Spencer Jones, The Human Project recently had its west coast premiere at LA Shorts and continues on its successful festival journey with screenings at such fests as Kansas City FilmFest, Sunscreen Film Festival, Sioux Empire Film Festival, Southside Film Festival, and the Okotoks Film Festival where it picked up the prize for Best Screenplay.
The story centers around two estranged siblings, Beatty’s Marcus and Chelsea Alden’s Frances, who are the kind of estranged siblings who instantly resonate. Less hostile toward one another and more quietly disengaged through a combination of time, distance, circumstance, and life experience, the elder Marcus has taken old life wounds and created an intellectual facade while Frances seems to be a spiritual being living in a world with life experiences she can’t quite grasp.
In essence, Marcus and Frances love each other. They just don’t know how to love one another.
The Human Project is a lovely little film. It’s a film that immersed me in its thoughts and feelings rather quickly, enveloping me in much the same way that Kevin Garrison’s lensing envelopes the sky surrounding Frances’s seemingly distant yet increasingly intimate conversations with her brother. The original score by Mike Schuppan and Travis Warner aids matters, a quiet companion to soul-searching conversations revealing repressed truths and unspoken revelations.
Yet, what really allows The Human Project to soar is the fragile relationship developed between Beatty’s Marcus and Alden’s Frances, the latter whom elicited a rather delighted “Ha!” moment from me at one point as I chuckled at the unexpected connection to one of my favorite films.
Both Beatty and Alden are exceptional here, neither forcing dramatic heights yet both finding emotional honesty and stark authenticity within their characters. The simplicity of the story is deceptive here, with big things happening in little ways and both Beatty and Alden seem to understand that.
The Human Project is a joy from beginning to end, a quiet journey through bereavement and familial bonds and the things that both break and restore them. If it comes to a fest near you, I suggest catching it on the big screen.
In the wake of their Fathers death, two estranged siblings begin a journey of self-discovery. When family responsibility conflicts with their dreams, they must learn to love each other before they can truly begin to heal in The Human Project.
Grief is a horrible feeling, but it is one we will all have to experience at some point in our lives. Many people react to bereavement in different ways, some people use it as a chance to reflect, others as a way to reconnect with family, while others use it as a reason to escape from the daily grind. Each of these outcomes is explored in Spencer Jones’ lovely little 13-minute film The Human Project, as the main characters in this two-handed drama, discuss all three of them during one poignant phone call.
David Beatty and Chelsea Alden play Marcus and Frances; an elder brother and younger sister who, being born 13 years apart, are not particularly close. They are of course family but have struggled to relate to each other as adults and chosen different paths in life. The death of their father means they have to interact for the first time in a long time.
We first meet Frances camping in the great outdoors, it hasn’t been long since her father’s death so we assume she is rebellious and uncaring. She makes a phone call to her brother to check he received a letter she sent with regards to her location. Marcus is at home looking after their Mom and sorting out their father’s memorial service and these initial introductions bookmarked by voice-overs by each character leads us to believe Marcus is the more caring, stable and responsible half of the siblings. It is thanks to a great script written by actor Beatty that we soon learn they are both genuinely nice people dealing with their loss in different ways and what we initially think about the two characters doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Marcus works for NASA as a scientist and he has been tasked with defining what it is that makes the human race unique. In one of the film’s best pieces of dialogue, Marcus explains to Frances that he only has a limited amount of space to define the human race, 140 characters to be precise. The size of a Tweet asks Frances and the absurdity of Marcus’ task is hit home with a simple pause and reply of ‘Yeah’.
The next 9 minutes are punctuated with a number of conversations between the two of them that cover everything from memories to regrets and run the whole gamut of emotions from Happiness to anger with everything in-between. To keep the conversations interesting, director and editor Spencer Jones, who made his name working on music videos, use quick edits and flashy cuts between the two completely different environments to highlight the metaphorical and literal distance between the siblings. Jones, also at times, has the two actors conversing face-to-face which is an interesting concept that works really well here.
The Human Project is only 13 minutes long yet it packs into its runtime a huge amount of character development and it never seems rushed. Jones is once again helped in this aspect by David Beatty’s terrific script which is extremely well written and the two very capable actors performing the lead roles. Both Beatty and Alden are outstanding, creating well-rounded characters with a chemistry and relationship that is extremely believable. Both characters go on a journey of self-discovery during this one phone-call and both come out of it as changed people by the end of the film. It is easy to see that this call will likely be the longest conversation they have both had with each other for a very long time.
The Human Project is an emotional and entertaining short film. The fact that it has won prizes at a number of festivals already is no real surprise. It’s a lovely little tale that manages to wear its heart on its sleeve without resorting to cliché. It is well written, well acted and well directed and if you have the opportunity to catch it at a festival nearby, then do so. Maybe if you are lucky, watching The Human Project will help you to craft your own definition of the uniqueness of the human race and then hopefully you can shorten it to 140 characters.
Written by David Beatty, ‘The Human Project’ is a 12:38 minutes’ in duration short on two siblings and their fractured bond. The siblings are born 13 years apart and now struggle to connect to one and another as adults. Directed by K. Spencer Jones, who also happens to be the editor of the film, ‘The Human Project’ explores the intricacies and complexities of human relationships; and the best part is, it’s neither philosophical nor rhetorical. It allows you instead to form your own opinion and leaves behind plenty of takeaways.
Chelsea Alden plays Frances, the one with a hint of rebellion in her and David Beatty plays Marcus, her much older brother who works for the NASA in the capacity of a scientist working on the continuation of the Voyager project that started the 70s’. She is quite chuffed of him, there’s enough reference to it in her mentioning. She perceives him as a poet-scientist whose endeavour to define the human race intrigues her as much as it baffles.
Marcus, on the other hand, is the quintessential elder brother with the patronizing and distant demeanor. Beatty’s characters are well written and enacted as well. The anger that explodes into a rage, the rage that gives way to grief and the grief that ultimately binds them together is well captured in the scenes involving the siblings. Although they are both shown to be miles away from one another and their conversations strictly on phone, the closeness is hard to miss.
One of the most tragic incidents of their lives results into a shared grief and mutual understanding, however, there’s plenty of resentment towards one another until they realize that it’s their pain talking and not the hatred that they occasionally spew at one another. K. Spencer Jones knows the human relations well, he understands their layers well enough to elucidate it in the film. When the siblings adamantly refuse to listen to one another, it’s so believable even to the ones who don’t have any siblings, it’s that authentic!
When Frances places that call from Pritchett in Colorado, little does the brother realize the significance of the place but once it dawns on him, he is quick to realize that a research on the human relations and nature is far easier than being true to living it.
Travis Warner & Mike Schuppan’s music complements the narrative well and Kevin Garrison’s cinematography does justice to the scenic beauty of the location whilst effortlessly capturing Marcus’ darkened existence in a closed room. The editing is neat, swiftly combining the distant phone call into a dinner table conversation, thus making it real.
‘The Human Project’ is a testament that human bonds are far more complex than any bonds found within the confines of a science lab.
The Human Project is a very nice heartwarming short film. The story revolves around two siblings who have chosen different paths in their lives. The storyline isn’t something you see every day, lines are well thought and the portrayals of the actors were captivating, it seems that they have the true connection as brothers and sisters, with the way they talked, the way they argue, and the indifference they showed to each other made their portrayal realistic. This film isn’t just any other short film, it has ingenuity, powerful emotions and touch of real-life circumstances and the best of all, the perfect locations.
The cinematography and visual effects were fantastic, you can feel the presence of emotions exerted in the movie. The creators of the Human Project brought something that you don’t see every day, they were able to think outside the box and delivered something unexpected. The way that they have constructed the plot of the story was truly remarkable, there were scenes that I never thought would be incorporated in the film. They have shown true artistry in every emotional scene in the film, they have captured the real emotion from the actors which made the movie captivating and relatable. The flow of the movie was smooth, they were able to maintain the emotional attachment to every scene. The choice of music and location was superb. The outdoor morning setting was divine, it was very powerful, the lighting was just perfect, and the true beauty of the surrounding was magnified. While the outdoor night scene was majestic it was the perfect scenery for the very touching ending conversation between the siblings. They have started the film with very strong visuals and ended it with the same impact, their consistency in giving quality in every scene is remarkable.
The thought of creating a movie about brothers and sisters is a very bold choice since this kind of genre isn’t what filmmakers usually go after these days. This film showed that there is no need for complexity with the plot or the characters in the story to be able to deliver a very powerful emotional movie. You just need the right blend of actors and people who have the dedication and the passion to make an excellent film. The characters were relatable human beings and the portrayal of the actors was truly amazing. They were able to dig deep into the characters and tell their story. Both of the actors were committed to delivering the same intensity of emotion needed in every scene. They have exhibited raw emotions that can truly captivate its audience.
Overall The Human Project is a quality film worth watching. They have the best outdoor location, captivating emotional characters, the awesome portrayal of actors, original storyline, and strong beginning and ending scenes. Anyone who will watch this film will feel the connection between the characters to their locations and the undeniable bond that brothers and sisters have. This is a touching family movie you don’t get to see every day.
Life and death coalesce with immense emotional impact in this short film, directed by K. Spencer Jones and written by David Beatty. The Human Project takes a poignant and heartfelt stab at depicting a true representation of humanity through the window of two siblings who have recently experienced a loss and are now exploring their own connection through the chasm it has created.
Chelsea Alden plays Frances, a young woman currently in the great outdoors, alone. She decides to phone her brother Marcus (David Beatty) and see if he got her note, after which the pair embark on a game of phone tennis. Numerous conversations occur between the siblings, most of which are layered with angst or aching sentiment, however, two main topics are always in the foreground: Marcus’s involvement with the titular NASA project (whereby he will contribute a 140-character summary of what humans are all about to send across the Milky Way), and the recent passing of their father, whose memorial Frances plans on skipping.
Told with a remarkably tender combination of affection, grief, anger, love and humour, The Human Project is a sublime piece of filmmaking. The story is utterly grounded by these two engaging and believable characters, which allows the merging of so many themes and emotions. The exceptional performances by Alden and Beatty go a huge way to contribute to this success, riffing with each other with great chemistry, in particular when they join each other in the same location. The moments where the tensions run the highest, such as Marcus getting enraged and letting loose a cacophony of sweary fury at his sister, are all the more stirring because the players are so committed to the moment and characters.
There is a whimsical feel to the short film too, which allowed an atmosphere of imaginative creativity to puncture the dour tone at times. This was important as it reflected the longing that both characters had to experience childhood together, their age gap preventing them from being playmates during a time where imagination and freedom were easier to come by. Something which Marcus comments on being a uniquely subconscious bonding experience. And it is this spectacular insight into his own relationship with his sister, as well as other moving moments of clarity, which becomes the revelation to the audience that we are in the process of witnessing The Human Project in real time.
A short film that transcends the usual hustle and bustle of familial stories to deliver something altogether more affecting and intelligent. The moving performances and sensational writing allow the movie to explore a wholly immersive form of storytelling that is as transportive for the viewer as it is for the characters and the result is utterly sensational.
The UK Film Review
First, the Recap:
It’s the ever-streaming, constantly changing, always challenging, and lingering ebbs and flows of our emotional and physical state of being that guides us down the paths life brings, more often than not testing us in our resolve to find a peace and harmony within our daily routine, especially in the wake of loss. When it comes to family in a time of mourning, therefore, how much more important is it that we grasp onto each other? For two alienated siblings, Frances (Chelsea Alden) and Marcus (David Beatty), a time of such pain has come via the passing of their father, causing each to make the attempt to cope with it in their respective ways, but also apart from each other and alone.
For Frances, it is an escape to the beauty and serenity of nature, while for Marcus, it’s a sequestered existence within the confines of his home. Yet, in the midst of this personal strife and accompanying journeys of self-discovery, it has not nullified the dreams they both have and desire to pursue, but rather interrupted the roads they’re on. Through multiple, often highly emotional and volatile conversations via phone, Frances and Marcus find themselves not only experiencing remembrances and regrets, happiness and anger, but a slowly growing understanding, even as they envision the sometimes heated exchanges as if face to face. With the importance of what each is aiming for revealed, it transcends their hesitations and opens up an entirely new facet of the healing process they both desperately need.
Next, my Mind:
Lessons in soul-bearing honesty, unexpected reconnection, and finding out how much we truly need the human bond and the depths of its power to mitigate our hurt shine forth with effective, emotive, and affecting strength in this twelve and a half minute indie short film effort from director/editor K. Spencer Jones. While it’s understood a hard loss is driving the initial actions and choices these two estranged siblings have taken and made, this reviewer still feels the film showcases the fallibility we have as people in wanting to isolate ourselves in times of high stress or, in this case, overwhelming mourning rather than immediately seeking the comfort of those closest to us, especially family. There’s certainly nothing wrong with personal mourning, but as we hear the conversations between Marcus and Frances, it becomes clear how much they’ve let their father’s passing initially becomes more of an obstacle between them rather than an evidently needed catalyst, albeit tragic, to force them together again.
But, as their phone calls move forward, there’s a blatant shift in their thinking, as the armor comes off, the walls come down, and a new level of realization is discovered that will forever change their lives. In addition, it’s a commentary on our pursuit of dreams, wanting to make a difference, to leave a noteworthy mark on the world, which is very acutely highlighted in the current career path Marcus is undertaking during this time of distress, much less the primary focus of said road…to find a way to briefly yet stirringly and accurately define humanity. Beautifully shot cinematography captures both the tranquility of what Frances is surrounded with vs. the more cold, start atmosphere Marcus seems to have hidden himself away in within his home. Alone this almost speaks to the reality of the now vs. what is really needed by both individuals, and by the films excellently crafted finale, it certainly leaves an indelible impact on the viewer.
Alden brings an overall outwardly quiet yet inwardly loud presence to her role as Frances, a woman fleeing to the “away-ness” of the outdoors to find the consolation she requires in the wake of her father’s passing. Yet, despite the heaviness of this news, it at first seems like she has no desire whatsoever to be present for the service being prepared for, much to her bother’s consternation. The reasons, excuses, and returned accusations she flings back at Marcus over the phone speak to the true hurt she’s experiencing, but it’s only when she’s vented and reacted to him enough that a crucial and wonderfully sublime truth is revealed by her, which becomes the ultimate foundation for what the future holds in the mending of both heart, soul, and relationship with her brother. Throughout the film, Alden so deftly yet with uncomplicated delivery emotes all of this with both understated and blatant passion and urgency.
Similarly, Beatty paints a sobering and deeply emotional portrait of a soul in conflict and like urgency in his role as Marcus, a man who’s known success, yet finds himself in a place where now he feels totally adrift and rudderless in losing a precious parent. Yet, he’s been given an incredibly important task to achieve that has a world-effecting significance, which Frances tries to remind him of consistently in the midst of their amalgamation of arguments and laughter as they reminisce about their father and their lives as a whole. It showcases Marcus as both the frustrated and concerned sibling that he is to Frances, with his ardent insistence she be present for the funeral service even if just as a favor to herself and not anyone else. Watching this multitude of attitudes and sentiments cascade forth is very well performed by Beatty, lending a total believability to his character.
With only a cast of two, there are no supporting players here other than the set pieces that so keenly portray the state of being each character is existing in, one of which that will become a visual representation of the newfound freedom with each other about to break through. Therefore, in total, “The Human Project” is an elegantly conceived and executed character drama that so splendidly captures and exposes the depths of the heart with the boundless expanse of the stars and wraps it into a perfectly accessible, human account.
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you reading!