When I write these reviews every week, I try to aim for films and tv shows that can be easily accessible through Netflix. Yet, this week, I just couldn’t pass up on reviewing one of the best short films I’ve seen to date.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 16th Annual Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey. While at the festival, I attended four screening blocks, including the premiere of Christopher Lloyd’s (Back to the Future) latest feature. I was also fortunate enough to watch “Real Artists,” a frightening, yet powerful, portrayal of humanity and entertainment within the film industry.
This 13-minute short follows Sophia, a young woman interviewing for her dream job at a large animation studio.
During the course of the interview, she finds out that the films she’s looked up to all her life are no longer made by people, but instead by an Artificial Intelligence (AI). Through the process, it’s revealed that the creative process has taken a whole new turn and challenges the idea of what it means to be a “real artist.”
The film is written, directed and produced by Cameo Wood, but is based on a short story written by critically acclaimed and New York Times Best Selling author Ken Liu. Wood had read Liu’s story in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni magazine back in 2012 and instantly fell in love with the concept.
She has a background in medical neuroscience and AI, which are both big themes in the story and felt obligated to make it into a short film. All the technology used in the film exists, which only adds to the overall shock factor the film leaves on its viewer.
The main AI in “Real Artists” is referred to as Big Semi, the neural network that controls all of the choices made to the film.
Wood shared in an interview at the Hollyshorts Film Festival, where it won Best VFX, “At Cannes, I met a company that does neurocinematics as a service; a filmmaker submits their film, they screen it for an audience while they are in an MRI, and they give you the results. We have many of the building blocks of Big Semi.” The accuracy around the science of the technology is intricately brilliant and makes one wonder how far humanity will allow technology to go. And with the addition of flawless graphics and powerful twists, what more could someone ask for in a short?
“Real Artists” should also be remembered, not only for its unique perception-bending plot, but for its astounding crew. Wood comprised her team of 75 percent women and half people of color, including her lead actress who was both a woman and person of color.
Played by Tiffany Hines (Bones), Sophia is an innocent individual, yet is clearly struggling with her own morality while trying to please her boss, Anne, played by Tamlyn Tomita (The Karate Kid Part II). Wood’s choice to lead her sci-fi with two powerful female actresses challenges the stereotypes of classic sci-fi and proves that women in science fiction films can be unbelievably successful.
“Real Artists” has been making its way around the festival circuit for the past two years, winning awards left and right.
I made sure to look up where I could watch it again right after my screening. The short is available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes and I highly recommend that you watch it.
Rachel Blumberg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org