SHORT FILM: SHELL
Shelly, a 30-something medical staff assistant, begins every day with an intrepid attitude that quickly fades throughout the day. As soon as she sits in her car and looks back at her house, she senses an unease that intensifies as she follows the mundanity of daily routine.
Every day, she sits in an office listening to voicemails and recordings she’s heard a million times with a headset tethering her to her desk. Her co-worker Joss brings in one problem after another for Shelly to fix, but inadvertently also points out Shelly’s mistakes. In the evenings, she relaxes and becomes more lively with her friends Naomi, Andy, and Tanya through superficial conversation and gossip. Late at night and seeing her off in the morning is the No-Face Man, the person she struggles to connect with despite his efforts.
Breaking away from the norm, Shelly spends the evening confronting a mysterious disturbance in her basement. On the second night, capping off an otherwise regular day, she appears to be pushed into the basement.
As the days continue and Shelly strives to stick to her routine, she begins to see her world with a distorted view. Every day, the distortions intensify as clear visions fight to break through. In this confusion of reality and fantasy, she only finds solace from the beaming bright light from under the basement door. While part of her is trapped in the basement and the other tries to flow through the day’s events, she must piece herself back together for liberation from the nightmarish cycle.
For most of my life, I have had to swallow the constant ebb and flow of my mental state. Whether it was a close family member telling me my depression wasn’t “as bad” as theirs or the idea of therapy and medication as a financial burden, I’ve had to deal with my constant emotional and mental fluctuations on my own. Why would I waste money trying to fix something I can’t see or describe when I should be spending it on living expenses? Besides, there are so many others worse off than me; I don’t deserve help or attention. I can deal with this by myself.
The short film Shell is meant to exemplify this scary phase of an undiagnosed individual suffering with yet another bout of mental unrest, and not understanding in full capacity what is happening. The character exemplifies a wide range of issues to signify the difficulties in diagnosing patients due to mental disorders’ overlapping symptoms. Purposefully, elements of the film are meant to highlight Shelly’s confusion, her struggle to overcome her symptoms, her attempts at dealing with them by herself, and the cyclical nature of mental illness - elements including: the non-linear and repetitive storyline, warped reality, negative voices, skewed camera angles, and sharp shadows.
With Shell, we are not sharing the narrative of a thirty-something woman trying to figure out her life, but are instead trying to invoke the emotional and mental journey she is going through. We are illustrating something that is invisible through visual and audio effects. We want audiences to understand what these episodes feel like, and for those who already do, to be able to relate to her.
I have come across many artists’ works that have captured the feeling of depression or anxiety in drawings. These images, while disturbing, are also comforting and beautiful. Knowing that someone feels the way I do makes me feel more normal and proud of the mental complexities that make me human. Seeing the mental anguish on paper makes the feeling almost tangible and inspires the belief that it can be overcome. I see you now! You can’t hide from me! These images provide solid evidence of what you can’t see and what I can’t express with words. Just like these drawings, Shell is meant to comfort those who relate to Shelly by letting them know that we understand.
Knowing that someone feels the way I do makes me feel more normal and proud of the mental complexities that make me human.
As a Cinematographer, nothing excites me more then getting to work on a project that is told mainly through images rather copious dialogue. Every single shot will be visually arresting using dramatic contrast in light to shadow, euphoric surreal colors, and unconventional, stark camera placement that balances both the weight of mystery and the bright light of self-discovery and hope. Without the crutch of dialogue, Maria and I will be working closely together to craft each and every shot to perfection, to take the audience through the hell of a malfunctioning brain, into a place of hope, peace. LET THERE BE LIGHT!
Michael Gorgoglione started his filmmaking career in Chicago studying sketch and improv comedy at The Second City and I/O. Currently he lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he does a variety of freelance work including narrative films, documentaries, advertisements, sizzle reels and commercials. He has worked from clients ranging from the Small Business Administration to Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). He currently is a showrunner for "Ladie's Night" -a monthly video sketch and stand-up comedy show at the Village Theater the first Thursday of every month. Michael was the Writer, Director and DP for the experimental feature film "Go Mad and Mark" which is currently being distributed through Amazon. He has appeared on The Kelly Talk Show and has a write up in VoyageATL magazine. Check him out at www.cinemabymikeg.com.