+ Recommended – NR, Comedy, Drama (12 minutes)
Director Tom Knoblauch (Green on Green) has returned with a new black-and-white short film that will be screened at a few festivals in May. The Debut follows Oliver Grayson (Will Forget) who is under immense pressure to release his crowd-funded short film—which has a considerable, $150,000 dollar budget—but after spending four, grueling years in the editing room, it may be too tall of an order to give his backers what they paid for. For those who’ve had experience in crowd funding for independent movies, this may trigger an autonomous response from the body that will vaguely resemble watching a horror movie.
For one, this film will resonate with independent filmmakers, and even with cinephiles, who understand the challenges that one faces when making a movie—regardless of budget, length, or location. Once you familiarize yourself with the quirky nature of the line delivery and subtle touches of light comedy, there’s so much to love about this 12 minute short. It’s been explicated before but one of the most effective qualities of indie films, shorts especially, is the ability of shooting with location fluidity. Large portions of The Debut are shot on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s (UNO) campus. Even in Nebraska, there’s so much rich scenery to explore on camera; Aksarben Creative, Knoblauch’s co-founded production company, produces content with an emphasis on the locality of the Nebraska filmmaking community.
It seems The Debut has a more grounded, improvisational approach to filmic technique—judging from the frames and the montage elements; not to say that every technical aspect, or the script for that matter, was completely improvised (that’s simply not the case). But even if that stylistic decision wasn’t intentional, this is a leading example of how improvisation can be an effective method of entertainment when making a short film. The unpolished nature is the charm and the catalyst for repeat viewings, simultaneously.
Perfection often lies within imperfection, because a level of authenticity is present. That’s precisely what you can expect from The Debut: authentic entertainment, and of course, slight, yet intentional, cheesiness. It’s fun, and frankly relatable, for all the right reasons. It caps-off Knoblauch’s short film trilogy, featuring The Nuanced Side and The Living Draft.