Empiricism (2021)

When similarities arise between two subjects' answers in a scientific study, further examination reveals more than either subject can comprehend. 

A sci-fi dramatic short film examining the importance of individuality for humans and artificial intelligence alike. 

Starring: Niya Wright and CB Mullen

Co-starring: Nate Hapke and Allie Leonard

Written & Directed by Nate Hapke

Produced by Rosie Grace, Nate Hapke, and Julia Armine

DoP Nick Ferreiro

Costume Design by Rosie Grace

Score by Caleb Parker

Production Sound by Eric Tormey

Script Supervisor/DIT Kelli Kuschman

Hair and Make Up by Amanda Walter

Gaffer Eddy Scully

1st AC Edgar Machuca

Key PA Ben Booth

Artist’s Statement: 

Empiricism served as my first real attempt at the science fiction genre, adding my own spin to it by grounding the performances and the struggles of the characters in shared emotional trauma that I myself have unpacked over the years. Our two subjects, X and Y (the ever talented Niya Wright and CB Mullen respectively) are placed in a small room together, stripped of their identities, and given the task of answering some questions in exchange for money. They both have their reasons for being there, but neither of them expected that there would be an ulterior motive of the doctors conducting the experiment. 


I had an amazing time working with Niya Wright and Allie Leonard again, and collaborating with CB Mullen for the first time.  I also had a lot of fun portraying one of the curious scientists who gets to examine what I wanted to examine as a writer.


Empiricism was the first of three shorts (including Scene Study and What's Yours is Mine) in our quarantine anthology: a three part series of stand alone shorts that we wrote during quarantine all with the same parameters - one set, less than 4 actors, minimal props, minimal crew, and 1 day of shooting. 


If you don't want the through-line of the movie to be spoiled, stop reading here.


This short film served as yet another opportunity for me to examine artifice, this time through artificial intelligence. I've seen movies with the evil scientists who are plotting to take over the world with the AI super-soldiers, and movies where the AI breaks free from what was supposed to be an innocent scientific study only to inflict more damage than could've ever been imagined. 


What I wanted to do was to test the insecurities of an AI and examine them on an emotional level. The scientists goal is to not only make the AI pass the Turing test but to also see if real fear of artificial intelligence can be felt by the AI itself. 

Theatrical Trailer

Production Stills


Official Selection - LA Live Film Fest 2021