Scene Study (2021)
A theatre director slowly adds layers of artifice to build the world of her play around her two lead actresses.
A conceptual dramatic short film.
Starring: Mackenzie Breeden, Allie Leonard, and Niya Wright
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
Scene Study came about originally from a desire to explore how we as storytellers can use artifice to build the world around subjects in the pursuit of truth in performance.
As a storyteller who enjoys acting, I've always loved exploring the different ways we can use our imagination to build the set around us to be in the environment, and to know the limitations of the space within which we exist as characters.
As a storyteller who loves writing, it's always a thrill to add a line of scene description that immediately creates a tangible visual for my reader. It's also so powerful to know that it's my responsibility to inform everything from the empirical level; it's my work as writer that inspires the actor to add color to the black and white copy, and the director to stage the scene.
As a storyteller who loves directing, there's nothing quite like building the world of the scene with all of the elements that come together in the pursuit of truth. To build an entire world from words on a page through collaboration with my department heads as we work towards a shared goal.
This short film explores the way a director (Niya Wright) uses her imagination to build a world around two of the students in her company (Mack Breeden and Allie Leonard) as they workshop a scene. Slowly but surely, more and more layers of artifice are added in forced continuity errors to bring the two young talents from a rehearsal hall into a hospital room, from street clothes into a hospital gown and summer dress, and from healthy to sick and heartbroken. I'd never told a story this way before, using the medium as a means of exploring the use and efficacy of artifice in the aiding of verisimilitude. It's different, it's beautiful, and it's wonderful.
This film is also a pseudo-sequel to my award winning short slate. which explored how an actress prepares for an audition by pulling on her life experience to inform lines of dialogue for her audition scene. In that short, there's a whole sequence where we travel inside her head to a "safe space" where she shows us her process by which she creates a person from black letters on a white page. One of my favorite connections between the two pieces is the grace incarnate of actress Niya Wright who plays both actress "Dahlia" in slate. and later the director "Gabby" in Scene Study. The imagination of her characters created a character, and then later the entire world of a scene.
The timing of the film also worked perfectly as a chemistry test for Breeden and Leonard ahead of their lead roles in small/TALL's first feature film Two Dash One One, and was the second time they shared a screen together after Ride Share.
Scene Study was the second of three shorts (alongside Empiricism 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.