***This is the third post in a new feature I plan to showcase here at The Schleicher Spin called Spotlight on the Independent Arts.
The goal is to give exposure to, encourage collaboration with, and provide honest critiques for independent artists. I hope to feature filmmakers, writers, photographers, painters and musicians. As an independent author, I feel it’s important to support and celebrate those working independently to forge their careers in the arts.
If you are an independent artist interested in having your film, book, music or art considered by The Schleicher Spin for a Spotlight feature, please submit a comment.
The third entry will focus on the true indie flick, Uptown.
Independent Film: Uptown
The Lowdown: An aspiring filmmaker (Chris Riquinha) goes on a date with a young woman (Meissa Hampton) he hopes to cast in his new film only to find out that she is married, a startling fact he doesn’t let get in the way of making an emotional connection.
The Direction: Brian Ackley (who also co-scripted the film with his two stars) embraces the low-budget aesthetics of indie films. There’s nothing like filming in NYC, and Ackley takes full advantage of the natural setting. Well paced and nicely shot, Ackley puts you right there with this likable though flawed pair and makes you feel as if you’re strolling along as a third wheel on their dates throughout the city. With all of its relationship-focused “walking and talking” scenes, Ackley crafts a meaningful and real film reminiscent of the early works of Richard Linklater and Nicole Holofcener.
The Writing: The trio of writers have a sharp ear for realistic dialogue. There’s barely a false note to be found in Uptown, and the characters feel like people you know or want to know. They also manage to avoid the trap of the film’s set-up by never exploring the all too-obvious potential for a “film within a film.” Refreshing, too, is that although this could be billed as a romantic drama, there is never any implication of the relationship turning sexual and the film clearly shows that the most memorable connections are when emotions run paramount to the physical.
The Cast: Chris Riquinha is well suited as the charmingly self-absorbed struggling artiste. The real revelation, however, is the instantly endearing and adorable Meissa Hampton, who speaks volumes with her body language about her character’s nervous and sincere longing for a real connection with another human being.
Production Values: Uptown has the feel of a true independent film. At first glance it has the look of a reality show, until you realize how well done it is. Interior shots are grainy and badly lit (though as the film progresses you begin to wonder if some of it, especially the “white” subway shots, is intentional) but they are always well framed. The film wisely plays most of its scenes outdoors in the beautiful subdued aura of a metropolis in twilight or glowing at night. The sound design is awash in the authentic clamor of the city (crickets in Central Park, traffic roaring by) and the dialogue is easy to hear despite the overt naturalism.
The Final Spin: Ackley and his stars have made a compellingly real film about real people in a real predicament. Authentic and honest without resorting to gritty gimmicks or generic clichés that sometimes plague indie films of this ilk, Uptown is a true find. Meissa Hampton is the type of actress you hope to see more of and Ackley is the type of filmmaker you hope stays independent. If you give him the backing of a boutique studio and a high-end digital camera, it’s easy to imagine some lovely and amazing films in his future.
Written by David H. Schleicher