Short Film: Hashtag Perfect Life (Dir Michael Paulucci)
The short film Hashtag Perfect Life, directed and written by Michael Paulucci, attempts to convey the anxiety that modern society brings visually. Using cinematography, light, sound, and casting, I believe Michael Paulucci has achieved his goal.
To begin, we need to discuss the overall story and structure of this short film. Hashtag Perfect Life follows Maddie Applegate, played by Erin Lovelace, as she recovers from a damaging viral video about herself. The short opens with Maddie watching TV; news reports can be heard discussing all the problems society is facing. As she is watching TV, she reads through social media comments about herself. The buildup and climax of the story occur when she is on a talk show trying to clear her name. During the show, the host, played by Todd Behrend, uncovers that her recent angry outburst is not an isolated event like Maddie had originally said. The interview ends with Maddie defending her actions by saying she is the sane one and everyone else is hiding behind social media. The resolution occurs in the film when Maddie realizes that society and her current problem are not going to change.
Next, let’s get into the cinematography. The cinematography in Hashtag Perfect life is simplistic, but in that simplicity blooms the anxiety radiating from the short film. Seamus Mulligan-Ferry, the cinematographer, chose to leave the camera stationary for the entire short film. However, Seamus uses zoom shots to emphasize the overall feeling of anxiety and character emotion. Shots that stand out to me is the whole interview scene. Seamus use of zoom shots was executed well in this scene. Somewhere where this short film shines (no pun intended) is through lighting. In particular, the interview scene is an excellent example of cinematography and lighting. The entire scene is shot with a black ground. Studio lights can be seen in the front and the back of both our characters. The use of bright light, like a studio light, and the contrast of all the black background creates a perfect canvas for our characters’ emotions. Due to high contrast and the crispness of the studio lights, every detail of their faces can be seen in precise detail in this over the top anxiety fueled ride.
It is time to talk about sound/music quality and casting. Once again Hashtag Perfect Life seems to have gotten this right as well. The music, by Ben Fox, feels like it came straight out of a horror/suspense movie. The music does a fantastic job pushing the anxiety of the film. Especially when the audience would not expect this type of music for this short. Finally, I need to talk about the casting choices made in this short film. I don’t know who Todd Behrends agent is, but I don’t understand how this man does not receive more roles. Todd Behrends performance in the interview scene still haunts me. On top of all the excellent work listed above, you had the unbelievably creepy smile of Todd. As the music grew and the camera got closer Todd’s proud smile got bigger and bigger until finally it was reviled that Maddie was a liar and Todd knew the whole time. For those of you wondering, this is what a climax should feel.
In conclusion, I am giving Hashtag Perfect Life a four out of five. The interview scene to me is a perfect example of when a cast and crew work in sync. However, the only scene I did not like was the man defecating on Maddie’s car. I felt this scene was unnecessary and the use of dialogue would have been better. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the interview scene.