Filmmaker Vera Vaughn’s world takes a frightening turn toward the surreal as life threatens to imitate art — or is it the other way around?

Created as a proof of concept, ‘A Film by Vera Vaughn’ is a twisted suspense thriller that takes place in a confined environment with limited resources. The result is a mind-boggling and frightening turn toward the surreal as life threatens to imitate art.

It was a harrowing shoot partly because it was three overnights in a row and partly because the complexity of the world-within-world conceit required exacting preparation, down to the movie posters and in-scene edits. My editor, Megan Brennan, was onset on the first day just to quickly turn around the sequences that would show up on the computer on the second day (I very much wanted to avoid any screen replacement in post).

But I had a great team, including DP Jeffrey Kim, producer Stephanie Haberman, and AD Arle Bordas. And enough can’t be said about Marin Ireland’s performance which firmly roots us in a kind of realism even as her own reality is going off the rails.

The film holds itself up with its confined simplicity, yet explores the boundaries of limitations rather intensely. The single female in an apartment is a typical scenario in the genre, but Sorrel Brae takes an unusual curve in the rising suspense when the protagonist’s main terrorizer is a fictionalized version of herself.

A successful film should challenge its audience with a unique point of view. But before it can challenge it must first engage, which is why I set out to create a psychologically probing film embedded in the trojan horse of a genre movie. The goal is to entertain our audience while leaving them with questions whose answers, ultimately, require an investment of themselves.

What is the nature of identity? What are the psychological consequences of the creative process? Is there a part of yourself you would destroy if you could? And would you then still be yourself? How does a growing psychological isolation parallel our age of hyper-connectivity?