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To prevent an act of domestic terrorism, a negotiator must break protocol and make an emotional bond with the hostage taker.

Premium content often come with a price tag. And this one is no exception, well except for Film Shortage viewers that is. We are beyond excited to have ‘Life After’ available for FREE with the exclusive Film Shortage rental code for Vimeo on Demand (film-shortage). Directed by Jesse Edwards and created by Evolve Studios, this psychological crime-drama explores themes of grief, empathy, and life after loss in an ambitious and intense narrative. With truly heartfelt and emotional performances by the cast and some of the highest standards for crime and action films (even compared to Hollywood films), you are in for a real unexpected treat with this little gem. We spoke with the director who gave us a little more insight on the film:

Can you tell us a little bit about ‘Life After’, how did this film come about?

Life After was written as a proof of concept for a feature film. The hope was to come up with a short story that was engaging, meaningful, and thought provoking.

From the beginning I wanted to inject life and death stakes into a conversation around the meaning of life. I loved the idea of Ash’s own grief being the bridge to reasoning with John, the hostage taker.

In my own life, I’ve seen empathy as the most powerful tool in resolving conflict and I wanted to explore that in the film.

We had a short window to make the film in January 2020 and the whole thing was written, prepped and shot within 4 weeks. Making this short was a massive challenge but one we were excited to take on.

The cast are such an essential part of the film. How did you go about casting?

Casting was done very quickly and our casting director did a great job moving fast. We casted everyone from Nashville area within a few days.

Torri (Ash) was traveling for another project so her audition was done over zoom. But even not being present in the room her audition stood out. She had the range to be really confident and assertive as a hostage negotiator, but also very vulnerable with her grieving. This was essential for her character. John is grieving something very real to him, and by the time Ash gets to him we need to believe that she is able to empathize with what he is feeling.

For John’s character, I had seen JesseJames’ work before and I was really excited to get to work with him. He did an amazing job bringing John to life in a way that was powerful and intimidating. He also has incredible range.

The story is very ambitious and holds a great amount of psychological depth. What made you aim for a 25 minute timeframe, rather than a shorter, more focused film?

We didn’t aim for a set run time with the film, rather we knew what story beats we wanted to hit, and decided we weren’t going to rush it. In hindsight, there are several places I would be more succinct with the story now, but I’m proud of what this film attempts.

When this was written, all the main plot points were extracted from a longer narrative arc, so there was a lot to point to and pull from. A big challenge was making the film tight enough to work as a short but be layered enough to feel like part of a larger story.

I like films that ask the audience to do some work and think about what they are seeing and why. So playing with flashbacks and off-screen events was something I wanted to be a motivating force for both Ash’s and John’s character.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers who are looking to create longer shorts?

I think it’s important to have a really good “why” behind everything you do. It’s important to sit with that question for as long as you can afford to. If you want to make a longer short, or a short in general, ask yourself why, and then keep working on the answer. Find a “why” that is true. Find a “why” that matters.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to schedule time where you are distraction free (all devices turned off) and then to process, ponder, and create from that space.

What has this film taught you about filmmaking?

Filmmaking is incredibly difficult.

I’ve worked for many years as a commercial / documentary filmmaker, but this was the first proper narrative short film I got to write and direct. I remember just being shocked at how difficult it all was.

This has taught me to choose my projects very carefully. And also to have a lot of grace. For other films, other people, and yourself.

Which films and short films can you say directly inspired this film?

No direct inspiration per se but lots of indirect inspiration I suppose. One of my favorite films is The Fountain, so that inspires much of how I think about character and pace. The hostage negotiator setup reminds me of Inside Man, which is a great film. The pace of the flashbacks remind me of Insomnia, also a great film.