Scott wants to know what his ex thinks of his new look…

Sometimes a new look is all you need to start fresh from an old relationship. But perhaps Scott took it a little too far. In Matt Kazman’s (Father Figurine) ‘New Look’, we enter an intimate catch up moment between an ex-couple Scott and Nina, where Scott tries to get justification and approval on his new chisels. The film takes us right in the cringe between comedy and drama, starring Emily Althaus & Don Fanelli who wonderfully portray these difficult roles. We caught up with Matt who gave us a little more insight on the film.

What inspired you to create a short film centered around the idea of a guy trying to impress his ex with a new look?

To be honest, my main source of inspiration came from the show, “I Think You Should Leave,” which I’m a big fan of. A recurring kind of sketch on that show is having an abrasive character who is ultimately revealed to be really sad and damaged. I wanted to make something absurd where someone is acting insane and selfish, but their behavior is rooted in real pain. The idea of a guy getting terrible plastic surgery and then trying to get someone to tell him it’s good was very funny to me, and the idea of making the other person his ex allowed me to add a layer of emotion and history in a way that made it more interesting.

Can you elaborate on the process of balancing absurdity with emotional reality in the short film?

My work usually combines an absurd or silly element with emotional realism. That balance is a little different every time, but my process for this one was pretty simple – create an absurd image/situation and have everyone involved take it seriously. That’s how I approached it on the page, and that carried over to working with the actors; not having them try to make any part of it a joke, but to take it really seriously and trust that the realistic execution of this whole thing would make it even funnier.

What motivated you to create a genuinely dramatic scene within the context of a comedic concept?

I don’t have a deep answer for this; that’s just something that I like to do! I think it stems from the fact that I’m someone who can be both very silly and very serious, and sometimes I’m torn between those two modes. In my work specifically, I’ve never gotten satisfaction out of making something that’s *just* funny or something that’s *just* dramatic. That just doesn’t feel like me. To get more specific, though, the ideas I get excited about are always funny, and the dramatic approach usually comes after. It’s never the other way around.

Could you provide more insight into the monstrous life choice made by Scott and its impact on his self-image?

Hahah, I actually laughed out loud at this question. Okay, on one hand, I have a negative self-image sometimes, which is something I’m reminded of everyday when I get instagram ads for calisthenics workouts. I’ve never wanted to get plastic surgery, but I do think a fair amount about what I could do to “look better.” The idea of getting not only plastic surgery, but *cheap* and questionable plastic surgery just felt like a very extreme example of what those feelings could lead someone to do. I think it’s really obvious that this life choice has *not* helped his self-image, even though he says it does all the way until the end, but I think he’s kind of refusing to accept the loss on this one, especially in front of his ex, who he’s trying to impress. I also don’t think he’s trying to win her back; I just think he’s trying to make her think that he’s doing okay when he isn’t, which feels very human to me.

How did you work with the actors to maintain a serious and grounded tone during the shoot, despite the inherently silly nature of the concept?

As I mentioned earlier, the direction was really simple: just take it seriously. Don’t try to make it funny. Let’s pretend this is a drama. The actors – Emily Althaus and Don Fanelli – got it right away. We did one quick rehearsal before the shoot, that was it. I was a more intense about that direction with Don because he’s a hilarious comedic actor, and I was asking him to take an absurd character and button it up instead of going big, but again, as soon as I explained that, he was so on point, and it was so clearly funny because Emily was having a hard time keeping a straight face.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the surprisingly grounded tone of the film and its sweet yet disturbing ending?

In a general sense, I hope that they’ll be surprised. And of course, I hope they’ll think it’s funny.

We need to know more about the makeup, what was the process like to finding the right mold?

Well, first off, I spent a LOT of time figuring this out with my makeup artist, Linda Marfisi. We talked about different ideas for what kind of plastic surgery this guy would get – keeping in mind we wanted it to be grotesque, and we liked the idea of him going the more stereotypical route of “stronger jaw”, “lifted cheekbones”, etc. In general, I knew I just wanted to blow up his face and make him look like a monster. But the other big factors were money and time – neither of which we had a lot of – as well as making sure that Don could still emote and actually say the dialogue. Thankfully, we found a good place to land, and did a test with him where we auditioned a bunch of different prosthetic pieces so we could time things out correctly, and most importantly, make sure he could actually act with everything on. There was also an acceptance that it couldn’t be perfect, but I was fine with that because the idea is that he had gotten *bad* plastic surgery, so any cracking or general imperfections were funny to me. In the end, I think we put 6 prosthetic pieces on him, then did a lot of blending, which I think added even more to the humor because on top of everything, it looks like he got a spray tan.

What challenges did you encounter while blending humor and drama in the storytelling, and how did you overcome them?

Honestly, the only challenges I had on that front were while I was editing, and it wasn’t necessarily about blending the humor and drama, but just about keeping it moving and not having it get too slow or boring. For the most part, there’s just diegetic sound going on – it is just a real-time conversation, and the execution in their performances drives the tone (which they nailed). But near the end, things take an intentionally cheesy turn, and figuring out the right music track – something melodramatic, but not extremely over the top – was a challenge. But it just took time and auditioning a few different tracks.

What are your favorite short films?

Hmmm. I’ve honestly been behind on watching shorts these days, but some of my favorites from the last few years have been: Raspberry by Julian Doan, Pennies From Heaven by Sandy Honig, Eer by Kristoffer Borgli, Dominant Species by Joseph Sackett, and Squirrel by Alex Kavutskiy.