SHORT FILM WINS AWARDS
Pair makes mark with Beta Test
The film opens with Josh Strait sitting at a kitchen table and waving a finger at the air.
When the perspective changes to his view, we see why: He’s swiping at the touchscreen that’s connected to his brain.
Strait portrays Eric Holt, the main character in Beta Test, a short film by Kenton Evenson and Joel Makar.
In his peripheral vision, Eric can constantly see the teal icons for his calendar, news, email and phone.
This is all possible due to the Cortex chip installed on the right side of his neck, a mandatory infrastructure for any person aged seven and up.
Like a Siri, an Alexa or a Google Assistant within his body, a pleasant voice notifies Eric when a new email comes up. When his bottle of booze runs empty, the computer offers to set a reminder to buy more.
He seems overwhelmed by the constant connection.
When Eric is emailed an invitation to participate in a beta test for a new app — which promises to delve into happy memories and distract him from his everyday life — the story takes a disturbing turn.
“He explores a memory that he didn’t want to relive,” said Makar.
To avoid any spoilers, Evenson added, “We’re going to leave it there.”
At the Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards (SIFA) on Nov. 23, Beta Test won three awards, including audience choice.
“I think it’s an incredibly relevant film,” said Logan Vanghel, production co-ordinator at the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, which produces the SIFAS.
“We’re living in a time where technology’s improving and changing incredibly fast … I think the general sense of worry and fear that comes through in the film is very relevant in the time we’re living in.”
“From when we were kids, technology compared to what it is now, we’ve seen such a huge jump,” Makar said. “It really interests us to see where it’s going to be going in the next couple of years.”
“If we were thinking of how is this going to look in as early as 20 or 30 years almost, this is something that we kind of imagined might take place,” Evenson added.
“And when we were doing research, too, we looked at things like the Google glasses and stuff like that, so just like a little step above that,” said Makar.
The filmmakers agreed the audience choice award was a particular honour because it’s chosen by viewers and not a jury.
“You really make stuff for the audience, so it’s really good that they enjoyed it,” Makar said.
The film also won best student film and best acting for Strait’s work. Beta Test was nominated in the best technical achievement category for Chencheng Pu’s work on visual effects.
“It was a really well-crafted film,” Vanghel said. “I think they had one of the best working actors in the province right now, Josh Strait … and they didn’t try to go too big.
“It’s smart to keep it to maybe only a couple of different scenes and … do them really well instead of trying to do too much and sort of losing control of the project.”
Beta Test runs 13 minutes, plus credits.
Makar and Evenson began working on their script in summer 2017, collaborating despite being separated by a province.
Evenson was working in Fort St. John, B.C., and Makar was in Regina. They brainstormed by phone every week and wrote in the interim.
They created Beta Test as their final project for their University of Regina film studies, finishing it just in time for a fourth-year student film screening in April.
“Screening was April 20; we probably finished on April 20,” Evenson said, laughing. “The last week, we were editing at least eight hours a day.”
They met Strait when he was a guest in one of their film classes and liked him right away.
“He’s just such a good actor,” Makar said.
Evenson convocated in June and now works at Bamboo Shoots, filming live events and corporate projects. Makar is still at the U of R, finishing his last year of electives.
They plan to keep working together and have another sci-fi film idea in mind, though they didn’t divulge specifics.
Makar and Evenson have submitted Beta Test to various festivals, including the Yorkton Film Festival and the Living Skies Student Film Festival.
While it’s in consideration, the film won’t be widely available aside from potential local screenings. Currently, there is no trailer.
Find Beta Test on Facebook for updates.
We’re living in a time where … I think the general sense of worry and fear of (technology) that comes through in the film is very relevant.
Current and former University of Regina students Kenton Evenson and Joel Makar created their award-winning short film Beta Test as a fourth-year school project.
Josh Strait, “one of the best working actors in the province,” won the Saskatchewan Independent Film Award for best acting for his role in Beta Test.