SHORT FILM WINS AWARDS

Pair makes mark with Beta Test

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - ASH­LEY MARTIN

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.

BRAN­DON HARDER

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.

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