Interview with Filmmaker Brian Reilly (ABSENT)

ABSENT was the winner of BEST EXPERIMENTAL Film at the June 2022 EXPERIMENTAL/FASHION Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

A bit of background for this – My friend and co-creator, Steven, is currently a student at the UCONN School of Medicine and at the end of each academic year, his program does their own version of The Gong Show, where med students from each “year” can perform a talent or stream a video skit. The judges can boo anyone at any point during the performance and all 1st and 2nd years are pretty much guaranteed to be boo’d within seconds. During his 2nd year, Steven had the idea for Absent, but wanted to make sure people would actually watch it, so he waited a year then came to me with the idea. The film’s creation was motivated by Steven’s actual experience of missing way too many classes. The voiceover heard throughout the film is his professor, Dr. Manger, reading each of the emails he sent Steven regarding his continuous lack of attendance. So, Steven’s absence as well as Dr. Manger’s lovely emails inspired this film.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Technically this took over a year to complete, since Steven first had the idea back in 2021; however, in terms of when Steven and I actually talked about it and planned out the creation of the film, I’d say it took about one week to make it.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Weirdly funny

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film? Our lack of a lighting team and proper lighting equipment was challenging at first. We filmed the whole thing in a dark classroom at UCONN, with the only source of light being the red exit signs. In the end, it worked out and matched our vision, but I was not anticipating filming most of the film out of focus! I thought I would just add some blur in post.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was all smiles watching the feedback from each audience member. I really appreciate the positive remarks and how people were able to, for the most part, understand both the point and the humor of the film. It’s a cool feeling! The last person in the video made me laugh. He really went down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what iRAT meant, and although I appreciate his theory, the meaning of iRAT in this film is not the Rastafarian mindstate of absence (although that is wild how much of a coincidence that is). In med school, iRAT stands for, “Individual Readiness Assurance Tests,” and they are short quizzes that students take prior to the start of class. So, the flash card reading, “iRAT does not equal attendance,” is saying that Steven thought doing the quizzes and skipping class counted as attendance (he was very wrong).

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

In 2015, the summer before my junior year of college, one of my best friends, Dillon, pitched an idea for a screenplay to me and thought I could help him write it. As we fleshed it out over the course of the next year, the screenwriting process and the idea of being on the set of my own film really resonated with me. So, he and I formed Karen Twins Productions and we haven’t looked back.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s realistically something I had on DVD as a kid like The Page Master or Toy Story, but in recent memory, I’d have to say The Big Lebowski.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think networking opportunities, discussion rooms, and Q&A’s are really important for a festival, especially virtual ones. Not only do I want people to watch my film and become familiar with my name, but I also want to meet those people and potentially work together on something in the future. It’s a big industry that’s all about who you know and festivals are the perfect opportunity to expand that.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

If it wasn’t for FilmFreeway, I would have never learned about this festival or 90% of the other ones I’ve submitted to. It’s the perfect hub to discover festivals and properly manage and market your films.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Hot wings – the spicier the better!

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I am currently editing a web series that my team filmed over the last year called Play It By Ear. It’s a six-part series that follows Mila and Lukas, a young couple who struggle to grow together as they start their new lives thousands of miles apart. We filmed half of it in Amsterdam and the other half in Los Angeles. I’m very excited to share it with the world!


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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