George Dalphin is one of those local filmmakers who can make you feel lazy. Not only has he made numerous short films, he’s also written two novels, created the Web comedy series “The NPC,” recorded albums and is an accomplished visual artist.
Now Dalphin, 34, is preparing to film his latest short film, “Neurophreak,” as part of this year’s “Damnationland” Maine horror anthology film series. Having just completed a successful fundraising campaign for the film’s $5,000 budget through the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, Dalphin, who plans to shoot this sci-fi thriller in July all around Portland, talked with me about the film, how his unique vision fits in with the “Damnationland” brand and what the crowdfunding experience taught him.
I’ve been building the concept for a setting, a sci-fi society some 20 to 30 years in the future, looking to somewhat realistically explore the social vectors we’re on, where the next step in technology leads to unprecedented existential questions. The movie is a combination of optimistic and pessimistic visions of a sci-fi future – it’s run by an artificial intelligence, people are connected by chips in their brains. That seems to assume a dark, dystopian situation, but I’m interested in using it to explore the possibilities of a positive society, with the general arc of human society being toward progress.
I was schmoozing at last year’s event, and (“Damnationland” co-creator) Allen Baldwin approached me to do one. I was honored, because “Damnationland” has become a big event in the local film scene, but, at the same time, horror is very much not my vibe, so I was not sure I could find a marriage there. I’d been working on a feature for a few years, one with a sprawling sci-fi world that had gotten out of hand. Turning it into a short gave new life to the idea, finding the most necessary elements in 15 to 20 minutes. So I pitched it to Allen and he said, “Do anything you want to do.” So while it’s more science fiction, there’s an existential horror aspect to the story – it goes dark enough to fit the (“Damnationland”) vision and maybe even expand it.
The fact that this was a sci-fi setting meant lots of various small elements adding up to a much bigger production that I’d ever done before. The movies my wife (Anne Dalphin) and I have made in the past have cost, perhaps, a few hundred dollars. (“Neurophreak”) is on a different scale, but we’ve found a way to get a lot of production out of that five grand. As to the Kickstarter experience itself, it was broadly very encouraging. Most people were super sweet with support of my vision, whatever it may be.
(Part of the film’s budget comes from internationally successful British band Shriekback, who are writing an original song for the movie.)
I used to work at (TV station) WPXT, which instilled in me the confidence that I can call myself a producer, call people on the phone and people buy it if they think the project sounds interesting. So I just thought, (expletive) it, and I reached out to a handful of musicians whose sound I thought would fit. Shriekback was a band I was a huge fan of in the ’90s – honestly, I probably would have called them my favorite band – and the fact that they’re involved is exciting. We’re all just people, in the end.
FOR MORE on George Dalphin’s eclectic body of work, visit his website, man-likemachines.com. (You can also find details on his coming sci-fi series “Fleshers,” which he describes as an ambitious amalgam of “Star Wars,” “Game Of Thrones,” and “Mad Max.”) We’ll check in on “Neurophreak” as “Damnationland” creeps closer this fall.
SPACE Gallery, Portland | space538.org
Thursday: “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.” SPACE continues to bring in unique music documentaries chronicling some of the most fascinating outliers in musical history. This time out, it’s a film documenting the fascinating, doomed birth of Western-style rock and roll in pre-Vietnam War Cambodia.
Nickelodeon, Portland | patriotcinemas.com
Friday: “I’ll See You In My Dreams.” The ever-talented Blythe Danner gets a late-career leading role in this drama about a widowed singer who embarks on a series of unlikely new beginnings after the death of her beloved dog.