The first thing Concord filmmaker Tom Kearney saw as he walked out of Red River Theatres following last fall’s SNOB Film Festival was a spaceship.
When the festival returns to Concord this weekend, the rest of the city can see the same one.
Kearney wasn’t drunk on local beer, or even independent film bliss, when he strolled to the streets last September. Rather, moments after taking home an award for Best Short Comedy at the 2011 event for a film he directed, Kearney was already stumbling into the inspiration for his entry into this year’s festival: Abducted, a short comedy about a recent college grad who is captured by a spaceship while walking to her first job interview.
“When I was walking out of the theater (last year) I actually mentioned the plot to a few friends,” Kearney said. “I thought, that’d be cool if I could do something like that. I’ve always kind of loved science fiction and always loved comedy. I thought, the UFO situation and abduction is always kind of this traumatic event for people, so why not make it more casual and make this energetic, goofy adventure.”
So that’s precisely what he did. The plot centers on the abduction, but when the woman enters the UFO she is greeted not by aliens but rather by a human who stole the spaceship from aliens and is now trying to evade them.
Kearney began working on some computer animation around Thanksgiving of last year, started writing the script in earnest in January and completed the initial run of animations in April.
All the non-animation was shot during the one weekend in early August, and the editing and visual effects were wrapped up by mid-September.
“I’m happy with it. I’m very proud of what I was able to learn as a filmmaker,” Kearney said. “Overall, it’s basically what I wanted.”
Having the film shown at the SNOB festival is especially gratifying for Kearney as a Concord resident. All of the outdoor scenes were shot in Concord – fittingly enough on Concord Street – and the indoor shooting was done in an office building briefly converted into a green screen studio right next to the Capitol Center for the Arts.
The actors are people Kearney knows, including a friend from Dunbarton who plays a key supporting role, and the boom operator, also a Concord native.
“It’s weird to see people from other countries submit films here. It’s a great opportunity for people worldwide, and it’s almost a backdoor (for me). It’s a great opportunity, and to have it literally downtown, a couple of blocks from my church, is fantastic.”
The process of building the film was an interesting one, Kearney said. There is a lot of computer animation involved, and those elements had to be created months in advance of shooting any live action footage. So once the footage was shot, he had to splice the pieces together in a way that made sense.
What’s more, by the time the movie was completed, Kearney had been reading and hearing his own jokes in the script for almost six months, so he wasn’t certain if the humor had gone stale.
“By the time I’m done editing it and working with it, those jokes are months old,” he said. “Fortunately for me, during the prescreening, people actually found the jokes funny.”
Kearney has made about a dozen short films and a couple of documentaries, the latter of which were filmed in Sri Lanka and centered on “a movement toward reconciliation and peace” in the war-torn country. Though much of his work has taken on a more serious tone, Kearney believes comedy is truly his wheelhouse.
“It’s my element and where I’m comfortable coming back to in this project, to entertain and make people laugh and give an energetic adventure,” Kearney said.
There are other reasons Kearney is particularly attached to this year’s entry, as well. While he earned the award last year, it was for a film he directed but didn’t write. Abducted was his project from start to finish, and he’s excited for the opportunity to show it in his own backyard.
“I feel like every film a filmmaker makes is not just any story you put together, it’s a story kind of about you through these random characters and random situations,” Kearney said. “It represents you in aw way, so it’s really nice to be able to say, let’s explore me a little bit in how this story is told. Everyone wants to kind of share who they are.”