Short of the Week

Phaseone – Sugar

Overlaid on top of images of hyperkinetic traffic, a familiar narrative is told in a novel way—through text messages.

Short films have always been the medium to explore the boundaries of filmmaking, and PHASEONE – SUGAR, nominated for a Vimeo Award in the category Best Experimental, delivers a novel way of telling a narrative, presenting the story of two lovers through the medium most modern relationships work—short texts.

The film itself is very simple. Traded texts appear on screen at a headlong pace, carrying the narrative. A couple, seemingly ex’s, are in contact. One of them is leaving the city, the other is taken by surprise, and wants to meet. Sounds monotonous when laid out so plainly, but these are the plotlines of our lives, and as executed in the film, become very absorbing.  Behind it timelapse traffic images provide a backdrop for the drama written out. Some complain that over the course of a 4min film that the timelapse imagery of traffic becomes a bit monotonous, but it does tie into the plot, and the texts themselves take up so much of one’s attention, it’s difficult to focus on the traffic images as more than backdrop.

But, as backdrop, the use of animated rushs of traffic pictures works powerfully well in three ways: it establishes setting, showing the city in which the dialogue of intersected texts seemingly unfolds; secondly it gives a feeling of how fast modern life can be; and lastly it is a dynamic dramatization of shortened attention spans, making us ponder the effect that has on our relationships, in both the way we communicate and how easy it is to lose interest in a partner.

Transmedia storytelling is a hot topic in film circles at this time. A relatively new concept, it incorporates the use of new technologies across different platforms to engage audiences, changing the way stories can be told and how artists convey emotions and characters through different media. Is PHASEONE – SUGAR, a transmedia project? Probably not, but the experimental combination of different media principles as a storytelling aspect inside a “concluded” short film presents the viewer with new watching experience, and a quite powerful one at that. I can’t help but feel that this media mashup that directors Vadim Gershman and Ryan Powell have given us deserves a name of its own.



Georg Csarmann is a filmmaker, media academic and writer based in Vienna, Austria. Grounded in his own creative work as well as his experience as a curator and his enthusiasm for the moving image, Georg dedicated his main focus to the possibilities of expression for independent content creators.
  • Webkruzer1

    It was an interesting concept and I may have enjoyed much better if you move the banner down where it belongs… to the bottom. I can’t see the images… only the banner/text. Everyone is conditioned to look at the bottom of the screen for text… everyone. It was irritating to watch otherwise a good idea and unsusual story telling.

    The second part is a subconsious issue that yeah, it’s cool to text while you drive and you SEE just about much as I saw in the movie… blocked view by paying attention to texting and screen.

    I understand you want it to be different for the sake if being different, but that solution is not very good. The whole movie is a bit annoying because can’t enjoy the images. If that was not the purpose, why bother at all, just show black screen and texting.
    Just for the hell of it, move the banner down and run the same footage. It’s an amazing difference and wow, one can actually ‘see’ the images.

    Your story telling is UNUSUAL to beging with why screw it up with a banner across?
    It’s like killing an ant with a sledge hammer.

  • Anonymous

    I think the complete opposite of Webkruzer1′s comment. The banner in the middle was great. I really liked this.

  • Anasanguinetti

    what´s the point of making nonsense look so beautifull? I am no t speaking about the film, but the lives of the protagonists!! and the film -maybe- just does the same!! I mean, stop pretending life is that light!!

  • Darrel Swann

    Really amazing. Love the suspense from the pauses in the conversation. Totally captures the feeling of having a frenetic/illegal text convo while driving in a holding pattern. About to watch it again now that I don’t have to read it. Def. showing this in my classes. 

  • Pascoe Foxell

    But the driving never told any story- or at least none which couldn’t be picked up from it being the unattended background.  If the banner had been at the bottom, then it would’ve been on equal footing with the driving, which to me wouldn’t let it work so effectively as it does. All focus is on the texts, which makes those gaps between them so fantastically dramatic.

  • Esteban Erazo Toscano

    2 minutes wasted thanks!!

  • Esteban Erazo Toscano

    2 minutes wasted thanks!!

  • Greg Samek
  • Nich Olas

    I thought this was good.