Short of the Week

Election Day

A political thriller set in the underhanded world of high school government.

It’s Election Day here in the United States, so when it comes to topical entertainment Zach Wechter’s appropriately titled effort out of Chapman University more than fits the bill. There’s little argument that our political system is corrupt—a seedy, duplicitous morass of closed door agreements and scandal. Thus, it’s befitting to see those descriptors passed down the system all the way to the competitive world of high school elections.

Wechter’s short is clearly committed to its genre routes, and in turn, it wisely avoids playing up its small scale setting for laughs (Alexander Payne’s Election this is not). Rather, Wechter and his team commit fully. This isn’t trivial teenage politics—it’s war. Our rival competitors have an election to win, and thus, these young overachievers have already shed their youthful innocence in favor of adult aspirations. Power, control, greed, and all of it before second period.

Election Day is a decidedly plot driven narrative, a film that mixes and matches various styles, ultimately creating something unique as a byproduct. Wechter cites Rian Johnson’s Brick as an inspiration, but I’d argue the film is more akin to the under-seen Assassination of a High School President from back in 2008—a genre thriller oblivious of its setting. The film sets up interesting characters, each of whom seems to be hiding something from the others. Like any good mystery, the pieces all come into place in time for the film’s final reveal—something that’s especially impressive considering the 11 minute runtime. It’s yet another subtle reminder that a smart script doesn’t need twenty plus minutes to build a satisfying story (aspiring short filmmakers out there take note).

Unlike so many other modern shorts, this one was actually shot on film (Chapman University has a strong relationship with Kodak). The result gives Election Day‘s visuals a distinguished bit of panache. The costume design should also be noted—one of the leads’s innocent red headband is perfectly juxtaposed against her grown up business suit.

Wechter and his crew shot the film three years ago and it has since played at several festivals before finding its way online. His senior thesis film Straight Down Low, which recently began a festival run of its own, takes Wechter’s interest in genre-blending a step further—a neo-noir detective story set in the inner city. Hopefully, it will be made publicly available soon.

Beyond his short work, Wechter has begun directing/producing music videos with a collective called EVERDREAM, which is made up of  fellow Chapman grads RJ Collins, Mishka Kornai, and Joe Sill (Sill’s film Expo was featured on Short of the Week a few months back). For more information on all things Zack Wechter, please visit his website: www.zachwechter.com.

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Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcaster. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.
  • Anonymous

    Films from Dodge tend to have the same two problems… Poor acting and bad sound. The sincerity of the ideas always seems to be there, but I can’t get past those two important qualities so often overlooked in student films. And the jittery dolly shots don’t help either, especially the one over election signs obviously intended to be read. (Stabilize it in post or just throw it out since it’s an expository shot anyway.) I was entertained by the film’s plot but the twist was expected from the “handwritten” blackmail note and very obvious when Michael finds her alone in the office. And, more importantly, if a single voice message was enough circumstantial evidence to potentially get two students expelled, wouldn’t the fact that the girl borrowed the tape recorder and lied about the pregnancy (on tape mind you) along with Michael’s own testimony be enough to get Leah expelled as well? This film has issues both technically and artistically. Don’t know why such subpar work gets uploaded sometimes.

  • http://reddysteadygo.tumblr.com/ Sindhu R.

    I am so glad I was not the only person to question this short. It was somewhere between Gossip Girl and Rian Johnson and while both of those productions have their merits, I never thought they should be remade as a student short film. I felt that not only did this short bring nothing new to the table but it reinforced an idea of a world of high school where there are no minorities present and the only way a woman could achieve success is through underhanded manipulation.

  • Farm

    I would not necessarily call the work subpar. Technically it is lit very well, and the cinematography, minus some shakiness in the tracking shots/ dollys is very solid. Considering this was done by an undergrad student, shot on film no less, I think this was a great effort. Was the story a little predictable? Sure, but you can find that on quite a large chunk of shorts on this site. Also, picking apart the story to a fault can be done to any film. Hold some suspension of disbelief. I would also be interested in what specific points you think had poor acting and poor sound. In terms of acting I think that the characters were High School students attempting to be older than they actually are, and I found it effective. It felt very much on par with any other acting you may see in this genre.

  • Anonymous

    I really thought Leah’s performance in particular was pretty bland, but I guess good acting is relative to the viewer. So, I won’t argue with you there. But, “suspension of disbelief”? Oh, come on. She calls an ex-boyfriend, who has NOTHING to do with her pregnancy, to tell him she’s having a baby with SOMEONE ELSE, who happens to be running for ELECTION with her? Haha. On top of that, she leaves it in the form of a voice message. A very short one at that! Jesus, old flame or not, why would you leave a message like that? What a contrived setup for plot. Of course, every film has holes, but some more than others. In this case, it’s beyond fixing, because the whole film is centered on an unjustifiable voice message and a reveal you see coming two minutes in. Maybe if Leah had more three-dimensionality but the story and acting don’t supply that in my opinion. And it’s not that I don’t get the genre. I really enjoyed Brick and thought the stylized performances were superb. (By the way, just because an undergrad did the short and shot it on film, doesn’t make it any more compelling. Back when I was in film school, everyone shot shorts on film. )

  • Daniel Christensen

    Seeing a lot of hate for this film on the board… Interesting, as I thought it was really well done, and extremely intriguing. The way the plot finally wound up was crazy, and everything people thought was “unrealistic” (the voicemail), she did it to further her ploy. She didn’t need anything more than what she said to complete her task. Very well done.