It is quite remarkable how much empathy can be wrung out audiences if you put a pair of sad eyes on a box. Despite a relatively straightforward narrative in Hum, its creative team certainly know the importance of character design, and, in a stylishly impressive short reminiscent of WALL-E, they are able to ladle on the melodrama to such an extent that this reviewer neared his breaking point.
A wistful robot’s purpose is to continue in the day-to-day drudgery its work, sequestered from the outside world. Its only opportunity to glimpse the inherent possibilities of life comes from collecting scraps of trash left over from the restaurant’s birthday parties. Our robot is noticeably unfulfilled, but, in a gauzy, beautifully sunlit scene, an unexpected visitor invades its squalid space and perhaps can fill our protagonist with the hope and motivation to break free from its prescribed fate.
While narratively the film is limited, emotionally it is adroit, and visually it is spectacular. A student work completed in only a single semester, the film blends limited live-action photography with its animation and VFX, endeavoring to a photo-realism that yet preserves a degree of fantasy. Shallow depth of field and intense lighting provide pizazz to a film that is very appealing in its art-direction.
The writer/director of the film is Tom Teller, who was a Junior during the production. Created at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film, the film naturally brings to mind another 3D robot film that came out of the same school, Jack Anderson’s Wirecutters, which was a finalist for the Student Academy Award and has received over 2M views online to date. Teller will see if he can’t match those accomplishments with his Senior film, Icarus, which is currently on the festival circuit, but in the meantime the precocious talent has created a production company called Frame 48 with fellow students from Dodge, and is in the midst of earning his Masters in Business Administration. Very smart to think about the business of this creativity game Mr. Teller! Good luck.