ALWAYS A REASON by Chris Esper
ALWAYS A REASON: Introduction and Background
ALWAYS A REASON is a newly-released, independently-produced, short film about a man who has lost everything and contemplates suicide until a phone call makes him think twice. It was co-directed and produced by Chris Esper and Don Tempesta. Tempesta, who also wrote the script, co-stars in it with Christian Goodwin.
Esper and Tempesta created the short for Project Greenlight, which completed its first round of judging in August. Although ALWAYS A REASON wasn’t selected for the top 200, it has been released to the viewing public in selected theaters and online. The film had its first public screening two days ago at the RHODYWOOD Short Film Critique Night, a program of the Brooklyn Coffee and Tea House in Providence, Rhode Island. It can also be found online on Vimeo (see below).
ALWAYS A REASON showcases the cinematic talents and abilities of its three major participants while packing a classic, three-act story into less than three minutes of run-time. Esper’s directorial and editing skills are apparent from the opening. The first act consists of a panning shot of a wall hung with photographs full of memories. A voice-over narrates the shot with lines that, after a dissolve, we realize are being written by Papa (Tempesta) in a suicide note.
In the second act, Tempesta communicates much about his character through non-verbal means, including his movements (e.g., picking up a photograph of Papa and his wife). The camera’s focus is generally tight, with close-ups dominating the first minute, creating a claustrophobically oppressive tone. We see Papa’s tortured expression, the photograph, then his hand reaching for the pistol, which is lying on the desk at which he is seated. Very soon he is pointing the weapon at his temple, while his eyes express the pain that is driving this action. The sudden ringing of his mobile phone (which almost causes a jump scare) is accentuated by a hard cut to a close-up of the phone. Tempesta’s physical acting, especially his facial expressions, narrates his character’s dilemma over whether to answer the call or pull the trigger.
Papa’s decision to put down the weapon and pick up the phone begins the third act. Timmy’s (Goodwin’s) cheerful love for his grandfather provides a clear and convincing contrast to the darkness of Papa’s bereavement. Esper’s shot selection and the cinematography by DP James DeMello complement this transition. The increased space of medium shots reflects the psychological breathing room that Timmy’s call has given Papa, visually representing his release from suffocating, suicidal grief. Goodwin does a fine job of portraying a character who unwittingly talks his grandfather out of suicide. The film ends with the images with which it began: the photograph, the gun. Once again, Tempesta uses actions rather than words to show us Papa’s change-of-heart.
Esper soon will be leaving his native New England for the Los Angeles area to do a three-month internship with OddLot Entertainment. His progress can be followed on his Facebook page, on Twitter, and on his website. According to IMDB, both Tempesta and Goodwin have film projects that are in post-production, are currently filming, or are in pre-production.