STEAK KNIVES: New Short Is Evidence of Esper’s Potential
Chris Esper is one of the up-and-coming indie directors whose work has been reviewed several times in this blog. A graduate of New England Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Recording Arts, he has worked with others the indie film community in the environs of Providence, Rhode Island. Currently, though, he is in Los Angeles, where he is doing a paid internship with Odd Lot Entertainment, where he was placed via the Moving Picture Institute’s highly-competitive Hollywood Career Launch program. Nevertheless, Esper has continued to be busy with his own projects. In addition to ongoing episodes of the web series “Puppatics” (which was reviewed on this blog) he has recently released “Steak Knives,” a video short that packs a fast-paced, horror-tinged dramedy into a run-time of just under four minutes.
Written by John K. Fiore and directed by Esper, “Steak Knives” stars Audrey Noone (who also produced) and David Afflick as a middle-aged couple whose sweet-and-sour marital soup boils over after the wife’s (Noone) birthday party. The husband (Afflick) finds himself staring at the business end of the ill-considered present he gave his jealous wife, to whom he has apparently been less than faithful. It is grimly funny, presenting an interpersonal conflict that has a happy ending with a threatening twist. For me, this bittersweet assessment of marriage in middle age is on target.
Esper directed Fiore’s compact three-act screenplay to maximize its horror and suspense potential while not ignoring the opportunities it presents for dark comedy. He does a lot of this with framing and camera angles. The piece begins with a low-angle, out-of-focus shot of the couple going through the awkward social script of saying goodbye to their dinner guests. Since the guests are out of frame, Esper ensures that the viewer knows that the couple, not the guests, is the focus of the film. The action ramps up quickly after a close-up of the front door closing behind the guests. Soon we are down on the floor with the couple, medium shots and close-ups alternating as the wife’s threat to the husband varies in intensity. The actors make much out of their lines and the signature prop, the steak knife. DP Mark Phillips and editor Felipe Jorge, both frequent collaborators with Esper, also deserve kudos for the resulting footage. The music by Kevin MacLeod fits the campy yet serious tone of the visuals.
“Steak Knives” is a benchmark that demonstrates Chris Esper’s development as a director. It is also evidence of why he is now in Hollywood, pursuing a possible film career there. It is hoped that his talent and potential will be recognized, promoted, and rewarded as a result of his MPI internship.
Watch the short: