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100 Words Film Festival: Going Meta with Making a Masterpiece

by Nicole Fisher

September 14, 2015

Making A Masterpiece is a sly wink at movie clichés and pretensions of grandeur, starting with an intentionally ridiculous and overblown title. From an innocuous setting in a school library, director Jacob Piller spins a self-reflexive narrative, a brainstorming and barnstorming "video about a video" that is funny, exuberant and ultimately thought provoking. Quite a feat for a filmmaker still in teens, and still attending high school.   

Two friends (Thad Hayford and Ben Houseman), sleep deprived and manic from pulling an all-nighter, attempt to come up with one solid idea for their entry into the 100 Words Film Festival -- but this self-referential mention of the very fest where the film is playing is just a gateway into Piller's hall of mirrors.   

Hayford and Houseman pitch ideas like junior movie executives, desperate for anything to stick. In the process, they lampoon film and TV tropes: high-concept hi-jacking of internet memes, boring nature documentaries with lugubrious narration and tepid "re-imaginings" of classic genres -- a film noir centered on a poodle?

In desperation, they turn to silent film. Shock cut to black and white leader and our heroes are thrown into a monochrome movie where they can't hear each other despite helpful inter-titles. As a slapstick fight kicks into gear, it seems that Piller's inspiration is finally flagging. That's when he pulls the rug out from under us.

A series of quick cuts show the viewers being viewed, breaking the fourth wall repeatedly. Our heroes discover a cameraman filming them. The cameraman realizes an editor at his console is watching all three. The editor, played by Piller, discovers that a movie theater audience is watching him. He hits pause and rewinds, until everything we've seen vanishes in the blink of the protagonist’s eye.

Piller's sleight of hand is both Meta and amusing. His zany riff on films and filming raises surprisingly weighty questions about how much we process through our video and computer screens, how we live through virtual experience, and how reality is unreliable. We might as well laugh at it.

Making a Masterpiece

Running Time: 3:52

Directed by Jacob Piller

Main Character: Thad Hayford

Friend: Ben Houseman

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Tags: short film, Making A Masterpiece, Thad Hayford, Ben Houseman, Jacob Piller, 100 Words Film Festival

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