I first met filmmakers Christopher Smith and Liz Bradley at an IFP Phoenix event way back in February of 2013. They were young filmmakers who had just returned to Arizona after graduating from film school in California. In their hands was a copy of their feature length student film ‘Biology 101.’ They explained that they were supposed to meet another film critic that evening and provide them with a copy of their film for their review/critique. Apparently, this film had never been publicly screened and they were eager for feedback. I informed the young filmmakers that we film critics are a very close-knit group of professionals, bonded by trust and mutual respect: We play ping-pong every Friday and sometimes we even ride the tandem paddle boats together on Tempe Town Lake. I assured the plucky Phoenix neophytes that if they would give their film to me, I will personally guarantee that their precious project will be placed only in the hands of my esteemed colleague, lest I suffer eternal damnation. They gave me their film and we respectively disappeared into the throngs of filmgoers gathered at the Phoenix Art Museum. When I got home, I tossed the film into the pile of others that I had acquired in pretty much the same fashion. But there was something about this film that made me want to watch it right away; maybe it was the passion the filmmakers had for this project, perhaps it was their story of frustration and disappointment trying to find someone to watch their film, but mostly, I think it was the promise that there would be plenty of sex and nudity throughout the film that made me move it to the head of the line.
‘Biology 101’ tells the simple and twisted tale of community college biology instructor Bill Pollard (David Welborn) and his online sex obsession with pretty Dani Darling (Noelle DuBois). Bill visits the cyber seductress every night, while his poor suffering wife Diane (Deborah O’Brien) begs him for sex but ultimately sleeps alone. When cute coed Marissa Weaver (DuBois) enrolls in his class, Bill’s online fantasy becomes a tormenting and terrifying reality, his obsession now just out of reach, and a series of severe consequences ensue as he continues the relentless pursuit of his fantasy.
From the opening credits to the very last frame, 'Biology' had me glued to the screen. That rarely happens, and is almost unheard of when watching feature length student films. The photography and direction of "Biology 101" is what really had me at hello; stylized and professional, smooth and deliberate. Every shot a well executed composition, every edit precise and planned, with performances by a talented cast that are fun and easy to watch. While the story is uber-simple and even slightly absurd, it is the overall filmmaking in ‘Biology’ that made me go bananas for this movie. The direction is superb, utilizing every skill and technique director Smith has learned, and then improving on those in order to tell the story visually first, then allowing the dialog to fill in the blanks. Every scene is a reward, with subtle dolly rolls and seductive, silly and sinister lighting and props. ‘Biology’ has the look and feel of a bigger budget indie; stylized, refined and defined and is definitely worth the investment of admission.
Since returning to Arizona, Bradley and Smith have continued filmmaking, recently wrapping on their latest production "We Three." I have only seen a few teasers for their latest film so far, but I certainly look forward to seeing the creativity of these talented young filmmakers when "We Three" is completed. Also screening with "Biology 101" will be the short horror film "The Lakeside Killer" written and directed by Bret Thomas and shot over two months in and around Tempe. Also screening will be the faith-based drama short "Tough Love" directed by Patrick Giglio and featuring performances by Tim Sidener, Brandon Q. Dorssom and Shell Ha.
The Dark of the Matine Arizona Filmmaker Showcase has consistently provided an excellent opportunity to see the work of Arizona filmmakers that we rarely get to see. While ‘Biology’ was made in California with a Cali cast and crew, the film is well within the mission of the Dark of the Matinee; an opportunity to present and highlight the work of the talented filmmakers we have living and working in film right here in Arizona. This is more than a long overdue premiere of an excellent film, this is a shout out to all AZ indie actors and crew, to come to FilmBar this Saturday and see the work of the new and emerging filmmakers Arizona has to offer. A new face and new style of filmmaking that is so desperately needed in AZ indie.
Final Take – School is in.
What: Arizona Filmmaker Showcase premiere of Biology 101
Where: FilmBar Phoenix
When: Saturday September 7th at 10pm.
How much: Tickets are $9.00 and seating is very limited. This is a 21 and over event.