Anyone who believes they’re meant to do something creative for the rest of their life (I’d raise my hand if I weren’t typing), will identify with the simple wish fulfillment of “NightShift,” a new short film from Chicago’s Derptastic Entertainment that you can check out at a free screening on Wednesday, Aug. 22 at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Avenue) at 8 p.m.
The story centers on Chad (Will Gillespie). You know Chad. Chad is stuck at a mundane job, has a lot of creative potential but he’s got writer’s block and he can’t make the right moves to get the girl. We’ve all seen Chad in a movie before. In this case, Chad is an aspiring comic-book writer who works the overnight at a convenience store and can’t seem to break away.
Chad’s coworker Sanjay (Nikhil Bafna) is an aspiring screenwriter, so it seems anyone who aspires to anything is stuck at the 7-11. An exaggeration to be sure, but it inspires a collective “we nerds must stick together” type of mentality. The two have a goofy chemistry and are likable enough to be sure.
There’s also Katie (Emily Cross), the girl Chad can’t put a move on and Chad’s “nemesis,” Vladimir H. Conway (William Goblirsch Jr.), a comic-book writer who seems to spend more time working on his maniacal laugh than fleshing out his book ideas. These folks amount to two-dimensional comic-book archetypes, but given the entire tone of the short, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to be.
“NightShift” wants to play out like your typical comic. Some sort of twist off the norm would have been nice, but “NightShift” still makes its point about the parallels between real life and comic-book cutouts, that it all just depends on how you look at what’s around you.
Filmmaker Andrew Hempfling isn’t shy about making “NightShift” into a cheesy comic book, but he fuses that style with a darkly comic one reminiscent of director Edgar Wright, who made “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” He sets a horror tone similar to those films at the beginning of “NightShift,” and though it doesn’t deliver on that suspense, it gives the short the stylish edge it needs to grab our interest in an otherwise typical story.
Hempfling uses plenty of quick, detailed close-ups on everything from pouring coffee (lots of pouring coffee) to those gross hotdogs convenience stores mistakenly peddle, and he uses them as a substitute for filming the monotony of, for example, getting a cup of coffee. In doing so he and D.P. Seth Oberle achieve the single most impressive element of the film: creating the feeling of one’s brain frying away thanks to sleep deprivation and working a boring-ass job.
What follows is Chad’s meteoric rise from idea-less sad sack to a man energized by a concept for a new comic. It takes the film out of its element, however, and rushes the last few scenes along too quickly. I would’ve much rather seen more of the dull convenience store where dreams see their growth stunted and sleep deprivation makes people do awkward things.
“NightShift” is more of a feature film idea bottled into a short, which happens all too often in the world of grassroots filmmaking. That should have been a realization reflected in the film’s story, especially in the approach to the ending, but much like Chad’s comic, “NightShift” shows a lot of potential. In the meantime, it’s a light, fun watch.
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