Lenexa native Christopher Good is headed to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. In the past he’s gone just for the experience, but this year he is going as a professional, one whose film is included in the U.S. Narrative Short Films category.
Good was in France when the festival's lineup was finalized in December, so he missed the phone call and received the news via email.
His first thought was: "Maybe I wronged someone in the past who's trying to play some horrible prank on me. It's possible," he told Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.
He typed the sender's name into a search engine and found a real person at Sundance staring back at him.
"Crude Oil," Good's 15-minute film, was shot around the Kansas City metro. The actors were mostly his friends, and he used a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the production.
"It is a Midwestern film," he said. "I don’t know what that means. That could be a new genre, I suppose. A Mid Western. It works."
The film centers on two young women who’ve been best friends since middle school, but their relationship is lopsided and crashing down around them. Lynn is loud, bossy and not nice. Jenny is her more timid sidekick.
"To me it's about an overbearing friendship and someone breaking away from that," Good said.
What distinguishes the film from the usual mean-girl or buddy-film plotlines is its style — some scenes are presented in tiny calendar-square frames, others as comic book panels — and the fact that each woman has an odd superpower.
Jenny’s superpower is that she can make other people smell things. In a last-ditch effort to earn her pal's respect, she reveals it just as Lynn is starting up her U-Haul for a big move out of town.
She causes Lynn to smell cinnamon rolls, then decaying fish, then cat poop. But, in an aggressive power move, Lynn claims she can’t smell any of it, even as she tries not to vomit.
Lynn, meanwhile, has the ability to inhabit another person's body.
Before he started making films, Good said, he wanted to write comics. But he thought that would be too lonely a job.
"I think (film) was a natural progression from the comic books, because it's similar: Here's a picture from this angle of this person doing this thing, then this other angle."
"I feel like a lot of times if you see a movie that’s heavily stylized, the characters might also be sort of, as they say, quirky," Good said. "To me, the characters are like people I grew up with in Lenexa. Normally a movie that’s super stylized, the characters aren’t suburban Kansans."
The unconventional approach helps make the movie pop. For instance, when Jenny makes someone smell things, she pulses and glows, though the effect is more comedic than it is sci-fi.
Good studied psychology, not film, and is mostly self-taught. He started with short pieces like music videos, which is how he earns a living.
"You can be delusional about your own ability, and then through trial and error you grow into it," he said.
As far as the film's prospects at Sundance this weekend, Good's keeping his expectations in check.
"This is already the best-case scenario," he said. "We made the movie and it got into Sundance."