B&W 16mm film on video. 3:58min
Synopsis: A cyberneticist finds out what really happened to his grandfather when he takes over the old man’s work
The Ghost in the Machine was my first short film. I’d shot a couple of projects on video in high school, including Macdeath a parodic modernization of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that garnered us the amazing grade of 25/15. The additional 66.66% being required to boost one of our member’s english mark high enough to pass. I still have a fuzzy copy of Macdeath that may make an appearance here eventually. However, these early high school efforts were all cut together using multiple VHS machines and as a result sported that odd rainbow striping at the beginning of each cut. Also the video quality quickly degraded due to multiple generations. The Ghost in the Machine, on the other hand, was shot on black and white 16mm film, transfered to Super VHS and edited on a proper editing suite at the Ontario College of Art (now called the Ontario College of Art and Design or OCAD). It may be worth noting that the tools used to create this film are all pretty much dead media now.
This was my second year in college and I was fascinated by machines and computers and how they might eventually overtake us. At the time, home computing was in it’s infancy (I wrote the script on a Commodore Amiga which was considered rather high powered at the time) and popular use of the internet was about eight years in the future. The college had a computer department and it was usual practice to go out to lunch while your photoshop file was rendered over a couple of hours, something that would take seconds now. So, compared to today, I had very little evidence that we had anything to fear from PCs.
Looking back over the past eighteen years I’d say that some of my concerns were realized. Metaphorically, we have been sucked into our computers and they’ve certainly taken over our lives in many ways. I count on instant internet access for everything from banking to trivia and I correspond with people on facebook or email much more regularly than I do in person or by phone. And here I am using my mac to post a paranoid film concerned with technology.
This topic continued to occupy my mind and three years later was very influential when it came time to shoot my final college film The Impostor.
The making of:
I shot the The Ghost in the Machine in my parent’s basement using a Bolex camera that operated by being hand cranked and ran for 30 seconds before needing to be rewound. The main character is played by my high school chum Meher Steinberg who also created the music for the film with fellow musician David Bennet. I continue to collaborate with Meher to this day on various projects. The woman at the end of the movie is my girlfriend, at the time, Cara Courtney-Cole.
I built the evil computer out of an old TV and made it look suitably make-shift using duct tape and a dryer hose that I purchased from a hardware store. I created the “liquid screen” effect by placing the TV on its back with the guts removed. I put a light inside the television’s housing and shone it up through a translucent tupperware container filled with water. I then put the camera on it’s side and rolled film while Meher lowered his face into the tupperware container. We had more than a few scary moments while shooting where it looked like Meher might spill the water onto the light but we managed to get through without injury to actor or damage to school property.
The title card and credits have been redone on a computer due to damage to the original VHS tape master. Speaking of titles, a bit of trivia: I set the film in 2019 as an homage to Blade Runner.
In the days to come I’ll be adding more of my films so please come back and check them out.