It’s not every day you get a chance to see a SLAMDANCE Original film without flying to Utah, so I jumped at the chance to see Christina Kallas’ award-winning film, The Rainbow Experiment’s premiere at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas. Add in the fact that this film is produced by Ms. In The Biz’s own, Allison Vanore and I was eager to get that buttery popcorn and my butt in the seat.
Prior to the film, the filmmakers had a small gathering in the lounge, and I had the chance to catch up with Allison, who before introducing me to Christina, reminded me that this is the film she had come to me a few years back who were interested in my crowdfunding services. Ultimately, the film didn’t need to crowdfund, but this same filmmaking team is now crowdfunding for their 3rd feature film in this series, Paris is in Harlem
I say series, because one of the unique things about how Christina writes and casts her films, is that she’ll tend to re-use some of her cast members – as their original character- in subsequent films. Sort of like, grabbing Charlie Brown, and putting him in the Scooby universe, as if it’s no big deal, and he’s always been there.
Christina’s films are known for the way they play with time, perception, and multiple protaganists; The Rainbow Experiment takes this to the extreme.
The story focuses on a normal, every-day high-school in NYC, and the events leading up to and surrounding an experiment that goes wrong in science class. This lands one of the students in the hospital. The injured student, a main protagonist himself, also then becomes the on and off-screen narrator of the film, thereby breaking the 4th wall with you. There are multiple protagonists and 36 characters in this film, all of whom become – as you travel thru this film – key players in the outcome.
I use the phrase “travel thru this film” – because watching The Rainbow Experiment – is a TRIP. Throughout the film, the filmmaker employs a split-screen technique- often times with as many as 4 different screens happening simultaneously. Thus, depending on which square catches your attention, determines which key plot points you’re picking up from your seat.
This technique for me, was sometimes distracting, but always interesting, and frankly quite maddening at times. Due to the split-screens being used continuously throughout the film, you can literally be experiencing a different film than the person sitting next to you. It would be interesting to watch the film again and pick up on other elements you may have missed the first time around. Trippy and maddening are the best words I can use to describe this feeling.
The film is fast-paced, and chocked full of interesting characters, and fascinating sub-plots. Without giving away any plot points, the film toys with the notion of how all of our actions and reactions have direct and sometimes immediate consequences – which by the end of the film left the audience contemplating – what would have happened if A, B, and C, did not happen, or if only B had happened, or if they happened in a different order.
This is a film, that leaves you with more questions than answers. Luckily, we had an opportunity to ask those questions after the screening. During the QnA hosted by Tema Staig of Women in Media, the audience had many questions. We also learned a bit more about Christina’s filmmaking process – from her actor workshops to her actual shooting process.
As an actor myself, the process that Christina puts her cast thru was extremely intriguing to me. The way I understood it, the cast is gathered a few months before shooting and they enter into an intensive phase of workshopping their characters and growing their relationships with the other characters, (in this case the actors that play the other students, the teachers, the parents). They workshop different scenarios and build back-stories with each other, that aren’t necessarily shared with the entire cast.
When shooting begins, the actors are given the freedom to improv in between the written words – as long as they get from point A to point B. The written script dictates those points, but, is only given out to the actors on an as needed, shooting basis. Which means, no one was given their script ahead of time, and certain characters are kept in the dark about what happens in different areas of the script in order to keep this ultra-real, ultra-urgent, fast-pace that lands on the screen. It was absolutely fascinating.
I highly recommend The Rainbow Experiment, and if you’re an actor, get on Christina Kallas’ radar, she’s going to go to some really fun places in her career. The Rainbow Experiment, is coming to Los Angeles for a week-long theatrical run at Arena Cinelounge Hollywood beginning Dec 7th simultaneously with the nation-wide release On Demand (Dec 7), followed by BluRay/DVD (Dec 11).