Euphonia is a perfect example of what you can do with very little resources but a huge desire to see the project live.
Today’s film is the 2013 experimental science fiction drama Euphonia written and directed by Danny Madden. It was the summer 2016 Jury Award from the Fandependent film festival after it’s three week run. Starring relative newcomers to the film industry Will Madden, Maria Decotis and Benjamin Papac.
Euphonia tells the story of a young high school student (Will Madden) who on a lark buys a Zoom recording device and begins to catalog his daily life with it. Having been stuck in a rut with his day to day life of school and then work as a stock boy at the local mall the unnamed protagonist finds new life in the sounds around him with the help of the recorder. As the days go on he notices his hearing is now linked with the recording device and can no longer hear the world around him without it. While this is happening he begins a relationship with his charismatic class mate (Maria Decotis) who doesn’t understand his strange obsession with sound and may bring him back to the physical world around him.
I have to say Euphonia is not your typical science fiction story, in fact I have never before encountered a film like it. The story it’s self seems to take second place to the use of the Zoom recording device which is used as the primary sound system of this small budgeted film. Every sound imaginable is recorded and used by the small device and it can become quite overwhelming at times. I always watch the films I review on my laptop with serious headphones on so I can rate the audio quality of the film and I was nearly deafened by the extremely loud unfiltered sounds of the film, so let that be a warning to anyone who does the same. Of course all of that said the writing of the story was very well done for what it was, a short look into a creepy world of sound dependence and this is delivered beautifully by the two up and coming actors.
Both Will Madden and Maria Decotis play their nameless characters in a very organic and natural feeling way. Both of the young teenagers really seem comfortable in their skins within their rolls and use the very limited dialog very successfully to bring a real s sense of life to their characters. This is the first time I have seen a film rely almost entirely on the use of non verbal sounds to get it’s message across but these two teen actors pull it off wonderfully and that speaks volumes not only to their potential but to the directing power of Danny Madden.
Euphonia is filmed entirely in Danny Madden’s hometown on a micro budget of a mere seven hundred dollars and what is truly impressive about this is the fact that the whole town seemed to pitch in to help. All of the extras are the entire community of Peachtree City GA and each location was a real establishment from around the city. I have to say I was mightily impressed by the sense of community spirit that allowed them to not only get the extras to come in for filming but the willingness of the city to allow the locations to be used for free just to help make Euphonia come to life. If you are an aspiring film maker this right here is proof that anything is possible with the support of your friends and family.
The production quality of the film is not stellar. It is shot documentary style on a single low fidelity camera that is grainy and at times over saturated, that said however the scenes themselves were very well done. The camera was used to help elevate the focus of the acting showcase of Will Madden and Maria Decotis and interweave it with the strange sounds of the everyday world around them. Each scene was painstakingly shot to show exactly what the director envisioned for the narrative of the scene. While the picture quality was low the thought and skill behind the shots were expertly handled by this up coming director.
The audio of Euphonia is a bit of a mixed bag to me. On one hand it is very impressive that the entire film was recorded on the very Zoom device that the character was using throughout the movie. On the other hand however because it was indeed shot on that one little Zoom recorder the characters are sometimes impossibly quiet to make out and the various artifacts will damage your ear drums if you are not careful. Of course this is entirely intended (well not the deafening part.) by the filmmaker as he wanted to show case both what we hear everyday and the little sounds around us that our brains filter out as background noise. It was a startling revelation how much goes unnoticed around us in our day to day busy lives and the unassuming little recording device opens up an entire new world to use just as it did to the unnamed protagonist of the film.
When all is said and done Euphonia was a interesting low budget science fiction drama that stands out as utterly unique in the film industry. While I am not sure if this style of film which really doesn’t fit properly into any genre will become more popular as time goes on it was a refreshing change of pace to the average film experience. If you are willing to set through a strange story low on dialog but deep in metaphor and appreciate nuanced performances from young rising talents then I can recommend this film to you.
If you are a aspiring film maker I suggest you mark this film as a case study of what you can do on no budget and a willingness to do hard work and learn from it’s example.