Suspense, misplaced ambition, and a dangerous power struggle all take form in Method, a 12-minute darkly comedic satire written and directed by Trevor Hembling.
Self-proclaimed method actor Dennis, who is filming a Russian roulette scene directed by the stressed and behind-schedule Travis, is struggling to act truly threatened and “feel the danger” while using a prop gun. In his words, he’s “just not feeling it.” To Travis’ dismay and annoyance, Dennis then insists on using a real gun and bullet to film the scene and swears by it as part of his method acting process.
While trying to convince his director of this pursuit, Dennis behaves in an unserious, childish way, despite his seemingly serious goal for himself. He calls Travis names and wastes more time trying to get his way, embodying his character of Maurice at inappropriate moments. This in turn leads to Travis reluctantly agreeing to his request. It is now where the plot takes an interesting and darker turn than one can initially expect.
Dennis succeeds in the take with the real gun, satisfied with his performance. But Travis suddenly switches gears. He wants Dennis to do another risky take even with the possibility of him getting shot with a real bullet, despite his previous disapproval. Travis has turned petty and is suddenly ready for revenge. After all, in his mind, he is the director, and no one should tell him what to do. Both Travis and Dennis have created a situation where dominance and power are their number one goals. The dynamics between the actor and director are flipped and danger ensues, all due to the need for control and greed.
In the midst of all this chaos, we can actively notice this short film creating a funny commentary on the boundaries and ethics of method acting. We’ve seen in recent years the number of questionable antics done by method actors themselves, and the concept has been controversial within the industry, whether it's the general public or other actors themselves disapproving of the technique. Although Dennis’ actions seem farfetched, it's a dramatization of how far someone will go to achieve perfection, in this case, it’s an actor vying for “the greatest performance of all time.” The film even references Daniel Day-Lewis in a joke, an actor notorious for method acting.
Method’s camera work is steady and impressive, which only adds to its high production value. Among its most clever aspects is its use of sound, which adds to the overall suspense that makes the film special. The score is used for obvious effect in its “scene within a scene” moments, but it also intensifies the film’s most important moment: its ending.
The film’s writing of the character of Travis proves to be rather complex, in the sense that audiences have many reasons to understand but also be shocked by the twist. Within the script, the more obvious and even subtle instances of comedy in Method fuel its likeability. When the film begins with the infamous scene trying to be filmed, the acting from the hypothetical characters is way over-dramatic, not to mention the cliche dialogue they perform. This provides a scene of “meta-ness” and signals to viewers that the film knows what it’s doing. It’s purposefully tongue-in-cheek and plays into the possibility that these hypothetical actors and filmmakers aren’t as strong as they think they are. Method is eccentric and dramatic in the best way possible. It’s entertaining throughout and doesn’t fail to leave a strong impression. Its final shot doesn’t leave much to the imagination, however, it certainly leaves viewers wanting more.
Method screens as part of the Shorts Program at the Fall 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Sunday, September 17. The film will be Online for 24 hours and In-Person at 5 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. Method director Trevor Hembling will be at the in-person screening to do a Q+A with the audience. Tickets are available for purchase here.