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ARTS: Space, the local frontier (Aug. 2021)

September 8th, 2021 · No Comments

Locally-made film Sound of Space lifted off at Toronto Fringe Festival

By Joshua Chong

Hilary June Hart in Sound of Space. COURTESY TYLER MORGAN.

The premiere of Tyler Morgan’s Sound of Space was a meta-experience. The 12-minute film, which streamed virtually at this year’s Toronto Digital Fringe Festival, had a private in-person screening on July 20 at Seaton Village’s Proxima Command Escape Room—the very location where Morgan’s sci-fi flick was filmed. 

Proxima Command’s spaceship-themed escape room, filled with gadgets and gizmos galore, makes for the perfect set for Sound of Space, which follows Captain Isa (Hilary June Hart) as she sets off on a solo mission to Mars to deliver much-needed aid to a settlement in distress. She spends much of her time interacting with the ship’s onboard AI system ‘Mac’ (Leo Mates), eating potatoes—the only food onboard—or watching pre-recorded videos of her son (Benjamin Yaremko). 

It’s a largely banal multi-month journey, until a cabin depressurization compromises the mission and causes Captain Isa to lose her hearing. 

Despite its economical runtime (Sound of Space was tied with another film as the shortest production playing at this year’s festival, according to Morgan), Sound of Space is highly ambitious in both its scope and production values. Raymond Tuquero’s Star-Trek-esque visual effects and cinematography is fast-paced and includes stunning intergalactic sequences. His crisp, futuristic soundscape adds to the foreboding atmosphere that permeates the film. 

It’s hard to believe that the movie almost failed to achieve lift-off. Ten days before filming was slated to begin, the production company financing the project pulled out unexpectedly. Since the original producers were also going to provide an actor to play the role of Captain Isa, Morgan was left without a leading lady. 

“And so sadly I kind of had to phone Fringe and say, ‘I think I’m gonna have to cancel,’” said Morgan, who is the film’s director and writer, and one of the co-producers. 

Luckily, at the eleventh hour, Proxima Command co-owners Michael Chapman and Bob Papadopoulos offered to step in as co-producers and finance the project. It was a perfect fit, since Morgan was already planning to work with Chapman and Papadopoulos to shoot the film inside the escape room. 

“I got people together in 10 days,” said Morgan. “And one thing just led to another.”

He recruited students from Ryerson University to help out behind the scenes. Then, he found Hart, who would step into the leading role. 

She embodies the role of the mentally-drained commander with a versatility of emotion. Lending voice to the Machiavellian AI system Mac, Mates is mercurially devilish. And Yaremko is never cloying in his cameo role as Captain Isa’s young son. 

Morgan’s script begins at a pedantic pace as he establishes the world (or rather, space) Captain Isa is living in. But as it progresses, the film falls into a brisk rhythm and Morgan nicely blends moments of humour and pathos. 

He touches on many themes in his short film: mother-son relationships, the ethics of artificial intelligence, living with disabilities. It all seems a bit overstuffed for a film of this length, and the themes would have been better served if explored in greater detail. The unexpected twist ending seems especially unearned.  

But for all its flaws, Sound of Space still offers a scintillating, though brief, escape from planet earth—something we could all use that right about now. 

Sound of Space streamed from July 12 to 31 as part of the 2021 Digital Fringe Festival. It was one of the winners of the David Seguin Memorial Award for Accessibility in the Arts.

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