Today’s hot short film on the internet is Portal: No Escape, directed by Dan Trachtenberg. He is not, as far as I know, the brother of Michelle, but he is one of the hosts of ‘The Totally Rad Show,’ whose name I would like to poke fun at but hey, this is Badass Digest Of Glass Houses.
Anyway, he’s directed this short film which looks expensive and is well put together. It also looks like a zillion other movies and all of the best parts are just lifts from the game Portal. It probably cost a dollar and a cent to make this short, but you know what? It doesn’t cost anything at all to come up with a new idea. This, to me, is just as bad as Battleship from Universal or the remake glut or whatever else. Isn’t the whole point of making some small short to showcase your own creativity?
Trachtenberg isn’t even making a comment on Portal, or using Portal to address another interesting issue or idea. It’s just a straight up Portal movie. There’s no deeper thought than ‘This is what a Portal movie would look like.’
This sort of mimickry is great when you’re a kid. Lots of filmmakers riffed on their favorite movies and TV shows when they were in grade or high school. But at some point filmmakers need to make their own thing. They can be influenced by or even steal from other works they love, but they need to take those elements and transform them through their own vision. The guy who made this short isn’t a kid; he’s worked as a professional commercial director.
So congrats to the FX people and the cinematographer and the composer (who is either Trent Reznor or somebody who ODed on Trent Reznor) - they have made a very professional looking thing. Let’s wait to judge Dan Trachtenberg until he’s making something that isn’t just a wholesale rip of another established property.
Originality is king.