A Self-Aware Society

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Number 13 is a sci-fi, dark comedy, drama short film exploring themes of escapism, man vs machine, personal identity and fear of technology by Jonell Rowe. Here he talks about his film and the process of making it.

The concept for A Self-Aware Society first came about from my experience as a customer team member in a convenient store for several years. I would notice all sorts of different customers who had a preference for using the self-service machines over regular staff members, with the belief that they are far more efficient and useful. This resulted in my colleagues fearing for their jobs, especially after hearing their friends and family were already being replaced by machines in other working environments.

My aim for this film is to highlight the threat of technology taking over and the negative effect it will have on modern working class society. It’s an unsung story; with a subject matter that audiences can relate to as arguably people begin to question their own existence. But at the same time I wanted to make light of the situation by implementing a comedic dynamic with its two main protagonists Adrian and the self-service checkout, 13. The visual style was heavily influenced by Spike Jonez’s feature film Her which had a tactile and pleasant look with a vivid colour palette.

My passion for writing and directing developed whilst studying at The BRIT School of Performing Arts. During my time there, I focused on creative development in production and acquired knowledge of various methods of drama production, which has been fundamental in developing my film projects. After graduating from The BRIT School in 2011, I went on to work as a D.O.P and editor for a production company, gained work experience with Live Magazine and completed an eight-week script writer’s course for stage and screen at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre. Around this time I formed a production company with a small group of artists called Lionstooth, which has afforded me the opportunity to work with actors, editors, script consultants and other filmmakers.

Lionstooth has given me a platform to write, direct and produce three short films; E.D.D (2014) is psychological fantasy drama, Shards of a Broken Promise (2015) is a romantic fantasy, drama and When Dom met Tony (2016) is a crime, comedy, drama. All three projects were commissioned and screened at prestigious film festivals, including London Southbank’s Strive Film Festival, Vault Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner and Flyde film festival in Blackpool.

Getting the chance to work alongside the Roundhouse as part of the Online Film Fund for Number 13 has been a fantastic opportunity and experience. They have been nothing but supportive throughout the entire process and have provided both time and essentials to help me achieve the level of quality I wanted for this film.

I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to get started as a filmmaker!