As regular readers of Film Flam know, we’re huge fans of the Boston SciFi Film Festival. In particular, the festival’s multiple yearly programs of independently made short films are truly dazzling, each often containing more ideas and diverse viewpoints than a full year at the multiplex (in the interest of both full disclosure and humblebraggadocio, I should probably point out that the Hassle has presented and hosted the festival’s Locals Night for the past two years). One of this past year’s most fascinating shorts was Chad Eric Smith’s Rumination, an exploration of heartache and coping through a decidedly sci-fi tinged lens. In anticipation of Rumination’s inclusion in the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, I spoke to Smith about the film’s origins, and where its future will take it.
BOSTON HASSLE: How did the idea for Rumination originate?
CHAD ERIC SMITH: Rumination was inspired by my own personal experience with grief following a breakup a few years ago. During a visit with a therapist back in 2015, I came across the word “rumination” while reading a pamphlet about anxiety and depression. The word, which was unfamiliar to me at the time, struck me as being a great title for a movie. I looked up the word and saw that it was defined by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the late professor of psychology at Yale University, as “compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one’s distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions.” That was the genesis of the idea. I then coupled that with the topics self-medication and time travel, my favorite science fiction subgenre.
BH: In addition to the emotional territory, the film also poses some heady metaphysical questions. What were some of your inspirations, either scientific or story-wise?
CES: Instead of having a typical time machine, one that makes use of some form of mechanical engineering and a strong understanding of quantum physics, Rumination suggests the idea of consciousness being the vehicle for time travel when induced by a top-secret drug. The idea came to me via a conversation with my father, in which he explained to me that he believes a poem he wrote as a child was inspired by his future adult self. I began to do research on the philosophy of time known as Eternalism, which takes the view that all existence in time, whether in the past, present, or future, is equally real. I also researched reality-altering drugs, keeping in mind Albert Einstein’s theories that “reality is merely an illusion” and that time is relative.
BH: Did you face any challenges as an independent filmmaker? Any happy accidents?
CES: Absolutely! The first challenge was funding. Instead of going the public crowdfunding route (Kickstarter or GoFundMe), I sent a private email to over a hundred friends, family members, colleagues and close associates, telling them about the idea and asking for monetary help. From those who were able to donate, I raised about 30% of the film’s overall expenditures. The rest came out of my own pocket.
Probably the best “happy accident” occurred during pre-production when I stumbled upon the location for the most pivotal scene in the film. Weeks prior, I was having a difficult time finding a diner to shoot in. One day, while headed to a bar on The H Street Corridor in Washington, DC, I saw what was essentially a carry out restaurant with the words “DC Diner.” It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it felt like a positive omen. I walked in, introduced myself to the owner, and asked if I could shoot a scene there. Without hesitation, he said, “Sure.” He didn’t ask for anything in return; just wanted to help.
BH: Do you have any future projects in the works?
CES: This month, I’m directing a SAG-AFTRA comedic TV pilot entitled Uproar, presented by Commodore Independent Filmworks, and will be acting in the short political drama Four Points, written and directed by Cadell Cook. After I’m done with those projects, I’ll return to working on a new original screenplay that deals with the topics of internet trolling, partisanship politics, and empathy. That’s all I’ll say for now.
BH: Where can readers catch Rumination next?
CES: Rumination will screen next as part of the 2018 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival on Wednesday, August 8th, at 11am at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. The following week, it will screen as part of the DC Black Film Festival on Friday, August 17th at The Miracle Theatre in Washington, DC. Rumination will play alongside other films that “showcase love and, in some cases, the heartbreak that sometimes comes with it.”
Follow this link for tickets to Rumination at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, and this one for the DC Black Film Festival. For further updates, follow Chad Eric Smith and Rumination on Facebook!