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Modern Betrayal

1998, 6min. (Color/Super-8mm)


Melinda Chao, Lisa Socks, Laney Simmons


In a story that will be familiar to any female over the age of thirteen, Modern Betrayal introduces three young women who are close friends, and shows what happens when two of them become closer and the group begins to divide.

Stacey (Melinda Chao), Laney (Laney Simmons), and Lisa (Lisa Socks) are the best of friends. They do everything together. But one day, after school, Laney and Lisa are headed to the mall and invite Stacey to come along. Stacey has to work right after school, so she graciously declines the invitation. The girls go to the mall without her.

That afternoon, they visit her at the restaurant where she works. They show her what they purchased at the mall and share some hilarious stories, but they are the kind of stories where "you had to be there." Stacey smiles and follows along but clearly the stories don't really mean anything to her.

As time goes by, the distance between Stacey and the other two becomes larger. They do more things together than they do with her, and soon all of their stories are about their own experiences, not those of the whole group. Their inside jokes make Stacey feel left out and her standoffishness just makes them exclude her more. After time, an incident at school makes it clear to Stacey that she isn't wanted in the group any longer.

Stacey takes some time to be alone with her thoughts. She has a really hard time getting used to the idea at first, but by the end of the film she realizes that she is going to be okay.

Production Notes

By the time I was ready to start producing my fourth 290 film, I knew my fifth (A Heart So Full), would be about the bond between a father and son, an attempt to recapture my feelings for my dad, as a hero of mine. So, I decided to make my fourth film about my sister. (It was just dumb luck that I would be able to travel home over Spring Break and she could actually star in the film as well!) So, I took some events she had experienced in high school, combined them with my own experiences and those of girls I knew, and came out with Modern Betrayal (the title would come later). Our friends Melinda Chao and Lisa Socks (newcomers to showbiz but phenomenal actresses both!) agreed to star in the film alongside Laney, a veteran of my film projects.

Working at home where I had limitless props and costumes at my disposal (plus cars!) was a far sight better than working in L.A. I decided to break into color with this film and we even designed the costumes to take advantage of that addition (keeping Melinda's character in cool tones while the two "evil" girls got redder and redder). Melinda - quite the method actress - drew upon some of her own experiences to help craft her character, and was fortunate enough to have two very supportive co-stars to help her along. After each scene wrapped, Laney and Lisa would give her huge hugs to demonstrate that their cold shoulder was only an element of the characters they played.

Another benefit of working in Florida was the invaluable assistance of our driver and puppeteer, Ann Simmons (a.k.a. "Mom"). She helped achieve the driving shot that opens the film - heralded in class for its choreography! - and also perfected the puppetry displayed in the credits sequences. This was the film in which I created my poor-man's-process SteadiCam shot, which became well known in class, and influenced many filmmakers who saw it. (It's really a very simple inertia problem, but I'm certainly willing to take credit for introducing it to the class.)

James Prater (man is he good!) also helped out on the project, standing in for actors, pulling focus on the tracking shots, and just generally keeping things running smoothly. He served in an uncredited capacity as music producer on the film, providing the smooth lyrical stylings of Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy With It" for the film's soundtrack. (I suppose it's possible that falls under the general heading of "Space Cowboy.")

Response among film-student classmates was mixed at the first screening. Many males were unsure of what to make of the story, and found it hard to understand the motivation of the two "evil" girls (Lisa and Laney). The female half of the class responded with a resounding "But that's how it is!" Women in the class were very positive, expressing that the film captured their experiences with cruel and fickle high school girls. The film ends on an upbeat note in that Stacey (Melinda Chao) is apart from the other girls but fine on her own, and I hope that the film sends a positive message.