Review–Boxed In

Boxed In (2012)

Genre: Student Short

Length: 6 min.

Written, directed, and edited by: Chris Herr

Stars: Paul Blazevich

A boy and a magical cardboard box go on an adventure.

If you found a box that could transport you instantly anywhere in the world where would you go? Italy? A mountain top? Narnia? No! Don’t be silly, you’d go to a quickie mart and get some Cheerios. Or at least that’s where Paul, the protagonist in our story goes. I think the kid lacks imagination. I would have robbed a bank.

There is no story so universal, and so poignant as that of a boy and his cardboard container. Okay, not really, but Boxed In is a cute little student project that is mildly entertaining and competently executed. It was not a waste of my six minutes. YouTube Preview Image Chris Herr is a high school senior, and he found me on reddit. So it just goes to show that not all of the young men on reddit are misogynistic, homophobic trolls. And it also shows us where indie film is heading: young people are coming right out of the box knowing how to use a camera and Final Cut. You know how we always used to say ‘the time will come when anyone can make a film’? That happened a LONG time ago. The new generation of filmmakers are all over it, and they are going to put the current generation out of work. The more I think about it, the more I realize that the former generation of dreamers and auteurs needs to die off in a bad way.

Chris does a good job at the camera, Boxed In has a clean, professional look. And the effects are simple and well done. There’s a special effects scene toward the end that’s particularly snazzy. However, Boxed In does suffer from the “student film curse”(or “indie film curse”): technical proficiency offset by weaknesses in story and acting. Paul is not a great actor, and there is not much of a story to speak of. But I think the short was meant more as an exercise for Chris’s camera and editing skills, so I don’t think anyone will be too devastated or surprised by those observations.

A couple of critiques:

  • Yes, Paul wants Cheerios, but what is it that Paul really wants in the end? What is stopping him from getting it? If we answer those questions then we can have the tension and conflict we need to make a compelling story.
  • There are no discernible rules to the “box world.” Knowing the rules orients us within the story world so we are not pulled out of it  by cognitive dissonance.
  • A relatively long close up is taken of a man’s face reacting to Paul and his box. Since he is one of only three people we see close up, and he has a very distinct look, he seems like he should be significant to the story. But we do not see him again. It is wise to only focus on something that drives the story forward in a significant way. (Chekhov’s Gun.)
  • (And before you bust my balls, “a couple of” can mean more than two.)
So what did we learn here today?
That a high school senior with a cardboard box, a camera, and Final Cut 7 is capable of making a better product than you. Instead of pumping tens of thousands of dollars of your friends’ Kickstarter money into yet another doomed passion project, go grab a box and a camera, like Chris here. Frankly, I’d rather watch Chris’s stuff; at least he doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.
And for you younger filmmakers: above all, learn how to create compelling stories and characters. Technical expertise is the means by which you make a great film, it is not the film itself. A great film is all about the story and characters.
Chris has some room to grow here as a storyteller, but Boxed In is a good showing. I’ll look forward to seeing his future projects.


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