Sundance 2017: “5 Films About Technology”

Producer Jonathan Keltz on his comedic short film addressing the woes of modern living

As the title implies, “5 Films About Technology” has more than one story to tell, though all the micro-vignettes within this short film address an overarching and ever-present concept. Five sharp contemporary tales of the mishaps associated with our tech addiction unite, bound by brief moments, for a comedic exploration of youth today. An official selection of the International Narrative Short Film program at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “5 Films About Technology” isn’t new to the festival scene—it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016. The Canadian cast and crew, who received funding through BravoFact (a financing program for independent filmmakers) in Canada have sent out a universal message. The plight of the those forever with phone in hand is rife with comedy. Writer/director Peter Huang captures this with relevance and resonance. But to get further insight, we spoke with actor/producer Jonathan Keltz (of CW’s “Reign” and HBO’s “Entourage” fame) about what went into landing five separate scenarios that embody our behavioral shifts in the internet age.

How did you get involved in the project as a producer? And then as an actor? Or was it the other way around?

I got involved as a producer and actor simultaneously. My co-producer Evan Landry and writer/director Peter Huang are both friends of mine and we had been looking for the opportunity to collaborate on something. Peter came up with the concept and Evan and I jumped at the chance to come on board.

What were your thoughts upon reading the script?

I thought the script was hilarious but I really responded to the tone and style that Peter envisioned. He wanted it to be grounded and subtle so the simplicity of the performances made it more truthful versus slapstick. That got me excited and I immediately knew the actors I wanted to cast. Acting wise, I just wanted to play the douchebag waiter because playing an asshole is fun.

What appealed to you about the subject matter?

With the film we wanted to explore the disconnection that all these devices can cause. They’re changing everything that’s happening in the world from eating and dating to even news and political elections. Our interaction with technology is affecting the way we interact with each other. The film is a comedy but hopefully a reminder to look up from your phone at the world around you.

The stories poke fun at the scenarios of modern technology more so than the people who make the mistakes—because we all have. How did you make sure this balance or direction was kept?

From the get go the mission was to find the right balance of humor and subtlety. We wanted to make sure it did feel real and that people saw themselves in the characters, chuckled to themselves and said “damn, ok yeah I do that.” We had to find the right balance of some of the extreme circumstances our characters find themselves in. In an earlier draft Jake, or “hormonal teen,” gets walked in on by his mom. Peter then came up with the idea of the Bluetooth connection to the car and it changed everything. Our characters are victims of their dependence on their phones. Relying on your “smart” phones to make you smarter doesn’t always work.

With the medium of short film, the end game isn’t always clear. What do you hope comes of this project? More screenings? A feature derived from it?

There are two screenings left at Sundance—tomorrow, 26 January, and Friday, 27 January—where we are paired up with Michelle Morgan’s feature “LA Times.” The feature is awesome so you’ll get a hilarious two for one. We have also sold the film worldwide and will be popping up at a few more festivals. There’s also an upcoming announcement about the short that I will be making on social media as soon as I’m able to share. There’s also been interest in a feature version of “5 films…” which we will be exploring in the coming months.

Can we expect more from you as a producer down the line?

Separate from the team of “5 Films…” I also have a production company with Grey’s Anatomy’s Giacomo Giannotti. We will be shooting a film called “Aquainted” this summer. Written and to be directed by Natty Zavitz, the film is a romantic drama starring Giacomo and Laysla De Oliveira and is an honest and devastating look at not-so-young love.

Images courtesy of “5 Films About Technology”