“Was it really that small?”
A good cause and effect tale is hard to come by within an era of more is more popcorn fluff filled with contrivances nobody can feasibly ignore. But that’s exactly what Elias Plagianos delivers with short film Shoot Me Nicely. This is not to say there aren’t any coincidences involved to help propel the narrative forward, just that these moments arrive in a way where lead character Sean Wheeler (John Behlmann) has a choice. The coincidence doesn’t seal his fate one way or the other, his conscious reaction to it does. There’s nothing like someone you could see yourself feeling sympathetic for ruin his chance at success through no fault other than his own. How he handles opportunity says everything about how he got where he is today.
Sean’s an out-of-work photographer moonlighting for paparazzi shots to barely pay his rent and remember the good old days of creative and financial stability he squandered away. His supermodel girlfriend (Fiona Hardingham‘s Melinda) is gone—emotionally, not physically as she uses him for sex whenever lonely; his agent (Linda Hamilton) only cares if she’s going to get twenty percent; and he bags on (Josh Burrow‘s Lando) or completely dismisses (Joe Holt‘s Adam) those who may potentially be able to supply some semblance of friendship as though regular life is beneath his faded-to-dust shining star. Sean is only ever out for Number One and it shows in his attitude and actions. It doesn’t matter who he takes down to achieve success until he takes himself down in the process.
The premise is ripe for good industry satire thanks to a character that craves the spotlight of celebrity by feeding off it like a hypocritical parasite. Here’s a guy who’s seen everything wash away and yet has the gall to tell a television personality (William Sadler‘s Roy Barnes) that everyone will forget the PR nightmare he personally incited as the latest stepping stone to solvency. Sean’s woe-is-me demeanor is forever tinged by sarcasm because he doesn’t believe it himself. Behlmann gets that self-aware, simultaneous desire for pity and adulation down pat so that his charm just barely masks the hubris beneath. Because we see that sliver, however, we can constantly revel in every selfish misstep bringing more and more tragedy. This isn’t a world bearing down. It’s self-destruction.
And that’s what makes it so much fun. Plagianos uses common tropes, but he doesn’t let them rule his character. They’re conventions because they’re universal to life. But so is the notion that we can overcome them and be better. It all builds towards a chance meeting with Vanessa Lennox (Tasie Lawrence), the first real and honest interaction we’ve seen Sean engage in. She provides him a way out from the chaotic grind via compassion as well as a way through it via greed. What comes next isn’t the filmmaker forcing an endgame, but the character doing what we know he always will. Shoot Me Nicely depicts the ego of “Hollywood” perfectly—the irredeemable actions of people devoid of empathy. Such a satisfying comeuppance is rare these days.