Tag Archives: Jakob Bilinski


Two 2014 independent films. Lucky is available for viewing in its entirety below.

I could not help but think of something the Dali Lama recently said as I watched Kevin L. Chenault’s Different Drum (2014): “The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kind.”

Chenault is a storyteller who engages us with a slice of life involving Tod (Zach Zint), an unemployed, flat-broke musician, and his pregnant ex-girlfriend Lydia (Isabella DeVoy). Chenault’s story is not about successful people. It is a story about storytellers and lovers. Tod and Lydia are not lovers per se, at least, not in the reductionist way we tend to superficially understand the term. Tod is trying to sell his comic book collection. Alas, it turns out they are not worth anything. Lydia almost gets her eye poked out via a stupid accident with a tree branch because, yes, we have stupid accidents. She’s pregnant, too. No explanation required. She remains pregnant and keeps her eye patch, as she should. We do not always need conclusions and often, as is the case here, a summary would have diminished this story and rendered it vapid.

Tod and Lydia are on a road trip from South Dakota to Indiana to attend a family wedding. The journey zigzags, seemingly aimlessly, the way our stories sometimes do, with a little petty larceny along the way (minus judgmental baggage). George Romero’s once horrific Night of the Living Dead (1968) plays as motel background fodder, now as innocuous as a sing-along to Tears for Fears.

Somewhere along the road, our two lovers are going to find something amidst Elvis impersonators and cordial muggers, authentic eccentrics who never strain to be sure we’re aware of their eccentricities. What Tod and Lydia find is not going to be defined for us, or for them, because things are rarely defined. Yet, we sense an inexplicable purpose to this promenade.

Contemporary independent films, by and large, have ceased to be authentically independent: instead of offering an emotionally alternative aesthetic experience, the usual route they take is to imitate Hollywood, on a much smaller scale. Naturally, that defeats the purpose of independent film, which is what makes Chenault’s film refreshing. He is telling his own story, his own way, with the help of two very good, understated first time actors, and lucid cinematography by Eddy Scully. We are drawn into a sensuous, humanistic road trip, for no apparent reason other than our desperate need for more stories like this.

 is working on his next feature film, Three Tears On Bloodstained Flesh. Taking an eight hour break from that project, Bilinski participated in an event from the Owensboro, Ky film series, “Unscripted: An Indie Film Xperience.” Two scripts were chosen from a screenplay contest. One of the winning scripts, Lucky, written by Todd Martin, and handed to Bilinski, who shot the eight minute film in eight hours on the same library floor where the film series was screened. With less than a day to film and only two cast members, Bilinski described the experience as “a hectic, fun, run-and-gun shoot.”

This horror short opens with Louisa Torres engaged in studious research when she’s rudely interrupted by Dillon Schueller. Rather than create another monotonous imitation, Lucky pays homage to a genre without succumbing to sloppy fandom. It takes shrewd and artful self-confidence to know the difference between the two; fortunately, Bilinski does, and he is helped considerably by Torres comfortably eating up the scenery in an energetic role. A strong female protagonist has been a consistent Bilinski trademark and Schueller, while serviceable, does not stand a comparative chance in or out of character against this lady.

Bilinski is a one of the more talented directors in the current indie crop and he doesn’t disappoint. As expected, he pulls Lucky off with an astute sense of composition and a devotion to craftsmanship. The high point of the film is Bilinski’s small nod to John Landis’ famous “Thriller” video, with Torres nailing the choreography (without advertising that she is doing so). Bilinski balances his blue-collar approach to filmmaking with intelligence and professionalism, regardless of constraints and budget limitations. While there may be a plethora of blue-collar filmmakers in the independent scene, all too often that approach can (and usually does) short shrift perceptive aesthetics. Such is not the case with Chenault or Bilinski, and that is doubly refreshing.

Three Tears On Bloodstained Flesh will be covered on this site at a later date. 


The Book of Dallas, Season One is a 10 episode web series from KoldCast TV. The series comes from the production team of Joe Atkinson, , and Marx H. Pyle. Atkinson wrote the series in response to a crisis in faith. The directing is divided between the three producers.

Dallas McKay (Benjamin Crockett) is a young Catholic atheist (is there any other kind?). Dallas gets into a theological debate at a bar (something akin to theology on tap). His lack of belief offends the self-proclaimed Christians (surprise), then fate takes the upper hand when speeding vehicle meets Dallas on the street.

Still from The Book of Dallas Season1 (2012)Heaven is a coffee shop where Dallas meets a highly emotive St. Peter (David Ross) and a quirky God (Kristine Renee Farley). Yes, God is a girl who likes to eat lots of waffles. I knew it all along. With a mouthful of syrup, God asks Dallas to write a new bible, one which will not inspire people to judge and kill one another. After writing it, Dallas is to go on a book tour and sell it. Real simple.

Now back on Earth, Dallas needs some cash to get started. God gives him the winning lottery numbers. Dallas and his roommate Hank (Clay Evans) are on a mission from God. After finally finding a publisher, Dallas’ book, “The Word,” creates publicity and controversy. The evangelicals predictably hate Dallas, but he does attract a follower named Benjamin (Kevin Roach), who fills in for Dallas after a fundamentalist nut job sends Dallas back to heaven for a spell. Benjamin creates The Church of Unitism. Yes, a new religion.

The Book of Dallas starts off as an overly familiar revisionist look at the state of religion, the likes of which we have seen before (Dogma, Religioulous, et al). The best humor in the series is provided by actors David Ross and Kristine Renee Farley. Aside from these, the comedy is too subdued for this topic. More problematic are the plot solutions, which are too simplistic (a convenient lottery win, miraculous surviving of near-death experiences).

Something more complex would have been more rewarding. The fact that the protagonist survives his ordeals, virtually unscathed, nullifies any real questioning of his supernatural encounters (for Dallas and the audience—the only nonbelievers are the certifiable Christians of the film, which, come to think of it, is probably all too apt).

The biggest issue I take with the series is in “The Word” itself. What does “The Book of Dallas” actually say? We are never really privy to that information. Therefore, Dallas’ actual message is so vague that it fails to connect with us emotionally, intellectually, or theologically. Likewise, the fundamentalist outrage towards the book never quite registers beyond surface. The angry religious mob is merely taken for granted.

The Book of Dallas starts to live up to its complex potential by the 10th episode. Of course, every successful revolutionary movement faces the possibility of becoming  an institution. The Unitist movement veers dangerously close to that fatal error. Upon seeing this, the fire within Dallas is sparked. For the first time, close to the season finale, we sense the prophetic nature swelling within Dallas, along with narrative possibilities for richer, provocative exploration.

Atkinson’s sincerity and effort is to be applauded, despite the occasional “too safe” missteps. The series feels like an opening spark, which may reap rewarding challenges in the second season (and, hopefully, that second season will come to fruition).

Bilinski, a director previously covered here, directs the first, fifth and seventh episodes. The first episode has a texture and pacing similar to elements of his previous Shade of Grey (2009).

. “The Book of Dallas” trailer.


Indie filmmaker Jason Hoover and JABB Pictures are on their fourth volume of “the Collective.” Each volume contains ten 10 minute short films, each created by a different team. This anthology deals with the themes of emotion. (Volume three, a collection of  shorts directed by women, revolved around the theme “Ten Minutes To Live”; Volume Two was themed around a box, and Volume One explored “the Meat Eater.”)

If Indiana has a reputation at all in the independent film scene, it is for its endless crop of ultra low-grade horror corn. Being an Indiana-based project, The Collective, predictably, caters to that independent horror scene, which limits it. That aside, the selection of films, although naturally uneven, is steadily improving. The first volume was, for the most part, a weak start. Volume Two was a slight improvement, but the ongoing series started picking up steam with volumes Three and Four. At at least there are no zombies this time out (the genre’s tell-tale sign of creative bankruptcy).

Volume Four features two films with exceptional acting, one of which is refreshingly surprising.  was the star of the 2010 indie feature Lethal Obsession where essentially, she played the walking, talking doll that we have seen a thousand times in unimaginative films. I do not know if Duncan has taken acting lessons, privately studied better examples of film acting, or has simply become more introspective, but her performance in Bryan Wolford’s “Myctophobia” is a vast improvement over her previous work. Duncan plays Kelly, a woman who has an almost crippling FEAR of the dark. This has made her sensitive to how her handicap may affect her marriage and suburban life. In the space of a few, brief moments, Duncan impressively balances expressed aspirations, self-doubt, fear of marital and societal expectations, and fragility. Unfortunately, her accomplished acting has a mundane script to overcome. The beginning promise, with Kelly conveying her crippling phobia to a psychologist (Steve Christopher), soon flounders. We immediately see it coming because we have seen Michael Caine in De Palma’s Dressed To Kill (1980), along with countless other films. Soon, Duncan’s Kelly is yet another victim being pursued. One somewhat endearing oddity is Wolford’s decision to use the assigned emotion in a positive light, although the effects conveying Kelly’s fear are kitschy. The camera work and lighting compliments Duncan’s earthy, mature performance. In the opening and closing segments, hiding within the skin of her coat, Duncan sheds all plasticity to reveal an awkwardly vulnerable, real person .This makes her far more Continue reading THE COLLECTIVE VOLUME 4: EMOTIONS (2012)


Jakob Bilinski‘s last film, Shade of Grey (2009) was a well-crafted feature, compellingly approached, yet flawed by inexperienced acting in key roles.  Bilinski has returned to the short film format with Obsolescence (2011), having considerably improved his craftsmanship, first and foremost in the acting. That is beneficial, because Obsolescence turns out as Bilinski’s best effort to date.

The seed of the idea for this psychological science fiction was inspired by Bilinski’s wife, Mackenzie.  It was shot in L.A. on a minuscule budget with a two day shooting schedule and a meager cast of four.  Far more often than not, guerrilla film-making methods such as these only lead to an execrable experience, but Bilinski is a conceptual artist who molds his gem with intelligence and style.

“Better never to have met you in my dream than to wake and reach for hands that are not there.”–Otomo No Yakamochi.  This introductory quote aptly dissipates shortly before the opening view of an empyrean horizon, its composition dismantled by Bilinski’s feverish, frenzied camera—a sign of things to come.  Nick (Scott Ganyo) is bathed in a bucolic landscape, but the deceptive harmony fails to mask a twitch.

Still from ObsolescenceTess (Rosalind Rubin) is strapped to a chair in a desolate location.  She is being held hostage by Nick.  In lesser hands this would have been the predictable setup for an adolescent excuse to show a torture fest, but Bilinski and the superb Rubin invest kinetic, tense excitement into the conflict.  Nick has poisoned Tess.  Her salvation lies in information that Nick requires regarding the death of his wife, Annie (Jen Lilley).  Rubin hypnotically conveys fear, frustration, and futile effort as she witnesses humanity slipping away from her captor, who is engulfed in grief.  Nick’s ability to empathize trickles away like water into sewage.  He is more fascinated than compassionate when the poison begin to take hold of Tess.  Wracked with pain, Tess’ Continue reading OBSOLESCENCE (2011) & LETHAL OBSESSION (2010): THE POTENTIAL AND FAILURE OF INDEPENDENT FILM


“Alfred Eaker’s Fringe Cinema” is an irregularly published column covering truly independent cinema: the stuff that’s so far under the public radar it may as well be underground.  The folks making these films may be starving artists today, but they may be recognized as geniuses tomorrow.  We hope to look like geniuses ourselves by being the first to cover them.

Producer/Director/Writer Jakob Bilinski and his Cinephreak Pictures have released three of Bilinski’s films to date, including the recently completed Shade of Grey (2009) (being taken to film festivals now).

Bilinski is a director’s director who has an obvious love for and mastery of the medium.  On the surface, Mime (2005), Foxxy Madonna vs. the Black Death (2007) and the previously mentioned Shade would seem to have little in common, but watching the three works consecutively is a rewarding experience in the best of independent cinema, in ways mainstream Hollywood Cinema simply can’t be and, frankly, is too clueless to be.

Bilinski tackles different genres in each of the three films, but all are replete with the director’s personal touches, shared, underlining, flowing themes, and the beauty of an artistic and fiercely independent struggle that can only be achieved without a tinsel town, silver platter budget handed via a blank check.

A lot of independent filmmakers fall too easily into the trap of flexing worn on the sleeve, extrovert aesthetics, which scream “resume for a Hollywood deal,” in favor of originality.  Adhering to the tried and true formula trumps personality as much in indie fare as it does in the mainstream, but not so with Bilinski.  While his enthusiasm for the craft is apparent from the outset, he never allows a desire for display of that craft to blur individuality.

mimeMime is the first film Bilinski released and it’s a broad comedy which stems from the Theater of the Absurd.  It starts like an arch typical indie slasher film.  Couples are making out in a park at night and the grainy camera work here is a quirky homage to every cheesy B grade horror opening we’ve been subjected to.  The protagonist Mime Binky (Joe Grace) stalks his victim (Bryan McKinley) and mercilessly commits a horrendous