The 2018 Cameraimage International Film Festival saw the first screening of ‘Insomniac’, a Sony sponsored teaser for an exciting project helmed by Paul Cheung. Having been sponsored by Sony, Insomniac was shot using the Sony Venice and Cooke anamorphics by cinematographer James Butler. Watch this space for news on the feature length project through 2019
It’s a balmy summer night in downtown LA. Midnight has been and gone. A beat-up 80s portable radio sits on an anonymous porch, its owner hidden in the darkness and the thick air of his burning cigarette. The camera pushes in closer and closer on the radio’s chipped paint speaker area. ‘Insomniac, you’re on the air’, fizzes out. Dave Burrows, long-time host of J-ROQ FM’s ‘Insomniac’ lives on a diet of black coffee, synth-laden LPs and sleepless listeners. He sees himself not so much as the beacon of hope for all those late-night truckers and graveyard shift workers, but rather a disembodied shoulder to cry on – a sign that even in blackest night, someone, somewhere is listening… The airwaves are as slow as Dave would expect on a Tuesday. The issues rest somewhere between boring-as-f**k and throat-chokingly mundane. Behind the thick pane of studio glass, producer Steve lazily signals whether Dave would like a refill. Our host shakes his head and leans back into his seat, staring at the ceiling.
A new caller comes on the line, the voice is different from the usual local LA fare – out-of-town and alone. Like a flickering neon sign on an infinite black road, it’s strange and unsettled. ‘I can’t clear my fucking head’, the caller exhales despairingly. It feels like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Dave does his best to lighten the mood, advising the caller to ‘take a walk’ and ‘go and get some of that night air.’ Apparently calmed by these simple words, the voice melts back into the ether and Dave kicks back for another long night in the city. Two weeks later – same shit, different night. Truckers are trucking, husbands are snoring and the coyotes of the night are necking the black stuff. There’s a new caller on the line and Dave Burrows is on air. ‘Insomniac, you’re on the air…’ The new caller doesn’t sound so new anymore. It’s our out-of-towner. Something’s changed. He’s calm and collected. ‘I just wanted you to know that I followed your advice….’. A sliver of threat coats his honeyed whisper. This guy really does have something to say…
Director Paul Cheung:
When I first received the script for Insomniac, I really didn’t have to think twice about whether I wanted to take it on. There’s shades of Fincher, Haneke and a sprinkling of David Lynch, so who wouldn’t be excited by that prospect?
The film centres around a twisted game of cat and mouse, where the hunter and prey are constantly swapping places. Despite being a short, the characters have depth and a clear narrative arc. No one here is inherently bad or good – just inherently human.
Finally, the late-night radio theme holds a special fascination for me. As a child, I suffered from insomnia and could only drift off to sleep using those late-night radio shows as my lullaby. Callers slink back into the night with their problems usually unsolved. It’s a premise which is romantic and depressing at the same time – it makes a film on the subject all the more worthwhile.
Ultimately if you like your films dark, unsettled and intriguing, I guarantee you’re going to enjoy Insomniac – so please support us with whatever you can!
Producer Alexandra Anderson:
I have known both Paul, the director, and James, the director of photography, for quite some time, and have worked with both of them individually on many occasions. They are both immensely talented, and bringing them together to collaborate on Insomniac, coupled with the fantastic script and the exceptional cast and crew, makes for an exciting prospect. My aim is to produce a quality piece of film-making that showcases high standards of visuals, storytelling, sound, set design and of course performance.
My commitment to everyone involved in the making of Insomniac is that they will come away with an end product that they are incredibly proud of and which is a testament to their hard work, ability and commitment to the craft. Film-making is very much a team sport and every single person is necessary for the game to be won. Please do come and join the team, we can’t do it without you!
Cinematographer James Butler:
The Visuals for Insomniac are inspired by dark phycological thrillers such as Seven, Gone Girl and the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Drawing from the work of David Fincher and Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, Insomniac will create a world void of day light where the darkness and environment becomes a character supporting the narrative and enhancing the suspense. The characters portray deep internal and external conflict, challenging the films reality, this journey is told through the visual environments and the character’s perception mirrored by the camera.