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'About a bear': Staff debut film


December 03, 2008

“And Everything Was Alright” is a story about a bear. But it’s not that simple.

It’s a film, a picture book and the subject of an upcoming art show – as well as the beginning of a homegrown production company, Placeholder Films, and a saga that explores, through different media, the adventures of “Bear” in both human and non-human worlds.

That the project belongs to ASU staff members Robert Kilman, a technical support analyst at the West campus’ new media studio, and Safwat Saleem, a graphic designer in the office of university initiatives on the Tempe campus, appears irrelevant since the duo claim they decided to make a film simply because they lived close to one another – and because Saleem had always wanted to make a movie.

"This is my first film,” says Saleem, who long ago had begun writing what would become the film’s prologue – a story about a brokenhearted bear with a hankering for space travel.

"Bear is anyone who ever tried to fit in but couldn’t,” he says.

"He’s an outsider,” adds Kilman. “He is the odd duck out.”

And indeed he is. Donning a red shirt with blue-jean overalls, Bear hardly can be considered inconspicuous amongst the humans he encounters in his day-to-day business. As viewers, we experience Bear’s ability to stand out and be exposed as he makes his way around town, to the café and to the grocery store – to shop for honey, naturally. Kilman and Saleem’s strikingly minimalist shots lend themselves to the stylish and subtle qualities of indie filmmaking, and help emphasize Bear’s overt attributes, much to the viewer’s delight. The film contains no dialogue.

"It would be nice if Bear could fit in, and he tries very hard,” Saleem says. “Ideally, he’d like to stay with people and make friends.”
But Bear has other plans. Obsessed with space and building rockets, Bear is a character determined to fit in and find happiness – even if it is on another planet.

Kilman, an ASU West alumnus with a master’s degree in digital media performance, notes that although the story is predicated on the fact that Bear is a loner, the public’s response to the character had been quite the opposite.

"Bear is a lovable, sympathetic character,” says Kilman in describing the grocery store scene that was filmed in a local Sunflower store. “Kids loved him. Adults just wanted to get their broccoli.”

Along with the grocery store, images of Tempe’s Three Roots coffee shop and suburban Phoenix are easy to discern from the movie’s on-location film shots. The actors in the movie are students, staff and faculty from the ASU community. Assistant professor Barry Moon appears in the film and in the Web site’s “I Hate Bear” videos as the bear-hating character, further symbolizing Bear’s struggle to be accepted.

Despite a lack of funding and the time constraints that come with full-time jobs, Saleem and Kilman found the indie filmmaking experience to be extremely rewarding. They are looking forward to the film’s debut, along with the art show and picture book release, at Bragg’s Pie Factory in downtown Phoenix, part of the First Friday art walk Dec. 5.

"We were very glad to come across Braggs,” Saleem says. “The art community can be somewhat of a clique and open to ideas among them, but outsiders’ ideas are not necessarily welcome. Braggs does a wonderful job at promoting the entire art community.”

The storybook, geared toward young and older readers alike, will be on sale (along with DVDs of the film) at Braggs Pie Factory, where enlarged images from the book will be presented on the gallery’s walls in a traditional art show format. The film’s debut screening will take place in the gallery as well, playing every half-hour from 6-9 p.m.

"With myself as a graphic designer and Robert’s background in film, it made sense for us to pursue different media and collaborate on this,” Saleem says. “While each medium can stand on its own, it is part of a more comprehensive collection.”

For a peek at the movie trailer, picture book and art exhibition that will be on display until Dec. 19, visit the Web site www.andeverythingwasalright.com.

Bragg’s Pie Factory is located at 1301 W. Grand Avenue in Phoenix.