Around the Brain in Thirty Minutes
Short film a true conversation piece
By Brooke von Blomberg
Whoever said men have a one-track mind, obviously never met Jason Fisher.
His brainchild is the brilliant and unpretentious short film "Conversation
For A Dollar," which I had the privilege and pleasure of viewing recently. A
fresh college graduate with a degree in philosophy, Fisher's premise is
simple: walk up to the table, drop a dollar in the jar, and you get a
conversation. There are no limits, no rules, anything goes. And Fisher's
patrons touch on nearly every
subject imaginable. The conversationalist has no name in the film, because
he represents the archetypal Everyman, full of wonder and insight about the
world around him, and symbolizes every aspect of humanity, from the childish
comic-book-lover to the deeply contemplative spiritualist, and everything in
between. It is this universal aspect that makes the film so appealing and
enjoyable, because there is a certain characteristic everyone can latch
onto, a facet of Jason's personality everyone can relate to on one level or
another. The most amazing thing about this film is that so much information
is presented in just over thirty minutes.
Jason Fisher's film maximizes minimalist principles. The only elements are
himself, his table, his customers, and his words, a bountiful harvest
covering the entire spectrum of human experience. The filming itself is
basic, consisting of primarily one scene, outside at the table, and mainly
two shots, alternating between Jason and his clientele. The film is black
and white, shot on 16mm, and for a modest, self- financed budget that
wouldn't cover the Kraft services table on most Hollywood sets. This
yearlong labor of love has resulted in a well-crafted, eloquent film that
takes us on a journey through the human psyche, as materialized by a very
unique and intelligent young man.
There is an alternating, yin-yang rhythm that governs the entire film.
Fisher's education immersed him in reading, everything from World Religions
to Chaos Theory to applied mathematics and science, all of which are
expounded upon at some point during the film. Yet all of these heavy topics
are balanced with some amusing and light-hearted moments, designed to give
you some time--but not too much time--to contemplate the last deep
conversation before being bombarded with another barrage of pontifications.
Such alleviating moments include: a "You're momma's so…" insult contest, a
battle with a ninja, a demonstration of monster-sighting-emergency-response,
and three distinct debates on the topics of favorite superhero, the rightful
leader of the Thundercats, and who was the bigger space-pimp: Captain Kirk
or Han Solo? The grand finale is an all-out rap-fest between Fisher and
another wordsmith. This seems odd after an earlier dialogue denouncing
language as meaningless. This particular vignette was my personal favorite,
probably because as a writer I have always been fascinated by words and
language, and often ruminate on word origins, the relationships of languages
to each other, and wonder why there are so many different languages and not
one universal tongue spoken by humans.
Jason's aim is to enlighten as well as entertain the audience. He succeeds
in both endeavors with style and ingenuity. His delivery is also balanced
between long, rhythmic discourses and short, knee-jerk responses such as
"Yeah, ain't that a bitch?" This comes after a humorous encounter in which a
human-sized robot rolls up to the table, drops a dollar in the jar with its
motorized arm and proceeds to dissertate for several minutes on the imminent
emergence of computers and mechanical intelligence as the dominant force in
the world and the
subsequent uselessness of human beings and their powerlessness to stop this
trend. Jason's answer is a yin-yang in itself, acknowledging his annoyance
and disappointment with this prognosis, but also his acceptance of it as a
truth and his decision to not resist the forces he cannot control.
The film is ultimately a conversation in its purest form, and watching this
film is a conversation-starter for sure. Not only will it make you debate
some of the finer points in the film, but it will give you a new
appreciation for the art and act of conversation itself. Hopefully it will
inspire you to go out and explore and investigate a topic that interests
you, just for the sheer joy of discovering new knowledge. The film's point
is straightforward: every conversation has value, the dollar is just a
vehicle to get the discussion started. Jason Fisher gives hope to anyone who
ever thought they couldn't do anything with a philosophy degree. He makes us
laugh, he makes us think, but most importantly, he just makes us feel human.
So go out and try it. The next time someone asks you a question, tell them
the answer will cost a dollar. You might be surprised by the results.