Pill Head The Feature Film
An Alternate Universe
After an overdose, art student Theda becomes an unwitting specimen in her university’s experimental psych program. There’s a side effect, however — she slides into alternate universes. Moreover, a self from one of these other universes warns her about the program’s enigmatic researcher Dr. Ashe. Determined to escape, Theda’s salvation lays through the looking glass of quantum quandaries, romance revisited, and the jagged little pill of her own nature.
Starring Emily Ahrens as Theda. Also starring Alia Beeton, Christophe Parker, Kalin Robbins, Pascal Faivre, D’mitra Smith, Josh Staples, Steve Jaxon, and Daedalus Howell. Produced by Kary Hess, written and directed by Daedalus Howell.
The Making Of
As Producer and Production Designer, I created the look of the film. We wanted an aesthetic that evoked the eighties and nineties but was set in a contemporary world. The values and textures evoked the film’s moody and campy vibe and referred back to the aesthetic of films from our youth like Blue Velvet, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and the music videos of the eighties alongside French New Wave and Hitchcock influences.
When making a movie in black and white, there are different considerations — you have to look for value not color combinations. In fact sometimes the colors were quite crazy because they looked good in black and white. The lead actor’s orange lipstick for example. We looked for and dressed backgrounds that had texture that complemented what was happening in the foreground.
One of the most important things in this movie was that it have a sense of place, a weird world where the story and characters could unfold. We had over twenty locations, most of which were loaned to us by good friends who owned a bar or café or coworking space, etc. that we could use as-is or modify, sometimes significantly. The vibe and variety of the places was paramount to creating the world of the film.
FILM WITHIN THE FILM
The dream montage was probably one of the most fun parts of the movie, where we collaged together dozens of clips from the Prelinger archives and other (legal) sources.
COSTUMES AND HAIR
The lead has white streaks in her hair during half of the film. Since we didn’t shoot it consecutively, I had to really keep track of which scenes had the streaks and which didn’t. We gave Dr. Ashe a bit of a Frank N. Furter (from Rocky Horror) entrance with her heeled shoes and wig. The costumes were a collaborative mix of actor’s own clothing and thrift store finds that we sometimes created together. Dion provided his own shirt, for example, and we added the eyepatch.
Above production photos by Kary Hess