Masterpiece is an art-film directed and produced by Zachary Coak, and Starring Macy Smith and Carson Woodard
A young artist is struggling to complete her latest work when she is suddenly taken to a world deep within her subconscious, where she is haunted by her inner critic.
Masterpiece began production in early September of 2017 and was released March 31, 2018. It is currently available to watch.
The two major motifs found in Masterpiece are its use of masks, and its use of art. These two elements came to me at the same time, while vacationing in New Orleans. New Orleans sells Mardi Gras masks in almost every small shop and features many different art galleries all over the city. I started thinking about what a plot involving masks and art would look like, or a plot that had one element or the other. Before leaving New Orleans I bought three different masks, two of which were used in Masterpiece.
During this time, I was finishing production on Brother's Bunker and wanted to create something very different for my next project. Where Brother's Bunker had a lot of dialogue and was also very grounded, I wanted my next film to be one that was more surreal, and also featured no dialogue at all.
While considering ideas I looked to one of my previous films Somniac. Somniac was very similar in style to what I was wanting to create. It was also a no-dialogue film with a suspenseful tone. I considered what a sequel to it would look like, or even a remake. The film was amongst my first and hadn't aged very well. My main criticism of it was its lack of any theme or meaningful story. Most that had watched it thought it was somehow deep because of its open-ended nature, and various hints at a possible meaning. I, however, knew that it actually wasn't about anything, so i decided my next attempt at this style of film would be the exact opposite in this regard.
Evolution Of Masterpiece:
I started writing a short script titled: Masque De Conformité. The story took place in a society where everyone wears masks. The main character no longer wants to wear her mask but is pressured by her husband to do so. The film ends with them kissing with their masks on. The final scene shows an audience watching the film in a theater, also wearing masks, and one by one they all leave except for one, who considers taking hers off. The main theme of the script was about conforming to society. I liked the direction this first script was going but was set on shooting on 8mm film. The scripts short one-page length was to accommodate this format, and in my mind, the film only worked if shot in this format. I needed something else.
I had recently discovered the light tunnels in OKC and had intended on shooting something there. I started developing a script more in line with Somniac that featured a female main character that took place partially in these light tunnels.
My next script is the one that became Masterpiece. Eventually, I came up with the idea to have a clone of the main character that wears a mask. The main character was going to be a painter and ends up meeting the embodiment of one of her paintings (the Jester) in this other world. However, in the real world, the main character is discarding this painting along with several others by throwing them in a fire. This was to end up happening while the masked version of the main character in this other world pours kerosene onto the embodiment of the painting, and then proceeds to set him on fire. Before being set on fire, the Jester had given the main character a painting created by himself. This is all consistent with the final film, but the part with the main character burning paintings in the real world was cut.
Cut Content From Film:
In the final draft of the script, several things that were shot ended up getting cut from the film. After the Jester is killed by the masked version of the main character, the main character (we call her Lucy) is in distress. A scene where she is stumbling down the hallway crying was filmed. This scene featured a solid performance from our actress (Macy Smith) but ended up getting rushed. I determined the scene wasn't good enough to make it into the film. Proceeding this scene Lucy was to encounter"The Moderator," played by me. The Moderator is another persona inside Lucy's head that helps her realize that she can put an end to the Masked Lucy's destruction. Audio of the conversation between these two characters was recorded, and it was to play over the cut scene. This also ended up getting cut.
Thematic Elements of the Final Film:
Masterpiece is ironic in the sense that its an Art film about Art. Criticism is the major theme that plays out in the film. The masked Lucy represents criticism through her obvious dislike of the protagonist's artwork. Many match cuts are made in the film to show that these two characters are actually the same. criticism is responsible for Lucy's lack of inspiration at the beginning of the film, this same criticism In the end, is what killed the Jester.
My goal with Masterpiece was to make a statement about how too much criticism over one's own work will, in the end, kill your work by not letting it grow into something else. To put it another way, criticism can keep you from creating new works because you may have no faith that anything you do will ever end up being good. I was hoping to address this issue in Masterpiece and I believe in some ways I was able to succeed. I think its major flaw is that some of the polarizing imagery in the film doesn't lend itself to inspiring people, which was the goal of the film. However, I am proud of what it accomplished technically and narratively.