To slightly skew Marshall MacLuhan’s famous saying “the medium is the message”, I think it’s also fair to say that art should be designed for the medium for which it was intended. For example, a film like Where the Wild Things Are is meant to be seen on a big screen, where it is arguable that a movie such as Love Happens has no real big-screen advantage. I’ve always considered it plus when a story comes to be through whatever medium by utilizing that medium to the story’s advantage. And such a story is Girl Number 9, that latest work by Dan Turner and James Moran (writer of various Doctor Who and Torchwood episodes, as well the brilliant horror-comedy Severance).
According to an interview with Scott Weinberg, Moran and Turner decided on the format first and built the story around it. They built it around the internet, which was a good move considering the viral marketing that can get your work seen by millions in the blink of an eye. Girl Number 9 is told in six episodes coming to a total of a little under thirty minutes. So about the length of a TV show, or a longish short film. Gareth David-Lloyd (who played Ianto Jones on Torchwood) is Detective Matheson; he and the police has finally caught a serial killer they believe is responsible for the horrible deaths of seven girls. Apparently the killer only wants to talk to Matheson, for reasons that turn out to be core-chillingly frightening. I won’t give away any more of the plot, considering the length of the film. The key to writing for the internet seems to be to keep it tight, keep it fresh, keep it to the point and don’t meander, lest you loose the attention of your audience. And keep that attention tightly in your grasp.
Moran and Turner have done a bang-up job with GN9. I waited until all six episodes were online, though I still had to watch them one at a time, and every time I was screaming at my computer to hurry up and load them (can’t imagine the state I would have been in if I watched each one as it was uploaded). More is packed into this than in some seasons of television shows – but in the best way possible. I mean more emotionally, psychologically, and most definitely physically. Moran and Turner strip the story down, giving just enough dialogue and information so that the viewer cannot help but be completely engaged. Through this bare-bones operation, they are able to get at the core of the story quickly and effectively, without unnecessary setup or fanfare, making it all the more tangibly real and frightening.
Not only have the creators made a story perfectly suited for the internet, but they also take full advantage of the size of the screen the film will be viewed on. The scenes are tight, set in small places with usually only a few characters. The scenes between Matheson and the killer, Boylan are brilliantly composed. Matheson goes from the moody darkness of the police squad room, where everyone hides their eyes from the lack of light and pays little attention, to the bright, tiny interrogation room where he cannot hide literally or figuratively from Boylan’s insane proposition. Boylan, in his white prisoner jumpsuit, is certainly not an angel, but the whiteness gives him an air of purity: he is pure in his sadism, with a mind that will not try to hide behind rules and regulations of society or the police.
I am a great lover of short stories and short films because of work such as GN9: no muss, no fuss, just get to the story and have your audience riveted fast and dirty.
Girl Number 9 can be viewed for free at www.canyousaveher.com until the end of November, after which it will be available on DVD.