Emergency Is a Darkly Comedic Look at a Very Serious Situation
BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
Filmmakers Carey Williams and Joenique Rose on how they balanced drama and humor in their ABFF short about friends who find themselves in a potentially life-threatening scenario.
Among the short film finalists of the 2018 American Black Film Festival is Emergency. The 12-minute suspenseful comedy follows two friends, Kunle and Sean, and their roommate Carlos — all men of color — who come home to find an intoxicated, unconscious white woman splayed on their living room floor. Kunle wants to call for help while Sean, skeptical of how the scene would be perceived, suggests the three call in a favor from a friend.
“My plan was to walk in the room and boldly state Emergency is a drama,” said director Carey Williams with a laugh. “These guys see the world differently in this moment, so I wanted to explore what that does to their friendship.”
He pitched his thinking to producer Joenique Rose and writer Kristen Davila, who penned the script as a comedy based on true events. The finished product blends dark comedy with drama and grounds the narrative struggle in Kunle and Sean’s opposing points of view.
Davila, Williams and Rose came to work on the award-winning short via Film Independent’s Project Involve mentorship program. The initiative selects up-and-coming talent from diverse backgrounds and skill sets and offers them the resources to make a film.
“We all worked really well together,” Rose said of the group and acknowledged there were some challenges. The actress who played the unconscious woman, for example, had a scheduling conflict during filming, which forced Williams to get creative with how he framed scenes that were supposed to feature the actress. “I had a lot more shots with her in it to keep the tension of this problem these friends had to deal with,” said Williams. “But I think it works,” he said of the result. Rose concurred: “It definitely works.”
The result is an amalgam of nail-biting thrills, laugh-out-loud blunders and realistic unease that upends what should have been a typical school night. And because the unconscious woman’s whiteness is at the forefront, systemic racism and mistrust of police are the unseen, feared villains. “Everyone knows what these men are going through is a serious situation,” Williams said. “But we strived to honor it as a comedy with a dramatic breath at the end.”
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