As an award-winner at the recent SeriesFest, “Anamnesis” is a sci-fi thriller that takes the common theme of dreams foreshadowing reality and executes it with a precision that elevates it beyond the lientery of weak-yet-well-intended webseries that tackle this popular genre.
The acting and writing (not to mention the directing, which is what scored the show’s award) is solid, but what makes “Anamnesis” compelling is the careful composition of its story arc. The debut episode briskly lays out the central theme and then carefully punctuates it with threads that act as supporting tributaries to the main flow of the dramatic narrative. What does a man having difficulty finishing his piano composition have to do with a woman whose deal to sell secrets embedded in a hard drive? And what do those elements have to do with our core theme of dreams becoming a window to life as it unfolds?
The folks behind “Anamnesis” are committed to the concept of lucid dreaming. As the show’s background notes state, season one debuted on YouTube on April 12, aka Lucid Dreaming Day. To keep the plot realistic, the creators worked with lucid dreaming expert Daniel Love, author of the book “Are You Dreaming?”
All five episodes of this Kickstarter-funded project are available on YouTube.
Words Fail Me
As a long time fan of improv, I understand spontaneous comedic action is hit and miss operation. And while I enjoyed the episodes of Robert Carter’s “Words Fail Me” that more or less hit, I found the ones that missed this side of truly uncomfortable. We have the proverbial Cracker Jack box where some of the stories about love and desperation in Chicago unveil a shiny prize while others are well beyond their expiration date.
In particular, I found the first episode, “Coffee and Sex” to be funny, charming and just enough off center to be clever in its approach. The audience gets the feeling that, while unrehearsed, the dialogue between a man and woman debating the logistics of a possible three-way, have an undercurrent of truth. Such crisp patter that puts absurd situations in somewhat believable light is the hallmark of solid improv.
Same goes for “The Script” which takes the rather crazed idea of a man being threatened by the Russian Mob in order to secure a script that is in the custody of his grilfriend. The witty dialog adds laughs and credibility to this unlikely concept. You can just imagine someone at an improv workshop yelling out the idea “The Russian Mob is after a prized script” at the local comedy club.
A handful of the episodes come close to being creepy. “The Babysitter,” in particular, in which a man comes face to face with his wife’s lover, is built on a premise that does not lend itself to snappy wordplay. “The Informant,” where a potential secret agent reveals his identity and has to be spirited away to safe harbor is both awkward and out of place in a series which focuses on love and angst.
Series creator Carter build “Words that Fail Me” with the help actors that he met while taking classes and hanging out at The Artistic Home Theatre in Chicago. On the show’s webpage, Carter explains, “I made this for a few reasons: to give dramatic actors a chance to do some comedy, to learn the workflow for developing and making improvised work on-camera before moving on to bigger-budget productions, and above all, to have fun and make you laugh!”