We may not know what happens after we die, but a gripping new sci-fi short explores one intriguing possibility: In the future, our bodies are used as energy, and our minds are uploaded to the Internet. But what happens when someone longs for their former connection to the outside world? That's how The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker begins, and from there, it takes off running.
Liam Dow, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker
The film's opening sequence introduces us to the Gray Hat Hacker himself, played by the film's creator and co-writer, Liam Dow. Gray Hat explains that when he died, his memories and connection to the outside world were lost. From there, he was recruited into an exclusive organization, a band of hackers serving to protect the various realms of the Internet. When his recruiter Marina (Leslie Stratton) and his mentor Zetronius (LeRoyal Tutt) wind up missing, Gray Hat sets off on a mission to find them. Joined by an AI device named Petri, voiced by the film's director, writer, and editor, Beau Garner, Gray Hat embarks across a vast, deserted wilderness, battling life-threatening conditions along the way. Appearing at the height of conflict later on are villains Gaunt and Virus, played by Sharard Baker and Brennan Mejia.
The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker
The futuristic reality this short depicts is somewhat reminiscent of a Black Mirror episode, but with its own unique twist. It's chock full of action-packed sequences skillfully coordinated by Tutt, with some of the more complicated moves executed by stunt double Joey Wilson. It also features a top-notch crew, which no project is complete without. Marco Bottiglieri was the production's director of photography, with entertaining visual effects by Abu Saleh Badhon, and color correcting by Peter Schwartz and Peter Fabiny. Despic Zeljko provided great sound design, and Nick Carignan was the production sound mixer. Costume designer Madison Wright put a creative, Dr. Who-like spin on Gray Hat's costume, while the rest of the cast wore hooded robes or subtle attire with pops of futuristic elements. The costumes were further enhanced by makeup artist Kendall Norton.
Liam Dow and Leslie Stratton, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker
As far as this critic is concerned, The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker is a success. In just twelve and a half minutes, a compelling and original story is told, and it manages to maintain the complexity sci-fi commands without overwhelming the viewer. But with such a skilled group of actors working alongside each other, and a crew that spent hours of time and effort getting every element right, it's no surprise. The short, produced by Clear Blue 22 and K.O. Pow Productions, is already making waves at film festivals. At the Hollywood Gold Awards this year, the short won seven awards, including Gold Awards for Sci-Fi, Best Original Story, and Best Visual Effects, and Silver Awards for Best Production Design, Best Producer, Best Editing, and Best Sound Design. At the Vegas Film Festival, the short also earned awards for Best Sci-Fi, Best 1st Time Director, and Best Young Actor.
Garner, who said he spent hours in post production making sure the short came to life, is thrilled at the response it's getting from audiences and critics alike.
"I speak on behalf of the entire cast and crew by saying we are incredibly honored that all of our hard work is being received so well," he said. "This project was a labor of love for me."
When asked if there are any more festivals the cast and crew are looking forward to, Garner said yes.
"We're looking forward to potentially winning more awards and hopefully finding someone to finance this as a full feature film."
For more updates on The Adventures of the Gray Hat Hacker, follow @kopowfilms on Twitter and Instagram.