Local anthology film Mono features direction from five Oklahoma filmmakers 

Like Greek gods taking their turns to test the mettle of a single mortal soul, an all-star cast of six Oklahoma directors team up for the anthology film Mono, which follows one extraordinary day in the life of an otherwise ordinary woman.

Oklahoma Gazette first reported on the film project by directors Mickey Reece, Jacob Leighton Burns, Laron Chapman, Cait Brasel and John Burton in early April. Each director helms their own short film with the same central character, played by actress Lindsay Fritts. When stitched together, these short films represent one narrative day.

Mono will make its debut 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Tower Theatre, 425 NW 23rd St. Tickets are $10, and all proceeds going to NewView Oklahoma, a nonprofit dedicated to the empowerment of blind and visually impaired individuals.

click to enlarge from left actresses Mary Bus, Callie Fay Nichols, Maya Staggs and Lindsay Fritts play a dysfunctional family in the Mono short film “My Dinner with Jimmy.” | Image provided
  • from left actresses Mary Bus, Callie Fay Nichols, Maya Staggs and Lindsay Fritts play a dysfunctional family in the Mono short film “My Dinner with Jimmy.” | Image provided

Film fabric

The directors held an open casting call and meetup April 13 at The Paramount OKC and filmed the movie through May. The resulting film is one with strong stylistic shifts through its five chapters, though Mono never feels disjointed. It might be best to think of Mono as a bunch of different episodes in the same television series.

The story begins with “Pivotal,” a chapter directed by Brasel, Mono’s lone female voice in the director pool. Molly, the central character played by Fritts, has partied all night. At daybreak, Molly, who is in her late 20s, tells a character who appears to be her boyfriend that she is leaving for her routine morning run at the lake before going to work.

Her boyfriend, afraid for her health and safety, tries to convince her to take a short nap at the apartment instead (while also possibly pressuring her into sex). But she insists on her run anyway, and the events that follow in this chapter and others represent Molly’s long trek through delirium.

Molly begins her jog, which features beautiful early morning shots of Lake Hefner. She is bumped into by another runner, who passes her. A little later, a sports car comes racing down the road. Molly rushes ahead to the scene, surely already knowing the runner ahead of her is in peril.

Sure enough, as the stopped car comes into view, Molly sees the bloodied runner on road, clinging to life. She and the driver of the car have little time to respond and watch as he takes his last breath.

click to enlarge Lindsay Fritts as Molly in the Mono short film “The Woman in the Red Dress.” | Image provided
  • Lindsay Fritts as Molly in the Mono short film “The Woman in the Red Dress.” | Image provided

Somehow, Molly still has to go to work after all of this, which begins the next chapter of the film, “Command,” directed by Burton. Where “Pivotal” put Molly in a bizarre situation, “Command” is downright surreal. The black-and-white short shows Molly at her generic desk job with her coworker friend, played brilliantly by Ashley Mandanas.

They both resent a particularly annoying colleague played by Jacob Ryan Snovel. As a prank, Molly’s friend enters a command that allows her to control the coworker’s computer remotely. Through either magic or an unexplained mystery of the internet, the friend discovers that she is not only in control of the coworker’s computer, but his bodily movements as well. Lighthearted fun with the discovery gets out of hand, and soon, a major accident occurs.

Color returns as viewers are taken into the next chapter. A shot shows Molly entering her car after work, overwhelmed by the day she has had so far. She drives to her parents’ house for a scheduled family dinner. Reece’s “My Dinner with Jerry” shows off Molly’s dysfunctional family, including her mother (played by actress Mary Buss), father (Patrick Dean) and sisters Renee (Callie Fay Nichols) and Vivian (Maya Staggs).

There is turmoil in the house. Mom and Dad are not speaking to each other. Fourteen-year-old Vivian is dating (and having unprotected sex with) a 19-year-old man. Renee invites over a friend of a friend, Jerry (Mason Giles), as an attempt to set him up with Molly, knowing she already has a boyfriend.

Unsurprisingly, the dinner starts and finishes awkwardly. Molly leaves the house and travels to a club after getting a text from a mysterious number she thinks might be from an ex. In a film full of dreamy twists, Chapman’s “The Woman in the Red Dress” might be the most abstract sequence. Characters fade in and out, and the audience can never be sure what is real and what isn’t. The entire visit reads like Molly’s personal, lucid nightmare.

The final chapter in the anthology belongs to Burns, who delivers sci-fi short “Danger Boy.” After a long day, Molly is visited in her home by a group of mysterious government agents looking for an unidentified, but apparently dangerous “little boy.” Molly tells them she has not seen the child, but after the agents leave, she discovers him running around the house.

The boy doesn’t speak but makes it quite clear that he wants to go home — wherever that is. The agents come back in a hunt for the child, but with strong shades of Stranger Things, they soon discover they’re up against more than they ever imagined.

click to enlarge Lindsay Fritts as Molly in the Mono short film “Pivotal.” | Image provided
  • Lindsay Fritts as Molly in the Mono short film “Pivotal.” | Image provided

Key development

Each director’s style is apparent in their segment. Burton, for example, showcases clean montage sequences and up-close shots with a lot of detail. Reece’s chapter is full of shadows with content focused on relational drama and dark humor.

Mono is an important moment in local movies because it represents the crossing over of different film camps that usually do not overlap a lot. It would be interesting to see another anthology project in the future, maybe with different directors and tied to a certain theme instead of a specific character under a semi-narrative plot.

But even if a follow-up never occurs, Mono is a solid Oklahoma success story.

Print headline: Mano y Mono; Diverse artistic visions shine in the anthology film Mono featuring direction from five Oklahoma filmmakers.

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