First feature filmmaker Kenton Bartlett's efforts of putting his words into action may be doubted by some to be ambitious, but the painstaking efforts placed forth by the 588 strong cast and crew volunteers made this a community film project that we can learn much from. Missing Pieces might have turned out to be drastically different from how Bartlett perceived it to be during pre-production phase, but it will definitely be the missing piece that will prove to complete and fulfill his life and ours.
This is a story about a man who's lost everything and his misguided attempts to put it back together. Missing Pieces is an emotional enigma about love and loneliness... and a kidnapping.
David (Mark Boone Jr. - Batman Begins, Memento, Sons of Anarchy) tries again and again to win back the love of his life, Delia (Melora Walters - Magnolia, Cold Mountain, Big Love), but she's not having it. As the situation turns hopeless, David concocts a master scheme that will surely win her back and turn it all around.
Through interwoven, poignant vignettes, this multi-plot tale unfolds and untangles into a truly unique and heartfelt love story about finding hope when all is lost.
Missing Pieces isn't a production championed by a team of professional filmmakers, instead the crew mostly consists of individuals who are solely driven by their steadfast passion for film. Kenton Bartlett is one and together with other collaborators, he has managed to successfully complete his first ever feature film after beginning production in September 2009.
Production began in Fall 2009 and completes post-production phase around Summer this year, it is a lengthy affair to even begin with especially when so many people are involved on a pro-bono basis. Not forgetting the pre-production phase that probably began about a year or less before. For a first-time filmmaker, it is a daunting project of a massive scale to take up.
There's of course the option of making short films first to explore techniques and genre styles, which is also more economical and less time-consuming/frustrating, before deciding the right path that leads to a feature film eventually. This remains arguably Bartlett's personal choice and decision, but for his determined pursuit of his first feature it earns my respect.
I've seen how it'd transformed Bartlett (and possibly the other crew members) over the span of 2 to 3 years in the half hour behind-the-scenes footage. I've heard the true voice of Bartlett's 2 hours commentary in its entirety during my second viewing. To be honest, all his sorrows and woes were deeply felt. There must be someplace within him that felt a potential sense of discouragement and regret at several points throughout the production.
Thankfully for a dedicated cast and crew that he has by him, Missing Pieces is possible.
Everybody needs somebody.
Is there a personal story behind Bartlett's scripted premise of seeing a lonesome man, who suffers from a strained relationship with his partner after a car accident, taking to kidnapping two strangers who live across his apartment and try to inspire scenarios and get them to fall in love with each other?
A peculiar premise, but nevertheless intriguing as fresh film material. Missing Pieces feels somewhat like a film that's one of a kind that doesn't stick to conventional filmmaking rules. For a start, the first half hour or so may be frustrating to watch as a series of montage edited scenes provide a lot of confusion to its foundation premise. Mentally challenging to keep up, but I believe the entire film is edited with the inspiration of a jigsaw puzzle in mind.
Every piece is scattered about randomly, it takes time and patience to piece them all together before one gets to see the big picture.
With the film attempting to start from end and constantly going backwards and forward all the time, nothing makes sense until the middle act (alright, to say that this film has acts doesn't quite feel right) or rather, the second hour. It has scenes of four different main characters - David & Delia, and Daylen & Maggie.
As David drifts apart from Delia, Daylen and Maggie draws closer to each other. There is this subtle (yet disturbing) sense of irony that a couple who's been together for a long time through thick and thin eventually finds it difficult to rekindle and accept love, while two strangers who meet over barely a couple of days fall in love so naturally. While David believed in recovering lost love, Delia doesn't. While Daylen and Maggie weren't looking out for love, they both did.
All four of them featured a personal story before the happenings in this film. Daylen and Maggie both experience family issues that have shrouded their lives with an aura of unhappiness, but the film features flashback sweet memories of David and Delia before their relationship standoff.
Again, yet another ironic contrast.
Bartlett has revealed that he had intended for all four interwoven tales to be of equal weightage, but of course things didn't go on course and ended up with some characters having more screen time than others. This is where I would have preferred to have what was intended initially as I would really have loved to see more of Delia's story as Melora Walters gave a very good poignant and bittersweet dilemma-driven performance that tagged at my strings of emotion.
Likewise for Mark Boone Junior.
Production values appear to be much higher than what the film's purported eighty thousand dollars can offer, especially with the photography by Jonathan Arturo that captured some mesmerising scenic landscape "money" shots albeit a tad bit overexposed in my opinion for certain minute scenes where there's a high dynamic range (or was it an after-effect of the post-production film treatment?). But this is hardly a fault of err on the team, in mind that these are enthusiastic first time filmmakers and the anamorphic visuals rendered by the Red One are already so incredible for a budget production.
The music in this film accentuated the film's melancholic/brooding theme very well and feels soothing to the ears and senses. From the behind-the-scenes footage, I've also learnt that some money went into hiring the services of an English strings orchestra. This is a pleasant surprise because music is one of the undervalued production aspect that people tend to overlook. Admittedly, there's some inconsistency with the sound recordings, but again in support of my above statement of first time filmmakers this isn't just to be factored in.
While the fragmented editing and convoluted core story arc does easily turn away audience members with less patience, Missing Pieces does excel by giving us a fantastic moodboard that doesn't feature any distinct plot elements besides having the kidnapping plot device to drive the film forward. Along that line of thought, I can't help but feel that this would have been a powerful film reel for pitching to entice investors if done as a short film project. But when that happens, filmmakers tend to lose control over their film under the commercial pressure of shareholders.
This is truly the first missing piece to completing Bartlett's dreams of becoming an established filmmaker. Great effort by Kenton Bartlett and his team, I can't wait to see their next planned feature film - When It's Cold, I'll Keep You Warm!
Check out more about this film on its Facebook page here and do help support this film and get it out to more people by viewing and liking their trailer clip on Youtube here!
(Photographic materials from Missing Pieces Facebook Page)