“A work of art is the work plus the packaging” (Alexander Rodchenko, influential 20th Century graphic designer, and a founder of modern advertising).
Opening in limited release September 7, James Bradshaw’s first feature film Branded confronts the audience with a dark, paranoid, hallucinogenic dystopia. It’s one man’s journey to expose a frightening global conspiracy. Talking with him last month at Comic-Con San Diego, I’m reminded of Philip K. Dick (who was brilliant at creating forbidding, terrifying, yet familiar dreamscapes and landscapes in his novels and their translations to film in Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, etc.). Bradshaw mentions Alice in Wonderland in describing the world into which his hero tumbles.
But Branded brings the sense of fear and paranoia much closer to home—as close as your personal mobile phone. As close as your daily life. We all have them; we happily snap them from posters, mailings, websites, even store shelves. They are the increasingly ubiquitous QR codes—those black and white scanner codes that bring us special offers and information; that let us into the movie theatre or onto your plane when we’ve bought e-tickets.
But what if, ponders Bradshaw in Branded, those innocent, op-art scanner codes had a more sinister purpose, say, mind control? What if the “work” embedded in the packaging is to control what we buy, read, or even who you are?
As Branded‘s hero is drawn further and further “down the rabbit hole,” explained Bradshaw, he sinks into a world that is ultimately “not of this earth.” Although I’ve not yet screened the movie (visit the official site for clips and trailers) it seems a natural extension for marketing pro Bradshaw, who explained that filmmaking and marketing are more connected than you might think. He also drew much of his inspiration from many years spent living in Russia and immersing himself in Russian culture.
For a first feature, especially, Branded features an impressive cast that includes legendary Max von Sydow, Ed Stoppard, and Jeffery Tambor; it is distributed by Roadside Attractions.
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