Lawrence student creates “Standstill

Olivia Hendricks

Over the next month, Lawrence student Micah Paisner will be asking Lawrentians to apply their cinematic eyes to critique his movie “Standstill” at a test screening.
This past summer, Paisner, an English major, wrote the screenplay for the 50-minute movie. Friends from high school joined Paisner in producing the film by assisting as actors, directors and technicians. One of these friends included fellow Lawrentian Magdalena Waz, who acted in the movie and helped develop the storyline.
Both Waz and Paisner took a video production class in high school and acting classes at Lawrence to further understand the aspects of filmmaking. While in previous summers they had produced films without a formal script, this past summer, Paisner wanted to try his hand at writing dialogue, a subject in which he is particularly interested.
Using some stock characters they had begun developing in earlier films, like the character Waz plays as the “person who doesn’t have the right idea of what to say but ends up being more insightful” or the character Paisner plays who “is obviously terrible but wants to be better – and fails,” Paisner drew a general outline for “Standstill.”
His ultimate goal was to put together a character study and examination of conflict between individuals. According to Paisner, the movie “is all about the way people interact with each other.”
The setting of “Standstill” lends itself to this exploration of human relationships. The film takes place entirely in a home inhabited by five friends, with the exception of dream sequences, which take place outside.
With the way Paisner portrays the house, however, it might as well be a deserted island, as it seems like the friends are bound to the location and detached from the outside world. The house itself is empty and neutral, so the entire focus shifts to its inhabitants.
The main character, Daniel, has been sleeping for three days and cannot be woken up. The other four friends wait patiently at his bedside; their only source of diversion is each other. Daniel does not interact directly for the most part, but his dream sequences exaggerate the relationships developing in the conscious world.
The downside of Paisner’s attempt to focus on human interaction means that at times, the film feels like a teen soap opera; some of the lines seem to have come straight from “Degrassi” or “7th Heaven.” But looking past the clichés, the awkward sexual tension that Paisner admits inadvertently worked its way into the film and the inexperienced acting, “Standstill” does hint at some sophisticated and relevant themes.
The most memorable quotes in the film poignantly communicate an interpretation of what stunts the growth of human relationships. Alex, one of the friends, comments, “Maybe something big needs to happen … maybe that’s the only way we’ll get to know each other.”
Interestingly, this “something big” does happen in the form of Daniel’s health crisis, but the characters don’t seem to reveal anything further about themselves or grow significantly closer. In the closing scene, the characters find themselves watching horse races on TV, feeling “useless” and hoping it is the last Saturday they “sit around doing nothing.”
This contrast between the movement on the television screen and the idle situation of the couch potatoes becomes representative of Paisner’s interpretation of relationships, symbolized in other various ways throughout the film.
Rather than accepting everyday opportunities to get to know one another and reveal who they are, humans wait for the perfect “big” situation to assist them in growing closer.
Of course, even when this situation comes around, people find that developing relationships still depends on the initiative of individuals.