The Starmind Record: a review

Two aspiring filmmakers stumble upon a random event while driving along the road late one night. They find a man wandering around in a daze. When one of them touches the stranger, she is overcome with images and thought that she cannot explain and starts drawing seemingly meaningless pictures and plastering them on the walls of their apartment. Deciding to take in the person in need proves to be both much more than either had anticipated as the stranger exhibits weird behavior and an ability to communicate in a most unusual way. Being filmmakers, the two Samaritans respond in the only way they know how and document everything.

This is the Starmind Record.

Directed ad written by Tennyson Stead, the Starmind Record is a very modern independent film project in that it was supported by a kickstarter campaign (financially backed by supporters who believed in the film’s mission statement) and posted on several online streaming venues in short installments. A science fiction drama, the Starmind Record is an invigorating and bizarre story that wisely utilizes the online vlog medium while telling a compelling story with several very talented actors.

I was aware of the project long before it started up but lost track of its production and transmissions as other things got in my way. As such, I got to watch all of the Starmind Record after it had finished. The series comes off as strange at first as it purports to be a real life document of events that are taking place as the episodes are uploaded. Since I watched it in two sittings, I missed out on the effect of seeing this story unfold week to week but can appreciate the work as a whole.

Two young filmmakers in L.A., Eli Richmond and Casey Young, find Dean Ballard wandering about on the beach in a deranged state. Concerned, they take him in and their lives change forever. Dean is an enigma to them that they anxiously attempt to unravel, but the more they dig into the man the less they understand. A recovering alcoholic electrician with a wife and child, Dean Ballard is just like anyone else but he has seemingly regressed into infancy and his body has taken on completely bizarre abilities that Eli and Casey cannot explain. However, when he touches Casey, she starts drawing what Eli can only decipher as galactic star maps.

Reaching out to educated experts, Eli and Casey learn that the weird drawings that are stuck to the walls of their apartment are actually a nearly perfect map of the universe. Dean Ballard has clearly come into contact with an alien intelligence, but what should they do?

Of course, they document the whole thing and Eli and Casey become more alienated from each other as the situation becomes unstable. Both Eli and Casey  treat Dean as a surrogate child which is actually touch early on until you realize how wrong it all is. The more people become involved, the more dangerous everything becomes until both the federal government and overcome zealots are knocking on their door.

Actors Gerard Marzilli, Charlotte Gallagher and Matthew David McCallum are outstanding as the regulars in this multi-part serial and their performances maintain a believablility to the project. Gerard in particular is outstanding as the somewhat easy going and sensitive Eli, especially in the later parts when he becomes unhinged. Likewise Charlotte acts as a point of reference to sanity and compassion… until she clearly isn’t anymore. I was completely taken off guard at her later transformation as I had come to rely on her character as being wholesome and gentle.

Tennyson Stead craftily composes a descent into madness that is made all the more compelling as it is so innocent at first. The bulk of the heavy lifting of course goes to Matthew David McCallum whose portrayal of the deranged and simple Dean Ballard is so very direct and honest that his transformation in the conclusion is all the more disturbing. I found myself muttering ‘I hate gin’ weeks after I had watched the program, a line that will carry some meaning for viewers.

I have an association with the film makers, but that hardly tainted my appreciation of the Starmind Record. It is a remarkable series that will have the while sci-fi world talking soon enough. An intelligent and gripping low-fi drama, the Starmind Record is exactly the kind of movie that you should be watching.

But judge for yourselves:

For more information, please visit the home of the Starmind Record at 8-Sided Films and delve deeper into their other projects.