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Meet Your Maker

on Tue, 02/04/2014 - 00:00

To say that Pittsburgh cousins Justin and Pat Francart are fans of the classic television show The Twilight Zone is an understatement. “Genre programs, especially The Twilight Zone, are the zenith of TV storytelling to us,” they enthusiastically explain. “Their fable-like presentation is such an anachronism now, but to assume that presentation is therefore useless is a mistake. The anthology format meant that Rod Serling could experiment with form and thematic content. The Twilight Zone didn’t have to parade out the clichés of affable characters and predictable relationship and plot developments like serialized television. And it didn’t have to pretend to be reality. Serling stepped on screen each week and told us a story—here is the setting and here are the characters.”

Justin and Pat Francart have duplicated that style of storytelling with Meet Your Maker, a short film “about science, but told with one foot planted firmly in the realm of the fantastic.” Meet Your Maker also has a philosophical bent, however, as the age-old question of science-versus-religion plays a central role within the narrative. Did God create the universe, or did life form because of a series of random coincidences? Within Meet Your Maker, Dr. Henry Malvoy (John Amplas) is firmly on the side of science as opposed to a Higher Being. “Just because life arose here does not mean Earth was designed specifically to support it,” he tells a reporter for a theologically-focused magazine. “And humans have always been at the mercy of the planet’s natural processes. Given our fragile existence, your creator is either irresponsible or has no vested interest in the lives of humans.”

Those words will come back to haunt Henry Malvoy when he uses the underground Hadron Collider at his research facility to successfully reproduces a miniaturized “Big Bang” reflective of the initial event that created the entire universe. Malvoy is searching for the Higgs boson, a particle theorized to exist by a team of scientists in 1964 that would in effect prove the contemporary Standard Model of Particle Physics, including why objects retain mass. In 1993, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman published a mainstream book in which he nicknamed the Higgs boson the “God Particle,” arguing that the Higgs boson contains the fingerprints of a Higher Being and that confirmation of its existence would likewise prove the existence of God.

Like most real-world scientists, Dr. Henry Malvoy of Meet Your Maker dismisses such an idea, as well as the nickname, as mere “sensationalism” designed to sell books, magazines and newspapers. While Malvoy’s pursuit of the Higgs boson gives Meet Your Maker a firm scientific foundation, the results of his experiment set up the “fantastic” elements of the narrative. Science fiction is at its best when it showcases the dangers of scientific research that stretch human boundaries, causing mankind to play the role of God in the process. Although Henry Malvoy may believe that God is “either irresponsible or has no vested interest in the lives of humans,” he soon discovers how prophetic his words really are when his research leads to unexpected results.

Meet Your Maker is filmed in gritty black-and-white, with a tension-filled and at times bombastic musical score that gives it a 1950s texture. That particular decade is often considered the Golden Age of Science Fiction, with a number of big-screen motion picture releases that include The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Meet Your Maker serves as a contemporary counterpart to such classics. More importantly, Justin and Pat Francart are able to duplicate the style of The Twilight Zone television show—Pittsburgh veteran Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille even serves as “host” in much the same way as Rod Serling did in the 1950s—as well as the substance of the series with a reality-tinged fictional storyline that makes one pause and think about the philosophical ramifications after viewing the film.

“It’s a story about discovery and inadvertent creation,” Justin and Pat Francart explained of Meet Your Maker in February 2013 while raising funds for the project on Kickstarter. “It’s a story about responsibility” The Twilight Zone elements and similarities, meanwhile, were intentional. “We want to recreate that kind of storytelling and present our viewers with a story that does not simply make it easy for them to suspend their disbelief, but makes them want to suspend it,” they added. “It’s a story about current events, but strained through an imaginative filter. We want to explore the height of mankind’s grasp and the consequences of his reaching.”

Justin Francart had already achieved recognition as a screenwriter before Meet Your Maker, with entries in both the 2011 New Orleans Horror Film Festival and the 2012 Screamfest Horror Film Festival. Pat Francart, meanwhile, is a graduate of Point Park University and Pittsburgh Filmmakers and has had films shown at the Film Kitchen, the SoCal Film Festival and the Big Easy International Film Festival. In addition to John Amplas and Bill Cardille, Meet Your Maker also includes the Pittsburgh acting talents of Nathan Hollabaugh, Kevin Koch, Zanny Laird, Dave Mansueto, Cori Shetter and Jonathan Visser.

“I’m not what you think,” Dr. Henry Malvoy explains at the end of Meet Your Maker. “I’m a scientist. I designed the parameters of the experiment. Your creation was the accidental byproduct of the experiment.” In its own way, Meet Your Maker thus proves that the Higgs bosom doesn’t just unify the current theories of particle physics but proves the existence of God as well—it’s just not the God that anyone was expecting.

Anthony Letizia

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