By Stephen Lamm (Los Angeles, CA)


November 3, 2015

Writer, Director, Producer John Taschner will generate buzz at this week’s American Film Market. His eight-minute short, Gen RX is Taschner’s latest filmmaking achievement since showcasing his documentary, Life’s a Dive at the Cannes Film Festival.

As a dystopian action thriller, Gen RX has been inspired by the YA genre, which includes such recent successes as The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Divergent franchises. Set in the near future, Gen RX imagines a world that has been ravaged by an uncontrollable outbreak of the Ebola virus. In response to the pandemic, the United States government issues a mandatory daily pill to all of its citizens. A strong-willed young woman, Sarah (Melissa Marie Elias) determines to stop taking the pill at the risk of the government’s harmful intervention tactics.

Gen RX accomplishes the difficult feat of being socially relevant, without being preachy or boring. Grappling with larger issues, such as the state of health care, immigration, and the extent of government authority, Taschner enriches his film with a wealth of timely political subtext.

Despite the films’ many twists and turn, including a tantalizing cliffhanger at the end, Taschner manages to keep a steady tone throughout. He depicts the future with a sense of haunting foreboding: a sterile, impersonal land, which has all but sunk humanity in its mechanical way of life. Throughout the city streets, massive billboards run on an endless loop, reminding citizens to take their pill; even in the airports, “take your pill” flashes incessantly like a digital advertisement that one simply cannot escape. In spite of this litany of government propaganda, Taschner presents a world that is both relatable and recognizable. Similar to that of Spike Jonze’s Her, Gen RX takes place in a future that is sometimes austere, but always convincing.

Clearly a rising star in the industry, Taschner puts his many talents on display despite being merely eighteen years of age. During a critical scene, in which Sarah admits to skipping her daily dosage, Taschner employs a sudden rack-focus, momentarily shifting the audience’s attention as if to simulate Sarah’s growing paranoia (3:05). Taschner executes the rack-focus without calling attention to his own direction, already proving a master at guiding the eye of his viewer. Taschner’s selection of dirty, and over-the-shoulder shots also serve the story, playing up the uncomfortable, claustrophobic atmosphere engendered by constant government surveillance.

In addition to Taschner’s thoughtful shot selection, he incorporates found sounds on multiple occasions to subtly dictate the mood of his film. After the opening credits, Taschner infuses a cacophony of seemingly dissonant noises: police sirens, the PA system at a football game, and a speech proclaiming “a super race” (1:24). These sounds collide – a collage of distinct, but related elements – to create a suitably disturbing introduction to a futuristic society that has been plagued by disease. Taschner succeeds to a similar effect, when he blares a car alarm in the background the very moment Sarah crushes her daily pill into the cement (2:16). Within the world of Gen RX, every frame and sound reflects a great deal of forethought from its director.

For its superb storytelling and execution, Gen RX has already been recognized at several festivals and competitions, including Best Experimental Film at the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Ripe for adaptation, particularly as an hour-long drama series, Gen RX should make waves at the upcoming American Film Market.


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