Without Precedent Film Festival: Screening Room

Chris Cascarano and Samantha Allen's High Notes, a Without Precedent Film Festival 48-hour contest finalist, is the latest film to premiere.

Over the entirety of April and May, Talkhouse will be premiering the out-of-competition films and the five finalists from the Without Precedent Film Festival, which features shortform work made entirely by filmmakers currently in quarantine or lockdown due to COVID-19. Keep coming back to the Screening Room throughout this month to watch all the films. 

High Notes
By Chris Cascarano & Samantha Allen

Amid a global pandemic, one house isn’t big enough for two driven “artists.”

Chris Cascarano is a Chicago-based writer and director. His work has appeared in the The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vimeo Staff Picks and NoBudge.com. He is also a visual artist and compulsively tinkers with mopeds, cars, lenses, and locks. He is currently in preproduction on a feature film.

Samantha Allen is a dance and performance artist. Her work has been shown in Los Angeles, NYC, Chicago and Puebla, Mexico. Sam is the co-founder of INSTITUT IDGAF and regularly collaborates with director Chris Cascarano as an actor, production designer and producer. She’s an editor by day and also sells vintage art and furniture at her studio in West Town.

Five Years
by Jena Nixon & Shane Simmons

Jena kicked off the idea … “I had this dream that the reason for quarantine was something else entirely. So we made this. I wanted to imagine a post internet world where instead you had to send something physical to someone. Which makes it more meaningful. Basically, I was inspired by J.J. Abrams’ 90s WB show, Felicity. She and her friend Sally would send each other audio tapes in the mail. I always liked that.” — Jena Nixon and Shane Simmons

Jena Nixon owns a small business, Gold Noise DJs, in the wedding and event industry. She also DJs for spots like Three Dots and a Dash, and Beauty Bar. For fun, she does comedic live storytelling at shows like The Blackout Diaries, and occasionally does stand-up at open mics. Yet under the circumstances, she hasn’t left the house in weeks, and hasn’t worn anything form-fitting in months. Her two dogs, Luke & Scallop, are judging her.

Shane Simmons is a producer, actor, and head of original content at Strange Loop. He recently produced Kendall Goldberg’s debut feature When Jeff Tried to Save the World, as well as Michael Glover Smith’s Mercury in Retrograde, and Stephen Cone’s Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party. He also helps run the non-profit Elevated Films, which creates first-run independent film events and directs proceeds to youth arts programs in Chicago. Shane has a passion to champion films that dig deeper into human connection and offer a new perspective of our world and what it might become. A Chicagoan by way of Iowa, he is excited to continue building the independent film community in his adopted home.

Finalist: Without Precedent Film Festival 48-Hour Filmmaking Challenge
By Joe Zarrow

I taped my cellphone to the window behind our bird-feeder and was pleased to get footage of three birds jockeying for position for food. That, plus the shortage of flour at local grocery stores, inspired the short. My work tends to be dark and sardonic, but something about working under a tight deadline brings out the sweetness. — Joe Zarrow

Joe Zarrow is a playwright, actor, and filmmaker. Joe’s school satire Principal Principle premiered in Chicago (Joseph Jefferson Award Nomination, Best New Play) and has been produced in cities ranging from Atlanta to Auckland. Favorite roles have included Jeffrey in The Totalitarians (Theatre Nova), Max in Comedy of Tenors (Tipping Point Theatre – Wilde Award Nomination, Best Supporting Actor in a Play), Watson in The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Open Book Theatre), Alan in This (Windy City Playhouse), Tony Kushner in workshops of Calamity West’s Engines and Instruments of Flight: a Fantasia (The Goodman), and some jerk on an episode of Chicago PD. Joe trained at the School at Steppenwolf. www.joezarrow.com

Finalist: Without Precedent Film Festival 48-Hour Filmmaking Challenge
By Alana McNair and Diogo Montes

Well, I’m pregnant. So the idea for this film started from there. I was thinking a lot about being stuck inside our apartment while our child is stuck in my uterus. Then I thought about our child experiencing all of my anxieties and attempts to control my anxieties during a pandemic … mainly for her! And how I may be going wrong. Or right. Who knows. It’s an odd time to be pregnant – needing to get a bunch of check-ups and thinking about the possible reality of having a baby when none of your family can be around. This was my attempt to work through that in some way.—Alana McNair

Alana McNair is a filmmaker, writer, musician and performer based in Brooklyn, NY. She has directed film projects including the short films In the Bog, Existential Crisis, and Imminent Danger!, which screened at many festivals and was a finalist for Best Comedy Short at Dragon*Con Film Festival. She recently created a documentary web series produced by the Facial Pain Association profiling patients living with Trigeminal Neuralgia. Her work as a playwright and performer has been produced in New York and other cities around the country, including the play Fatal Attraction: A Greek Tragedy (starring Corey Feldman), Power Burn 3, Settlement, and Just Piddlin’: a dirt road operetta. She has worked as a video editor on many short films and documentaries, and currently works as a freelance video editor at Condé Nast. She has taught film production in the Department of Visual and Sound Media at Seton Hall University and at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. She is currently in development for her first feature length film as writer/director. You can see her work at alanamcnair.com

Diogo Montes is a Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary creative, originally from Rio, Brazil. He works as design director, art director, and designer for advertising, design and digital agencies. Throughout his career, he collaborated with companies like Droga5, AKQA, Havas, Brandpie, RAPP, M Booth, among others. He also focuses on creative projects for the arts & culture industry, creating concepts, identities, and experiences to amplify the impact of both artists and cultural institutions. Clients include BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, globalFEST, Fado Festival, Brasil SummerFest, Pinke Records, Som Livre, Biscoito Fino, as well as Brazilian and American artists. Most recently Diogo has been dedicating his time to visual arts projects. His work has been recognized by Ad Age, HOW International Design Awards, American Graphic Design Awards, Brazilian Graphic Design Biennial, IDA Design Awards, Brazilian Advertising Festival, among others. You can see his work at diogomontes.com.

In Place
A Film Made in Quarantine
By Chadd Harbold & Chelsey Delaney

The idea for this film formulated quickly after being inspired by others making films in quarantine. We thought about how the worst living situation while sheltering in place would not be living alone, but with a bad partner.

The style of the film captures the world of our apartment right now – which feels like the film Jeanne Dielman – and the world at large, which feels like a horror movie. Jeanne Dielman takes place over three days, and follows a woman as she performs the mundane tasks of her life – until things start to go wrong. We shot the entire film with a fixed camera, which was the only way we could shoot with two people and the equipment we had on hand.

So, we had our idea, our style, and our structure.

In Place is a story of a woman who snaps and liberates herself from her lazy, entitled, unsupportive husband who doesn’t help with the difficult tasks of living life under Corona – all he wants to do is drink and watch horror movies. The film delves into the existential dread, overwhelming uncertainty, and paranoid anxiety many are feeling right now.

Chadd Harbold and Chelsey Delaney are married, and this is their first artistic collaboration.

Chadd Harbold is a Brooklyn-based director, producer, and writer. He wrote and directed Long Nights Short Mornings, which premiered at SXSW in 2016, and was released by The Orchard. He recently produced Aharon Keshales’ Till Death, starring Jason Sudeikis, currently in post-production, and to be released by Universal Pictures. He produced Most Beautiful Island, which won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW in 2017, was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films. His other producing credits include Dan Berk & Robert Olsen’s Villains (SXSW ’19, released by Gunpowder & Sky), starring Bill Skarsgård, Maika Monroe, Jeffrey Donavon, and Kyra Sedgwick; Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature (Sundance ’19, winner of the Someone To Watch Award and nominee for the John Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, released by IFC Films); and horror icon Larry Fessenden’s Depraved (Fantasia ’19, released by IFC Midnight). Additionally, as a director and producer, his features and shorts have screened at film festivals around the world including Tribeca, Rotterdam, BFI London, and BAMcinemaFest, among others. He is an IFP Fellow and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Chelsey Delaney is an award-winning leader and practitioner in user experience (UX), service, and interaction design. She currently works as a Global Design Lead for Blockchain Services at IBM. She’s also the co-founder and CEO of Citizen Tech Collective, a group of future-minded individuals building software, services, and experiences for a progressive future. Prior to these roles, she acted as Director of Digital User Experience at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), building the organization’s first UX team from the ground up. For more than a decade – in her current and past roles – she’s led teams to create effective, innovative solutions to solve complex problems in the spaces of health care, education, civics, and emergency disaster response. Chelsey has a background in writing and performing sketch comedy, and completed her graduate thesis on the topic of comedy and design. She has hosted talks on the topics of social impact, comedy and design at numerous events including Sundance, SXSW Interactive, Ignite!, Interaction, and more. She holds a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Texas, and a master’s degree in Design (MDes) from Carnegie Mellon University.

Another Song
By Matt D’Elia

We are all alone, metaphorically speaking. That is not news to anyone. But right now, in this strange moment, we are all quite literally alone— no metaphors necessary. In this state of idle isolation, one easily wonders, “Why should I get out of bed? Why should I get my day started? Why should I do anything at all?” With these types of overwhelming thoughts on my mind, I made this. It is only 4 minutes long, and it features a talking dog. Thank you for watching. — Matt D’Elia

Matt D’Elia‘s first film, American Animal, which he directed and wrote and produced and starred in, premiered in competition at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival and was theatrically released in 2013. His follow up directorial effort, Powder Keg, starring Chris D’Elia & Suki Waterhouse, was set for production this summer — but now, who the hell knows when he’ll be shooting it.

Folk Remedy Recipe w/ Sunrise & Jacoby
By Daniella Pineda and Andre Hyland

Living in a world of online self-appointed “lifestyle experts,” Daniella thought it would be fun to parody those that are constantly “blessed” and “grateful,” so she wrote the idea for “folk remedy recipe.” Next we we started sharing ingredient ideas and the rest followed as we shot this little piece together. — Andre Hyland

Daniella Pineda can most recently be seen in the Netflix anthology series What/If, opposite Renee Zellweger and the Universal block-buster Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, opposite Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. Daniella will reprise her role of Zia Rodriguez in the upcoming Fallen World sequel, Jurassic World: Dominion. Daniella will soon be seen in the upcoming Netflix action/adventure series Cowboy Bebop, opposite John Cho, in the leading role of Faye Valentine. Daniella was a series regular on the TBS comedy The Detour, created by Samantha Bee and Jason Jones. Prior to that, she had series regular roles on NBC’s drama American Odyssey, playing an assassin, and the CW’s The Originals, where she played a dark witch. She’s guest starred on episodes of Homeland, Inside Amy Schumer and Men of a Certain Age. Other film credits include Mr. Roosevelt, the feature film debut of director Noël Wells, and Sleeping With Other People, opposite Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis.

Andre Hyland is a director, actor, writer, comedian, producer, and visual artist. In 2019, Hyland returned to the Sundance Film Festival with multiple projects. He was a lead in the A24 feature The Death of Dick Long, and premiered his third directorial Sundance film, Old Haunt, which he wrote and stars in. Hyland had previously been to Sundance with his films Funnel (2014), which he wrote and directed, and the feature The 4th (2016), currently streaming on Showtime and Amazon. More recently, Hyland directed the second season of Jon Glaser Loves Gear for Tru TV, and was also cast in a lead role in Amazon’s American reboot of People Just Do Nothing. He also was co-head writer on Adult Swim’s Mostly for Millennials.

Over the past several years, he’s created, directed, produced, written and starred in multiple television, development, and digital projects for Comedy Central, FOX, MTV, Fuel TV, Super Deluxe, and Funny or Die. These include projects co-created with Bob Odenkirk, and Andy Samberg’s and Lonely Island’s company, Party Over Here. Hyland’s films and live performances are also a regular fixture at Los Angeles’ alternative comedy venues. Often under the tag name Buddy Lembek, Hyland’s fine art and graffiti work has been included in exhibitions at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, and Publico in association with Cincinnati’s CAC.

Quarantine Dog Good Boy
Winner: Without Precedent Film Festival 48-Hour Filmmaking Challenge

Martin brings us more joy than Tiger King, Love is Blind, and all of the episodes of The Sopranos combined. We feel bad for anybody who has to quarantine without a dog. — Michael Reich, Elke Van Der Steen and Lucia Ahrensdorf

Michael Reich used to be a dog groomer and currently lives in East Hollywood. He has directed music videos for My Chemical Romance, The Shins, Bad Religion and Ryan Adams. He also made a bunch of short films that played at many film festivals including SXSW, Tribeca and Oldenburg. Michael’s first feature film, She’s Allergic To Cats, premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal and is currently available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV. It’s an abstract comedy about his times as a dog groomer. The movie was funded solely with savings accumulated from working as a body double for one of the Daft Punk robots (he’s the gold one). Michael adopted Martin in 2015 and they have been best friends ever since.

Elke Van Der Steen is a costume designer based in Los Angeles. She has worked in comedy, television and film on Adam Ruins Everything, Santa Clarita Diet, American Vandal and most recently on HBO’s Perry Mason. Her work is informed by her studies in Comparative Literature and her experiences living in the redwood forest near Santa Cruz, Santiago, Chile and Berlin. This is her first acting role in a long time. She loves Martin with all her heart.

Lucia Ahrensdorf is a freelance producer-writer based in Los Angeles. She previously worked at Gersh and the New Orleans Film Festival and currently works for Roman Coppola at The Directors Bureau. The last short film she produced won the Special Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Aside from being a passionate fencer, she also enjoys long walks with Martin.

Martin has been a good boy since 2013. He loves bacon, long walks and chasing squirrels. He recently found out that he is part Chow Chow, but has always connected with his Pitbull heritage. This is his first principal role although he has had a mildly successful Instagram account for years. Follow him at @George_arf_arf_Martin.

Ideas no. 7, 13 & 4
a Subjunctive film by Adam Kritzer
in collaboration with Marjan Mohajer
with Original Music by Marc Marder

This is the third film Marc and I have made together, and was a rare opportunity to challenge several things we normally take for granted in our process. I typically write and shoot the movie before he starts composing for it. This time, however, Marc wrote music first and then my partner, Marjan, and I developed a concept that would play with and push back on his composition. Marc’s music has three sections, but there is a permeable membrane between them and ideas from the first movement resurrect throughout the rest of the piece. Marjan and I had a few ideas initially that we liked but didn’t love, ideas that were interesting or funny but either too big or too small, too ambitious or not worth making. The structure and regenerative properties of Marc’s music influenced us to make a film not about any one idea but about ideation, the formation of ideas and concepts, how it manifests and functions in the creative process and its role in collaboration, especially when working closely with someone who is not just your creative partner but your life partner. — Adam Kritzer

Adam Kritzer is a filmmaker, writer, teaching artist and community organizer. His movies have screened at international festivals (TIFF, SXSW, CPH), won awards and grants and received limited theatrical distribution. His essays about music, cinema and art as a social practice have been published by numerous outlets such as Talkhouse and CultureCatch. In 2016, Adam founded the Art Detectives, a program which helps neurodivergent artists work towards academic and life goals through personalized explorations of their artistic interests. In 2018, Adam produced a new feature, Froth & Bubble, starring Chloe Levine, Sage Francis and the late Orson Bean. The project is currently in post and was one of eight American independent films selected to participate in the 2019 US-in-Progress Lab in Paris. He also has a new short, Arachne, which is set to premiere whenever we can go outside again. Adam lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Marjan, and their schanuzer, Upton Sinclair.

Marjan Mohajer is a practicing dentist who will be opening her first office in New York City when the quarantine ends. She is Adam’s life partner and has worked in varying capacities on all his projects since 2015. This collaboration marks her first time in a key creative role.

Marc Marder composes for film, theater and concert. He received the Deutscheschallplatten Preis in 1991 for his soundtrack for the silent feature Sidewalk Stories by Charles Lane. He has collaborated on 23 films with director Rithy Panh, of which seven have been in the official selection at the Cannes Festival and the feature The Missing Picture won the Un Certain Regard prize and was nominated in the foreign language category for an Oscar. For this same score, he was awarded the Sacem-France Musique Prize for Best Film Music (2014) which included the commission of an orchestral work, Symphony Nº 1, which premiered in late 2015 by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the French Radio. He has also received best music award at the Luchon (France) Festival for his soundtrack for the television drama The Trench of Hope directed by Jean-Louis Lorenzi, for whom he has scored nine other films. He has composed more than 100 soundtracks for film. His theater music has been performed at the Comédie Française and concert works have been commissioned by the French Radio, different chamber formations around Europe and premiered at major chamber music festivals.


Make It Last Forever

this film is a metaphor. repetition, routine, especially when the days seem aimless, listless, becomes a dance of sorts. feels like we’re dancing all day long now. to the sink, to the bed, to the window, to the chair. crazed. crazes. — Amanda Kramer
Amanda Kramer is another writer/director whose films have shown at festivals around the world. Her feature Ladyworld played at TIFF Next Wave, London BFI and Fantastic Fest, and was released theatrically in 2019 through Cleopatra Entertainment. She is a film radical and stands for the liberation of all artists. Learn more at her website.

Blue Mess

I find myself getting in my head a lot, especially when spending time in quarantine. For me, personifying thoughts in colors make it way easier to deal with! — Chloë Levine

Chloë Levine is an actress and filmmaker who has shown her versatility in film and television. She received critical acclaim for her performance in The Ranger, which premiered at South by Southwest, and The Transfiguration, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Current projects for Levine include Netflix’s The OA Part II and  The Society, which are both streaming now. Levine will be seen in season two of Netflix’s Trinkets, which has yet to premiere. She acted in indie feature Froth and Bubble for which she also produces, and Antarctica for which she also executive produces. Levine made her directorial debut with her short film Dragon, which won the 2014 Tribeca Film Institute “Our City, My Story” Award for Best Experimental Short. Levine looks forward to using what she has learned in her acting experience to create more content as a filmmaker.


plant_based_fridge is an attempt to make sense of a handful of absurdist directives surrounding our present condition. There is the notion that we should be “making the most” of our collective circumstance, despite the health and financial crises that accompany it; that we should continue to freely rely on precarious, gig labor, without concerns for workers’ well-being; that we carry on fostering the very self-centered, capitalistic aims that have gotten us to this point. Satirizing the would-be influencers of Instagram, plant_based_fridge suggests it’s perhaps more important to be in grief rather than in self-actualization. — Collins Salovaara

Collins Salovaara is a filmmaker and editor from New York City, currently based in Los Angeles. Their work is largely preoccupied with the retooling of gender and genre tropes. The Future is Then, their mid-1990s tech industry satire about a Trinidadian travel agent and the three white men who try to upend her business, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and was released on November 18, 2019 via BRIC TV. In 2017, their series Let Me Die a Nun, starring Ana Fabrega and Hari Nef, was nominated for a Gotham Independent Film Award. Their feature-length script, Mariela al Revés, about a late-in-life lesbian who travels to Cuba for sex tourism, was selected for the 2019 IFP Project Forum. They have created branded work for companies like Kate Spade and Refinery29. They are an alumna of the 2018 New York Film Festival Artist Academy and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

Untitled Quartinbe Movie
Director: Harrison Atkins, with Kati Skelton and Daniel Johnson

This time in the world has made me feel anxious, despondent and completely uninspired. But then I started thinking of this dumb thing, so I figured I might as well shoot it. — Harrison Atkins

Harrison Atkins is an American independent filmmaker. His work has screened around the world at film festivals including TIFF, Sundance, SXSW, Berlin, Sitges, and many more. He edited Madeline’s Madeline (d. Josephine Decker), called “one of the boldest and most invigorating American films of the 21st century” by Indiewire and “an ecstatic, anguished, fiercely empathetic masterwork” by The New Yorker. It premiered at Sundance and was distributed by Oscilloscope in 2018. His feature directorial debut, Lace Crater, premiered at TIFF in 2015 and screened at numerous international film festivals before being distributed theatrically and on VOD in 2016. His short films, including Chocolate Heart, Blissful Banquet and Door on the Left, have screened all over the place and received online accolades like Short Of The Week’ and ‘Vimeo Staff Pick. He is the co-executive producer and editor of the Netflix original series Easy, directed by Joe Swanberg.


Upcoming Non-Competition Filmmakers:
John Magary

The Without Precedent Film Festival is an online film festival and 48-hour filmmaking competition presented in collaboration with Talkhouse and Elevated Films Chicago and with a grand prize generously provided by Oscilloscope Laboratories. We want to raise our spirits while we’re all basically in isolation, and we hope you’ll be a part of it.

For more info, and how to find out how to join, visit talkhouse.com/unprecedented.