Machine Baby, Miss America Feeds on Big Oil in Sean Richard Budde’s Film
Machine Baby Film Details
Director: Sean Richard Budde
Writer: Sean Richard Budde
Release Date: 2014
Release Format: Film Festival
Genre: Horror; Action
Running Time: 10 minutes
A struggling paparazzo gets pulled into a mad pageant manager’s plot to win Miss America while trying to break the story.
Machine Baby is a thoughtful and wicked short film which stands out for its unconventional plot and rich symbolism. Writer-Director Sean Richard Budde packs a lot into 10 tight minutes of cinema. Machine Baby is impressive in that it doesn’t just provide surface entertainment value. This short’s layers allow for multiple deeper interpretations if viewers want to drill beneath the action. It’s not garden variety film fare and yet remains fun.
Machine Baby opens with a glitzy photo op, presumably post-pageant, as Miss America, (played by Allie Long), poses in front of relentless paparazzi.
The backdrop’s step-and-repeat logos are distinctly reminiscent of Big Oil, which is a great touch. The cameras flash and Miss America beams prettily, soon to be approached by her Manager (Christian Gray), clad appropriately in dark corporate attire. Even though the lights are going off repeatedly and Miss America is pretty as a picture, Joseph Richardson’s cinematography lends a sinister foreboding to the scene. It really is a great opening shot.
One Paparazzo (played by Sean McGill), in particular, singles himself out from the crowd and looks in a different direction. He doesn’t believe what he sees and he decides to investigate further by going to the pageant queen’s house after hours. There’s a nice bit of suspense as the Paparazzo waits outside the house where we can hear, but not see Miss America’s pained cries. It’s worth noting at this point that Christian Gray plays a very apt villain as the Manager with just enough flair to make you feel like you’re a voyeur to a surreal universe, which certainly matches the tone of the film.
When the Manager catches the Paparazzo, the troubling secret to Miss America’s success is revealed. Without ruining the film for those who have not seen it, I will write that there is a breathtaking bit of production design, cinematography and symbolism involving Miss America propped up against a mountain of red fuel canisters. This shot is absolutely stunning. The art team behind Machine Baby headed up by Art Director Jesse Gentry and Production Designer Betsy Peoples, is truly talented.
It must also be mentioned that the special effects, created by artist Elizabeth Kate Branem, are other-worldly and striking. I like films like Machine Baby because they provoke thought for those who want thoughts provoked, without beating audiences over the head with pre-digested messages. This isn’t a message film, but neither is it mindless entertainment.