Mikano Fukaya amid the plague.

Mikano Fukaya amid the plague.

Bumbershoot Films: Algae of Terror!

A standout local short at 1 Reel begins in a biotech lab.

The planet strikes back in local filmmaker Tom McIntire’s half-hour eco-thriller Greenspoke, but quietly. Unlike the many Hollywood versions (The Day After Tomorrow, Outbreak, etc.), there are no CGI tidal waves crashing down upon Seattle, no fiery explosions, no helicopter armadas bringing George Clooney to the rescue. Rather, the mysterious viral threat is hatched from good intentions, in a biotech lab whose owners re-engineer an algae to eat carbon dioxide and produce energy. It almost sounds like a plausible startup pitch to green investors. In McIntire’s short, being screened with other local titles during the 1 Reel Film Festival, the governor attends a press conference for the public/private initiative while demonstrators picket outside.

Then, of course, things go terribly awry. Trained as a painter, with some stage acting experience also behind him, McIntire lets the paranoia build gradually, much like the algae that starts creeping all over Seattle. The patented circular organism begins to replicate itself on human hosts!

Though he grew up on Long Island as a devotee of afternoon TV sci-fi movies, McIntire is no brash kid fresh out of film school. He brings a mature, grown-up’s perspective to his new chosen art form. “You shouldn’t have to beg people to support you,” he says. “Asking someone to invest in a short film is disingenuous, because they’re not going to get their money back.” Instead, while teaching himself the craft over the past few years, he set up a nonprofit film studio. To finance Greenspoke‘s production last winter, McIntire says, “I sold my car and used my severance from WaMu.” Now, while planning more short films, he’s also shopping around a zombie feature.

The ominous, unhurried tone of Greenspoke, and the scenes played with minimal dialogue, reflect McIntire’s avoidance of the usual horror shocks and titillation. His cast—comprising local stage talent—looks real and reacts with real confusion to a plague the movie leaves somewhat mysterious. “There’s enough emphasis on people in their 20s,” says McIntire. “I’m sick of pretty-people movies.”


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