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Larry Hankin: “Lost Signal”
This short film from 2012, Lost Signal, was written by Larry Hankin, who stars as the Syrian ambassador being interviewed by a school of journalism graduate Kathleen Kortnoy (Kaitlin Ferrell), doing her best to find out the truth — for “WZMO’s College News and World Interviews” — about the then-current uprising in Syria.
We knew there had to be a good backstory to this one, so we asked Larry to tell us about it. Here’s what he said:
“Tim Wilkerson had a big, huge green-screen roll hanging on one wall of his apartment and it stuck in my mind: I wanted to use it for something I wrote and acted in. But it had to be with just two chairs, a green screen, just one other person, one prop, one camera, and Tim to direct it. Plus, It had to be simple and be able to be done quickly and easily because it was in Tim’s living room and he shared it with two other guys.
I was trying to come up with something minimalist (Ernie Kovaks-like), hip, cool, political, angry. Nada.
Plus, I had nothing already written that could be done under those restrictions. I just wanted to use that green screen. I wanted to write and perform simple stuff for a single camera and a green screen – something I could duplicate anywhere. In my living room. I couldn’t think of anything that was worth bothering Tim and his roommates about. Nada.
BUT: I have a particularly weird reflex-action about bullshit. I can accept a lot of bullshit. It’s a knack. Really. It’s called ‘survival.’ Not necessarily of the fittest. I’m in show biz, an industry that is based on it. Nothing wrong with bullshit: bars and ball games’d be tombs and recording studios. I’m a bullshitter from way back. There’s ‘telling stories,’ ‘bullshit,’ and ‘lies.’ Lots. More lies than truths and star. So you gotta pick your fights. But where my ‘reflex’ comes in, is: ‘Wow: you think I’m that stupid.’
Now, sometimes I am that stupid: okay. But then there’s the case where, ‘In this situation, based on what I know and believe and past performances, plus facts, intuition, anger,’ and, ‘You really believe that Homo Sapiens of any sentient I.Q would believe that.’ Kneejerk reaction. ‘l can’t let it slide. Faster than thought.’
So I was watching the 7pm TV news and this famous Syrian ambassador what’s-his-name comes on the air, being interviewed by Katie Couric or whoever, and I’m listening to him bullshit and bullshit and yeah-yeah, and then: he just said something (I swear I don’t remember – but it was a denial that was such a stupid, pompous, idiotic assumption about the I.Q.’s of sentient beings in general and me in particular: you don’t assume I’m a drooling idiot on my TV in my house.
I got so adrenalized that I wrote this little 5-page narrative ‘loogie’ to hurl back at him, called everybody the next day, we set a date for the next clear 2 hours of Tim’s living room time, everybody showed up with what we needed, we shot it, and for a living room production it’s pretty cool. Angry and cool. I really love the ending.
The first image I saw as I got off the couch to go write the scene was the specks on his face and collar at the end. All the words ‘I’ speak are as verbatim as I could write and remember. It was all to get to that image. Because while the real ambassador was really answering the questions on my real tv that eve, that’s what I was seeing on his face and collar. Just these little ‘tells.’ So then, using his words verbatim he shows us the action to the word.”
Thanks, Larry! Lost Signal was directed and shot by Tim Wilkerson.