This film asks: What do we really know about identity?

11/19/2017 02:00 pm ET Updated Nov 26, 2017

A few months ago, in what I swore would be the last wig-themed article I would ever write, I explored society’s issue with wigs and the assumptions we make about their wearers. Now I follow three young filmmakers as they use some wigs, a helping hand from their friends and a few maxed-out credit cards to explore how we see others and ourselves in their mystery-drama COVER.

“Can we start from the top, actually?”

“Let’s start from the top, yeah.”

The slumped backs of writer-director J.Y. Chun and producer Marcel Simoneau straighten as they prepare to say their piece to the webcam. Associate producer and actor Tayo Cittadella tunes in from Norway via Skype. All three have been instrumental in the making of the innovative short film, COVER, and are anxious to present it in the best possible light.

The campaign video is refreshingly unpretentious (especially for an independent short with a niche plotline). You would almost be forgiven for assuming that these were three normal millennials promoting some amateur home movie, though a quick Google search suggests otherwise. Amateurs tend not to have IMDb and Wikipedia pages. Born in Seoul and raised in Brooklyn, J.Y. has a number of prizes for film criticism under her belt and once interned with Lord of The Rings music editor Suzana Peric. Marcel Simoneau has featured in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Law & Order, and is as successful behind the camera as he is in front of it — his last short film, LURKER, was selected for Cannes 2017’s Short Film Corner. Cittadella has started his own film company. If there were ever a trio to disrupt the film industry, it would be these guys. And their new film, they say, is a real passion project.

So what’s the film about? On the face of it, the premise is odd. COVER documents the chance encounters of a struggling sculptor and the wig-wearing pianist whose music rouses him from his creative block. He initially fails to recognise her under all her colorful ‘disguises’, but several meetings later, we discover that it is he, not her, that is covering something up. It’s a neat idea, if a bit abstract, but it is an idea that ultimately stands for something deeper. J.Y. was inspired to write it after a discussion she had with her mother about alopecia and hair loss, and what it would be like to live with those conditions. The implications are far more than aesthetic. “COVER is a film about identity and how you can perceive someone differently depending on the way they look...or something external like the color of their hair or skin.” says J.Y. When I ask her to elaborate further, she writes in an email: “What I don't mention is that it was very important to me not to ‘diagnose’ or explain my character's choice to wear wigs on a daily basis – that it shouldn't be any different from changing your outfit or taking out a piercing...to highlight how often we judge others and their ‘identities’ based on outer appearances.” It’s an important message that should provoke some soul-searching in an industry where image-obsessed Hollywood leads the way.

Yet without a Hollywood budget, Chun, Simoneau and Cittadella are having to look for alternative sources of funding — and quickly. “Now we’re so close to finishing, but we just need a little bit of help.” Chun adds. The project’s Kickstarter campaign, already at $9,810 out of its $10,000 target, looks to be the way out of their financial quandary; if 20 people gave $10 each, the campaign would be over. But there are just 3 days left at the time of writing, and it is an all-or-nothing fundraiser. Failure to reach the target could sink the project. “We’re at the stages of post-production,” says Simoneau, “ we need some help with color correction, sound design and composition. All these people have been hired again, professionals that are helping out, and we just need a little help to finish the whole project — and pay back some of these credit cards.”

It’s heartwarming that they would want to compensate their creative friends for their efforts, especially given the film industry’s rampant use of wage exploitation and unpaid interns. But for those who want something more tangible in return for their cash, there are rewards for donating. Everything from tote bags to t-shirt and film props — including the wigs, which are almost characters in themselves — are available as rewards, depending on the sum given. Donations of $2,500 or more are rewarded with exclusive private viewings.

I personally have no doubt that they will reach their target, though a few extra donations wouldn’t go amiss when you’re making something as expensive as a film. What’s more exciting is that we’re challenging perceptions, a little bit at a time. And what better way to do it than with a mystery-drama?

So when can we expect a release?

Cittadella is enthusiastic but cautious. “Comin’ your way. When we have funds.” All three nod enthusiastically.

I’ll be looking out for the finished product.

Watch the trailer at https://www.covershortfilm.com/

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