Laboratory Conditions: Confronting Urban Legend

We’ve all heard of the urban legend of people losing seven pounds when they die, suggesting it was the weight of the now departed soul. Laboratory Conditions takes a look at some people who want to prove that this idea is really true and give man the definitive proof that there is life after death. That said, what happens when people are willing to go as far as they can to get answers, beyond what it morally right and wrong. Starring well-known actresses like Marissa Tomei and Minnie Driver, the short film certainly takes on a riddle of the ages. We’ve interviewed the director Jocelyn Stamat below.

What was the inspiration for this story?

Back when Terry Rossio was in college, he came across a newspaper article that said some rich guy would reward $100,000 to anyone who could prove the existence of a soul. Apparently a group of grad students in Arizona decided to take him up on the challenge and Terry thought, wow, there’s a great concept for a film. So, you can say our film is ‘based on a true story.’ Interestingly, it was the first screenplay he had ever written, and it didn’t have an ending, which only came to him two decades later.

The lab workers make some good points, like how we should be concerned with what came before and what came after, but other times seem unsympathetic, like one aide asking when a man will die already. What are we meant to think of the aide workers?

When you create a story, it’s fun to picture the each character as facets of a diamond, representing radically different aspects of a singular central theme. Even the protagonist and antagonist are connected in this sense. So while different positions are asserted, overall, the story still retains a sense of unity.

Not to give too much away, but the one person who didn’t exactly have faith in the experiment is the one who learns there might have been some merit to it in the first place, being able to see something the others can’t, and vice versa; what can we make of that?

That’s exactly the question we hope the audience will ponder. There are shades of grey to all the characters, no one is entirely right or entirely wrong, and we intend for the audience to speculate, who is the real villain of the piece?  

Ultimately, what messages do you want to send with this story?

Of course it’s not up to me to say, but I’ll say it anyway, because you asked: Those with a world-view that is science-based might consider human beings as valid measuring instruments, and include their feelings and sensations as valid data-points, though they might fall outside of traditional constraints of the scientific method. And those with a world view that is faith-based might consider the techniques of science as a valid approach to help define and clarify their intuitions and spiritual sensations.
 

What was it like working with well-known actors and actresses, like Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver?

A little intimidating, given their caliber, but they were total pros, and really forced us to up our game. I was overwhelmed by their generosity, it was very kind of them each to work with a first-time filmmaker.

What other projects are you working on?
There has been a lot of studio interest in the feature version of Laboratory Conditions, but Joe, Terry and I plan to go in an entirely different direction: a romantic comedy that celebrates the American road and country music, called Dashboard Jesus and Hula Girl. Sometimes it’s better to zag when they expect you to zig. 

 

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