Impact50 is an experimental project produced and directed by Chris Jones, which saw 67 screenwriters and 36 directors break world records in their collaboration on feature film, The Impact. This crowd-created disaster movie weaves many stories together, all connected by the imminent arrival of a world-ending meteor strike. Composed of many short films, each lovingly crafted and interspersed to carry the story, it answers the question “what would you do if you only had two hours to live?”.
The global film project has been in the pipeline for 8 years, written before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and the star-studded Oscar-nominated Adam McKay movie, Don’t Look Up. While the unprecedented fall out from the coronavirus delayed the production, it now seems more timely than ever in retrospect. Centred on what people would do or value in their final hours and minutes, The Impact moves from profound to hilarious, encompassing many story concepts to create a collective reflection on humanity and our values.
At its helm is Chris Jones, the author of the bestselling ‘The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook’, guiding filmmakers on how to create independent productions. Being his focus area, it’s easy to see why it was Jones who was charged with leading Impact50, initially launched by the London Screenwriters’ Festival to get creatives their first ‘produced’ IMDb credit. At its core, this is a smart way to showcase short films. Short film festivals offer an opportunity for up-and-coming filmmakers to get their work into the public arena but the short format, while powerful, isn’t always the easiest to market or sell. The Impact effectively condenses the best of a short film festival into a feature length ensemble drama under a thematic umbrella. Facilitating 2,800 scripts from across the globe, only 50 made the final selection.
The opening scene is written by Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) and features The President, played by Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer), who addresses the United States and the world as news of a catastrophic event reaches the Oval Office. Having received 100 short film submissions, what follows is a compilation of the finalists, which have been cleverly edited to maintain tone, pace and story flow. Typically revolving around three integrated stories with a similar tone and themes at a time, The Impact retains a good balance and a fairly seamless flow. Most of the short films have a marked consistency when it comes to the look and feel, enabling The Impact to move in unison.
From comical doomsday prophets to heartbreaking family drama, The Impact facilitates multiple stories to create a moving and often amusing portrait of human nature and survival instinct. While the coming apocalypse could lead to some dark places when it comes to rampant lawlessness, The Impact tends toward more heartfelt and intimate stories that evoke a mostly positive and often haunting reflection of our humanity. Serving as a sharp catalyst for pensive drama and underlying tension, the meteor strike concept helps escalate situational drama and comedy. The drama centres around family members reuniting for a final farewell, long-awaited confessions playing out and parents trying to protect their children from the truth. While the welcome comic relief finds wry humour in fun and futility by way of naïve survival plans, peculiarity, reckless abandon and last gasp romantic gestures.
“Are we there yet?”
The Impact may not have characters who can carry the story from scene to scene but its event-based disaster movie narrative manages to glue it all together. Starting with the President’s address, which pops up at various intervals and returning to a deep space mission’s observation deck, The Impact retains a sense of continuity. Having the meteor strike arriving at various stages does interrupt the flow somewhat but is important in carrying out a final impression for several of the short films. The visual effects are good but perhaps there could have been another way for these visuals to have more symmetry. A French short film about a love triangle also juts out somewhat based on its soft focus but the short films are so engaging, it’s easy to pick up the thread again.
This disaster movie features short films from across the world, which adds to the scale and realism of the cataclysmic event. It’s curious to see films emanating from different corners of the planet and to experience their take on doomsday. While the Impact50 project serves a different purpose, it would have been equally fascinating to see a more balanced cross-section of short films representing more cultures, nations and continents. Primarily centred on short films from the UK, there are enough entries to add some international flavour with a buddy comedy hailing from South Africa. There are barriers in terms of budget, communication and consistency in attempting an already ambitious film project, so The Impact probably had to have home ground advantage as a starting point.
While The Impact’s experimental concept is strong, made even more relevant by recent world events, it’s the editing room that deserves the highest praise. Cutting down a selection of 100 short films into a 132 minute feature is a monumental undertaking, which is made all the more impressive by the film’s ability to sustain story flow, an organic sense of tone, good pacing and combine thematically-connected yet disparate stories to create a cohesive whole. While typically modest, the short films themselves are mostly strong, well-acted, cleverly conceived and compelling enough to warrant further exploration. Being a compilation it’s difficult to talk in general terms but given the indie context and thanks to the selection process and seasoned oversight, The Impact’s overall quality is quite exceptional.
Writers, directors, cast and crew… it’s wonderful to see so many creatives getting the chance to ply their craft and have it amount to a full-fledged film product that they can be proud of. While it may be a bit of an adjustment for audiences who are used to consuming entertainment with more traditional storytelling devices, continuous characters, recognisable actors and bigger budgets, The Impact has enough nuance, storytelling finesse and emotional dexterity to win people over. While The Impactis ultimately a powerful and haunting expression of humanity in its final hours, it’s experimental concept and eclectic nature does present unavoidable limitations. Still, it remains a smart, moving and funny testament to the brimming talents of a new generation of filmmakers.
The bottom line: Impressive