In the fall semester of 2019, I worked with my adviser Dr. Jon Volkmer on writing sixty sixty-second shorts on the theme of human insecurity, based off of real-life experiences and stories. I wrote a series of micro-scripts satirizing human self-consciousness and anxiety — moments that are rushed over or lost in longer-form mass media and film. The scripts show humans at their most indecisive, insecure, and vulnerable. Each of these scripts give glimpses into one or two people’s interior lives as they find themselves in a particular nerve-provoking situation. In all of the shorts, a person must overcome, submit to, or rethink their own self-conscious ideation in a social situation. In drafting the series, themes recurred, characters returned and came head-to-head with characters from other shorts. Every week, we met and workshopped four scripts. Jon would prepare with ideas, comedic and structural, that helped get to the core of each short. Fifteen weeks later, I had 60 scripts. In spring 2020, I selected and ordered nine of the scripts to film and showcase, operating on the criteria of feasibility, quality, and congruency. Pre-pandemic, we filmed five shorts from the series. My series makes use of Horatian satire, which pokes fun at and critiques people for the things we all find ourselves doing from time to time, and avoids Juvenalian satire, which mocks, jeers, and pointedly critiques. One invites judgment, the other compassion. I’m privileging Horatian over Juvenalian satire to emphasize that the feelings expressed in the films are human. It is the humanity of the feeling that we find charming, albeit odd or discomforting. The Horatian approach suggests, however, that we have something to learn about ourselves by watching what we do in these moments of light satire.
By setting a guideline of sixty seconds per short film, I have forced myself not to capture a particular situation or set of characters, but singular moments. Life introduces us to what feels like an infinity of moments. Some moments we remember for years. It happens, too often perhaps, that we lose these moments without our knowing. A moment I vowed never to forget when I was ten may be nearly irretrievable by the time I was sixteen. Other moments stay with us for reasons we may not realize at the time, or later, or ever. But these moments often open themselves up under interrogation
By carrying out this project, I hope to have captured sixty of these moments and revealed in them the essence that has made them memorable. All of my scripts come from real scenarios I’ve been privy to, seen, or once enacted. This doesn’t mean they adhere to journalistic standards of truth or reportage. I have changed the details and sometimes more critical aspects of a situation to get to the core of that particular moment and what makes it so worthwhile. Overall, my goal has been for the complete series of these micro-scripts to transcend the sum of its parts. Each script is a story about a person or two, but the greater product is a story about humanity and the timidity we struggle against in candid moments.
Armstrong, Tommy, "The Yellow Belly Anthology: Micro-Films About Humans at Their Least Impressive" (2020). English Honors Papers. 11.