It's Not the Size of the Budget
It's how you use it, right? This is the primary strength of Eddie Vigil V's feature film debut, It's What's on the Inside: using the most of that budget.
The filmmaking. The script. The acting. The few locations, few principal characters conceit. It's the content.
The story that really matters in the end. Character and story: it's how you make a compelling indie film, or any film, for that matter.
This film was amazingly produced on an astonishing budget of only $12,000 raised on Kickstarter, and in the actual apartment of lead actress and producer Michelle Hinsberg! I applaud what Eddie Vigil V and his team have achieved here with this film.
Now, let's get into exactly why I recommend you seek this film out.
The thing I loved most about this film is that it largely takes place in one location: the main character Rachel's apartment. Rachel, played wonderfully by Michelle Hinsberg, is an agoraphobic life coach who does most of her work in her apartment, over Skype or Zoom, and has her groceries delivered to her, so as to ensure she never has to leave her apartment. Now, on the surface, this may feel like a quarantine drama (it kind of is, in a way). I assure you, this film was produced in 2019 and has nothing to do with COVID. Although, I couldn't help but feel this eeriness about the coincidental nature of the plot's main conceit.
In any case, this was not the intent by filmmaker Eddie Vigil V. Hinsberg's performance as this fearful, shy, anxiety-riddled empath is spot-on from what I know of this disorder. Hinsberg also perfectly portrays an anxiety attack from which I only know of too well. It's also very well edited by Vigil V, as well. Throughout the course of the story, Rachel, of course, eventually branches out from her hermit-esque lifestyle and begins more intimate relationships with her patients and eventually, a romantic partner. This is where the rom-com comes in and it's handled quite well. Overall, what I was most impressed with by the premise was that Vigil V, and Hinsberg's performance, were able to make a story of this contained nature and low budget dramatically compelling, which is not at all easy to do.
The filmmaking on display here, especially for an indie of this nature, is quite impressive. Eddie Vigil V wrote, directed, and edited the film - which I believe is no simple task and not nearly enough people quite understand that fully. There were editing techniques used in the film that were a visual treat to see and consume on-screen. Even for something as simple as setting food out on the table. This is Vigil's feature directorial debut, and it's going to be fun to see where his career goes after this - I will look forward to his next projects. The writing in many cases perfectly captures what might be the primary struggles and the feelings of one with not just anxiety, but agoraphobia. This also shows the ripple effect it has on friends, family, professional, and romantic relationships.
I also liked how Vigil V made it clear that a message was that even people who are life coaches or therapists need help and guidance in their own lives, as well. Who is a therapist to the therapist? That sort of thing. As stated, his feature directorial debut shows that he has been doing this for a long time - directing films, that is. Sure, this is his first feature - but it shows strong promise for subsequent features to come. The cinematography/lighting of the film is also deceivingly well done. The lighting at times makes it seem like it's night in her apartment, only to open the door to show that she has cut herself off from the light of the world. It's very fascinating to see a character shut herself in, and shut out the world around her. This is well conceived by Cinematographer Connor Pollard and the Production team.
The Central Performance
Michelle Hinsberg's portrayal of Rachel is another very strong aspect of this film. In my opinion, she perfectly embodies someone who possesses this fear of leaving her home and the anxiety she feels is palpable. The performance is also layered because we can see that she wants to help people, but she is harboring this pain inside. There is also something going on with her mother, and perhaps a recent breakup, too. But, we don't know exactly what it is. The struggle she feels being cooped up in her own home, the desire to profoundly help people, the tangible or intangible need to be helped, and the fear she holds deep inside is so real and we can feel it, too. Hinsberg's dynamic talent as an actor is so evident and so needed here, it's a necessity for the story to really work on the level that it does.
They say that trying not to cry as an actor is much more difficult than actually crying on command, and I could see that Hinsberg really could hold back from crying so well here and she shows it in the right moments. Rachel is no damsel - she uses the strength she knows she has inside to overcome her fears and independently breaks free of the shackles that bind her from truly flying as a character by the end. Sure, we all need help - and so does she. But, when all is said and done, she ultimately had to be the one to emerge a stronger and better person after the strife she experiences over the course of her story arc. I thought this was beautifully done and this was thanks to Michelle Hinsberg's complex performance, and, of course, the writing of her character.
Overall, the film is such a great example of what one can do with a small budget, a camera, and a team. As stated, this was conceived from a desire to create drama out of a small space but with big ideas. Eddie Vigil V wrote, directed, edited and produced a film only on a budget of $12,000 and is better than most Hollywood films I tend to see nowadays with budgets over 100 or 1,000 times that. Michelle Hinsberg gives a performance which I feel perfectly captures what one must experience or feel with anxiety/agoraphobia. The filmmaking also does a phenomenal job to highlight and heighten that feeling with its almost claustrophobic nature. The supporting cast, production team, and locations all give it that authenticity and groundedness a film of this kind absolutely needs in order to work in the way that it does.
It's What's on the Inside is set for a VOD release for April 2 and will be on streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Fandango NOW.