Shape Shifter Dir. Kelly Thompson
Shape Shifter opens with a familiar scene for all insomniacs and HSN shoppers, a well lit perfectly curated kitchen with perfectly placed front facing labels of the next big product in the never-ending wave of dietary products. The chipper tunes are spliced with silence as the camera pans around to reveal a sound stage. Brenda, played by the very intriguing Rachael Drummond, is the face of the Shape Shifter product and it’s success story that is its main selling point. Brenda’s faith in the product that once existed has crumbled, the pressure from her job to retain the “ideal” body has shaken her to her core.
The product itself is similar to countless modern weight loss products seen in ads with older celebrities championing them with “*results may vary” in tiny text next to totally real people who lost 30 pounds in 30 days. In one scene a fan approaches a vulnerable Brenda as she realizes the extent of the damage from selling a bogus product. The woman is an extension of herself, someone whose insecurities worsen from the societal expectation of women’s bodies to fit a particular mold. Although the infomercials of Shape Shifter seem antiquated in comparison to social media revolutionizing advertisements, the idea remains the same; beauty standards shape-shift over time but still hold a high standard of impossibility. Brenda’s journey is relegated to solitude as she escapes from the consequences from unhappy customers and execs angry with her weight gain.
Director Kelly Thompson creates a captivating story critiquing the fabricated world of weight loss products and infomercials with humor and wit. Brenda’s bright green and yellow outfit as a literal stand-in for the product itself, or the shape shifting hourglass figure pink and black dress to mask Brenda’s excess weight illustrate the pressure her character struggles with immensely. Brenda’s character is a flawed person who is undoubtedly relatable in her struggle with weight and societal pressure, she just so happens to have bought into that pressure by becoming a product rep. While we all may not be health product reps, everyone who has struggled with weight has bought into valuing their body based on society’s warped standards of beauty at some point. It’s a constant struggle but not set in stone and Shape Shifter’s title functions in that way as well, Brenda’s shape has shifted into a body with dimension and character that shatters the manufactured product rep illusion.
The brilliant Shape Shifter is available on YouTube on the SMC Film Program channel with a running time of 17:58, where you can find other student short films for free.