Pandemic or COVID-movies — those films shot during the peak of the pandemic in 2020 — typically share certain stylistic or thematic elements: a barebones crew, themes of isolation. Tyler Taormina’s Happer’s Comet holds these characteristics, but it’s also unique in key ways.
The crew was small — just Taormina and his DP Jesse Sperling — and the pair didn’t record any sound during the filming process. All of the sound in the final film was designed by Taormina in post-production. It’s nearly impossible to comprehend this fact when watching the film, since the ambience and foley effects Taormina crafts throughout feel so organic.
That expert post-sound work didn’t include any ADR since Happer’s Comet doesn’t have any dialogue.
Based in Los Angeles, Taormina returned home to the east coast in 2020 to film this intimate near-experimental look at his Long Island community. He cast Long Island locals, and Happer’s Comet captures quiet moments in their own homes, driving around town, or meeting in cornfields to quietly hook up.
“We would shoot each weekend, then edit in the material and write the next batch of scenes to shoot the following weekend. This enabled a great sense of exploration in us. This process went on for four months until the film reached its completion,” Taormina explains.
Also read: How Factory 25 Founder Matt Grady Survived a Near-Death Experience and Started Distributing Films
While Happer’s Comet has loose narrative threads, there is also a documentary feel to the film. The ease with which these characters sit or move through their own spaces couldn’t be replicated by even the most subtle actors performing these actions on a film set or in an unfamiliar location.
This is Taormina’s second feature, following Ham on Rye, which played the festival circuit in 2019 before getting released in 2020 by Factory 25. While that film had an unconventionally large ensemble cast for a low-budget feature, it was more or less conventional in how it was conceived and shot. Happer’s Comet represents more of an experiment for Taormina and his hometown collaborators.
Check out the exclusive teaser trailer for Happer’s Comet below:
Happer’s Comet will world premiere in the forum section at the 72nd Berlin Film Festival, which runs from Feb. 10 – 20.
Main image: A still from Happer’s Comet, directed by Tyler Taormina.