Romance Meets Technology in Sci-Fi Comedy Short “Crystal”

Single and looking for your perfect match? Maybe artificial intelligence has your answer! Director Casey Gates Frey is bringing this idea to life in her new sci-fi romantic comedy Crystal.

We had a chance to catch up with Frey, and discuss everything from inspiration behind the movie to film marketing strategies to advice for other women in entertainment.

Tell us a little about your project and what viewers can expect.

Crystal is a sci-fi romantic comedy about a neurotic young woman who thinks she’ll never find Mr. Right… until she gets access to a top-secret, artificially-intelligent matchmaking app. It promises to use Big Data, machine-learning neural-networks, and every other tech tool that nobody really understands, in order to find her perfect man… if such a thing actually exists. 

The film explores the difficulty of finding love in the age of Instagram, and poses the question: Does our technology know us better than we know ourselves?

What inspired you to create this project?

The film was inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus,” and the prickly questions it poses about A.I. and Big Data, but it grounds those heady ideas in the relatable, entertaining story of a young woman looking for love in all the wrong places (which I know a thing or two about myself).

Working in social media for over 8 years, I’ve been forced to learn how to tell “bite-sized stories” that will be consumed on someone’s phone. My dream was to blend my skills in digital marketing and knowledge of user behavior, with true narrative filmmaking. I designed nearly all of the app content myself and was so excited to see this vision I had for so long, finally come to life. 

What challenges, if any, have you encountered so far?

With my last short film Girl Code, I did the festival circuit. I was strategic about where we applied but felt like the cost of submissions plus my overall experience attending did not provide as much exposure and opportunity as I had hoped for. Even with winning an award and being a part of some desirable blocks of films. 

So with Crystal I decided to use my knowledge of online marketing and social media promotion to do our release 100% digitally. Although the reception we’ve gotten has been wonderfully positive, I still feel like we didn’t quite land in finding our online audience. To get people to watch short film content anywhere has proven to be quite a challenge and something I am hoping to keep exploring and find new ways to break in to. 

How do you think your experiences as a woman in entertainment have influenced this project?

As an emerging female director I am very aware of how I want the vibe of my set to feel. Even more than creating an amazing product, I want to create an amazing experience for everyone involved, so I take great care to come to set and approach every day and decision with compassion, respect, and also with confidence. 

For me, I can tend to be a people-pleaser and not want to make anyone upset- a common trait in some women. But through my directing projects I’ve made a big effort to own my vision, ask for what I need, and not apologize for it. Of course with kindness, but also firmness. It’s an area I hope to continue to grow in as I evolve as a leader in the entertainment space.

What advice do you have for women seeking to create their own content?

One of my mantras is “show up anyway.” And that doesn’t just mean physically, but challenge yourself to show up with all of your creativity, all of your attention, all of your strength, no matter what is happening in your life or what fears you have today. Whether it be a writing session, detailing your shot list, or rehearsing with actors, just show up anyway. Arrive with all of yourself.

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Caitlin Arcand
Once upon a time, Caitlin had a fever dream and started this website. Now she's stuck writing satire for all eternity.