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Locally Made Award-Winning Post-Apocalyptic Film Debuts Online

Chris Barbis (left) and Kelsey George Mogensen (right)

Sounding the Siren

Gabriel Simon, an independent filmmaker and Buffalo native, is proud to announce that his award-winning post-apocalyptic short film, Siren, has officially debuted online this week. The independently financed, 30-minute action film shot entirely on location in Silo City—the historic grain elevator complex on the Buffalo waterfront—details the struggles of two people as they attempt to find protection against a toxic agent that causes amnesia, while also evading deadly enemies that hunt them in a world gone to Hell.

Siren is fundamentally a movie about free will and survival,” explains Simon. “When faced with death, many people seem to lose their humanity or free will in order to survive. Intense circumstances where survival is unlikely tend to make people revert back to their animal instincts to remain alive and continue to exist. This movie tries to show the struggle to survive at the expense of free will.”

The film stars Rochester actor and martial artist Chris Barbis as the unnamed central character. “He represents someone who has embraced survival over free will. He is a product of his own harsh environment. He always takes the route that will most likely lead to his own survival—even if it means betrayal or murder,” says Simon. “He stands out as a main character because in this world we don’t present standard heroes or villains. These are just humans attempting to survive, and this character is quite adept at it.”

Fight scene from Siren

Barbis is joined by co-star Kelsey George Mogensen, who portrays the more benevolent female character. “She represents a more morally just viewpoint on the situation, but as things get worse she starts to take more drastic actions.” The biggest threat facing them is presented by a group of ruthless aggressors, led by martial artist Jim Siniscalchi, and depicted as a faceless husk; more machine than man, who memorably does battle with Barbis in the film’s climax. “The combat and violence is brutal, efficient, and deliberately avoids being too rehearsed or like a Kung-Fu film”, says Simon. “Despite the actor’s training these characters are not martial artists, they are regular humans fighting for their lives. The combat is gritty, fast, and ends as abruptly as it starts.”

When asked what cinematic approach Simon and his team took in creating Siren, he responded with one word: Immersion. “We wanted it to be a visual and audible assault on the senses, by presenting a stark, violent, and uncompromising world filled with some determined individuals and trusting the viewers to make up their own minds about how they should feel. Overall, the movie was an attempt at letting the audience react to what they are looking at without guiding them or forcing them into a certain kind of experience. The goal was to keep people glued to their seats from the opening shot and not release them until the end credits roll.”

Siren has been a passion project for Simon for a long time, having spent over two years and $3,000 on its production. “It seems like I only just recovered from illness and a seriously injured knee from running through thick mud with a steadicam. It is actually pretty crazy how far back my desire to create something like this was. It began back in 2009 when I was still a poor, aspiring film director attending Buffalo State College as a Media Production major. I remember dragging friends out to remote abandoned buildings years ago trying to explain some kind of strange and violent vision I had. The craziest thing is that people actually believed in it.”

Amongst those people include longtime colleagues and friends of Simon, David Van Keuren (co-writer, assistant director) and Joseph Wachowski (co-writer, cinematographer). “Working together, they wrote the screenplay I had been dreaming of for years, I just love collaborating with and unleashing talented artists, and together with our great actors we went and actually executed that vision.”

Also exciting to Simon is the critical recognition Siren has received, being awarded the honorable mention for Best Narrative Feature at the 2014 SUNYWIDE Film Festival. “It seems like all the beats we wanted to hit were picked up on by the viewers. I’m thrilled to be surrounded with such an intelligent and perceptive viewing audience in Buffalo,” says Simon, who is confident the short will continue to gain popularity through social media now that it is on YouTube. “The response has been universally positive so far and that is kind of scary given the dark nature of the narrative.”

Now that the film is complete, Simon is excited to see what the future has in store for him. “Dreams and reality aren’t always mutually exclusive,” he says, “and filmmaking proves that is true. There is no medium like the movies, and there are no artists like filmmakers. I look forward to seeing how I’ll continue to carve my place in the industry from here.”

Watch the trailer for Siren

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