Short Film Profile

The Ballad of Snake Oil Sam

Sam is a desert traveler, inventor and snake oil salesman. Driven by a desire for redemption, he pushes himself beyond exhaustion while attempting to invent a magical elixir. After a visit from ethereal spirits, the inventor Sam is gifted with divine inspiration. With renewed vigor he sets himself to the task and finally creates what he hopes to be his long sought after potion. But Sam must face his nagging doubts as he takes to the road with his trusted companion to deliver his potion to an eclectic group of desert dwellers.

Film notes

In “The Ballad of Snake Oil Sam,” I explore the idea of a Medicine Man, someone who’s maybe not quite there yet, but evolving. I also explore the notion of redemption as it unfolds in the emotional events between characters through their experiences of trust. Can we trust in our dreams and ambitions? Can we trust others? Can they trust us?
“The Ballad of Snake Oil Sam” comes from a place of pure inspiration. The story was inspired by the music of West Indian Girl and was originally pitched as a music video concept. I soon realized I had a bigger story and developed it into a short film. The concept challenged me to show Sam’s story without depending on words. By focusing on Sam’s emotions, the narrative and the mood depend purely on subtext and visuals to tell his story. And the symbolism of Snake Oil goes beyond the questionable promise of an elixir and into the realm of ‘Snake Medicine’ which promises transformation and rebirth.
My main influence is the work of Director Sergio Leone. I love the robust moments in between his characters in his spaghetti westerns as well as the operatic style of the 60’s genre he helped define. Some of the greatest moments happen without words. I was also inspired by the desert cinematography of the 70’s film “Vanishing Point,” and one of the exterior shots in “The Ballad of Snake Oil Sam” is dedicated to it. I am inspired by the work of Director Kim Jee-Woon in “The Good, The Bad, The Weird” and how his shots just flow and how style informs character. And, as an homage to Director Michelangelo Antonioni, my intention is to create “metonymy” – a word I ferociously studied in school – by placing characters in empty or fractured landscapes to provide insights into their emotional states of mind.
To make the film feel both anachronistic and timeless, I experiment with dreamlike visuals, time, and costume. The style is influenced by Steampunk with just a hint of Burning Man, a love letter to the tribal dance community and subculture.
steampunk subculture dream magical realism



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Information on this profile is provided by the film owners and/or compiled from available sources | Profile updated 21 Feb 2014