Album, Short Film, or Both? Lizzy McAlpine Does It All With Five Seconds Flat
Film has the power to convey emotion through a series of shots with specific lighting, acting, and music. It can combine many different art forms into one masterpiece. In a new short film, "five seconds flat", directed by Gus Black and written by Lizzy McAlpine, music and the power of cinema drive a deeply thematic and emotional story. Lizzy McAlpine’s personal music is meant for far more than a 3-4 minute music video, so she took her most recent album, five seconds flat, and with a strong production team, made it into a short film approaching 30 minutes.
The short film “five seconds flat” tells a cohesive story through musical and cinematic imagery. Lizzy McAlpine and director, Gus Black, truly break barriers to creativity down. Nothing holds them back from the story they want to tell and the things they want to try. The metaphorical challenges never stopped the creation of art. Each of her songs feels like a window into a deeply personal journal. It all tells a story that Lizzy McAlpine graciously shares with her listeners. It isn’t as if she counts on us understanding; it doesn’t feel like she wrote for anyone else but herself, and in that some of the most complex emotions are laid out in a beautifully poetic form. If an album is like a book, each song another chapter, this is like the movie people swarm to the theater for after reading it. It pairs her lyrics with an image that brings the music to life - or, thematically, death.
Part One of "five seconds flat" shows death lurking around every corner of love and heartbreak in high school hallways. Starting with "doomsday", a true Day of the Dead feel paves a ghostly void for the remainder of the film. The song was originally released as a single in October 2021 in perfect time for Halloween. It details the anticipation of a heartbreak you know is coming. It’s as if someone is about to pull the plug on your life and leave you for dead. As Lizzy realizes this heartbreak is close at hand, her face flashes with a painted skeleton, which shows up throughout the rest of the film as if this heartbreak is built into her bones with each moment that stretches into her future.
Part Two sprinkles in “what a shame” and “firearm” as Lizzy and friends are getting ready and go to a party. The framing and establishment of the setting is creatively positioned in this part, specifically the placement of the camera where we can see two sides of a wall and the action on each end. The highlighted song is “erase me (feat. Jacob Collier)” which was released as a single in November 2021. A strong use of lighting displays the chaos and emotion of a party, while showing the underlying darkness of unhealed heartbreak, as Lizzy tries to erase her former love with a hookup. Shots cut between her flooded in red lighting and behind a white lace curtain, the juxtaposition of being drowned in anger and heartbreak and trapped in the memory of love.
Part Three takes us three years into the future with Lizzy and “all my ghosts”. A new love is forming in a 7-Eleven, but the ghosts of her past are still haunting her and inserting themselves into her new relationship. The lyric, “I hate all of my habits, but I happen to love you”, touches upon the way a heartbreak can build walls in other relationships, no matter how strong the love is. At the end of the song, Lizzy sees her ex-boyfriend from "doomsday" outside the window of the 7-Eleven, a symbol of the ghost that won't stop haunting her.
Part Four opens on a wide open country road and the song “reckless driving (feat. Ben Kessler)” which features Ben Kessler. Beautiful sunset and bird shots are displayed throughout the sequence, and the iconic album cover makes an appearance with car lights shining through Lizzy’s wind-blown hair. But the distance between the two lovers is easily recognizable. There’s a disconnect in their love that is explained through the lyrics, “I don’t love you like that, I’m a careful driver and I tell you all the time to keep your eys one the road”. As this disconnect grows and their speed increases, Lizzy sees her lover lit up by the headlights with the same painted skeleton on his face. Suddenly the song ends as if they have hit something and the screen goes black, a chain reaction of death collecting ghosts as her heartache is repeated.
Part Five, the last part of the short film, closes where we began. Back at the high school with the boyfriend who broke her heart in "doomsday", Lizzy sings “hate to be lame (feat. FINNEAS)”. Shots from part one are shown in a euphoric montage over the lyrics “hate to be lame, but I might love you”, a display of how the love was never truly lost, still living in the bones of the broken skeleton it made her become.
Watch "five seconds flat" - the film here: https://youtu.be/NaFfK9CG25s
Follow Lizzy McAlpine on socials @lizzymcalpine.