System Error

We feature a selection of four short films from South Australia — Aquaphobe, The Recordist, System Error and A Very Lockdown Birthday — part of the ‘Made in SA’ program from this 2020’s Adelaide Film Festival – by Vanessa Abbott

System Error | Cinematography by Bryan Mason


Sid (David Quirk) in ‘System Error’ – DOP Bryan Mason

System Error – Every day, a robotic service unit called George (voiced by Nick Nemeroff) works a job at a dingy convenience store, hoping desperately for a friend. But robotic service units don’t have friends. When human customer Sid (David Quirk) tries to tell George a joke, the robot is baffled, so, it sets about editing its own code to learn how to laugh. Meddling with one’s code, however, can have unexpected consequences.

Short film System Error, from writer/director Matt Vesely, is a curiosity on many levels. It’s a film about friendship, and being okay with being broken. Cinematographer Bryan Mason (Animals) opens the film with a cockroach on the wall followed by the juxtaposition of a clever little homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth OBE BSC). There is a long history of on-screen robots exploring the intricacies and absurdities of being human.

For a film that effectively takes place in a single location, a lot of ideas and raw creativity have gone into the production of System Error. Art direction is ambitious and funny. Even a digital blue front chosen for the opening credits is perfect. Mason’s lighting and cinematography is simple for purpose, but highly effective.


Bryan Mason’s diverse credits include the Sundance-selected titles Shut Up Little Man! (2011) and 52 Tuesdays (2013).

Vanessa Abbott is a writer based in Melbourne.

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