Crystal by Chell Stephen

A teen girl with a bad attitude tries to escape her small-town life and pursue her dream of becoming a pop star.

Crystal is 17 years old, with a rebellious attitude to match. She has dreams of becoming a pop star — she’s seen every Britney Spears video 100 times and knows the dances by heart.

Unfortunately her small town life lacks the sparkle of a music video and her only escape is the dance-filled dreamscape in her head. When one of these daydreams results in disaster on the job, she is fired and heads out of town, where she has a run-in with local mean girls.

She escapes the group by accepting a ride from an average guy whose intentions seem harmless at first. But as their journey takes a turn from the light-hearted to a darker, more dangerous place, Crystal finds she must draw upon more than her motor mouth to protect herself.

Lively, energetic and as irreverent as its eponymous heroine, this short blends comedy and drama as it brings one very bad day to life.

Through director Chell Stephen’s clever mix of flashy music video aesthetics with rural grit, the film is firmly focused on its teenage protagonist. Crystal is brought to life in a no-holds-barred performance by Kate Stephen, who jettisons likability for a blend of bravado, insecurity and a desperate longing for a life bigger than the one she has now. She hits both notes of aggression and vulnerability as she travels through the arc of the film, and lands in a place of true growth and a new understanding of herself and her power.

“Crystal” is exuberant and fun to watch, but underneath its flash and dazzle, it’s also a parable about finding inner strength and resourcefulness while facing adversity and conflict. Crystal finds a hard-won confidence through confronting her danger head-on, making her a true force of nature by the film’s end.

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