Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten, or unknown film and TV credits, continues this week with works featuring Tessa Thompson.
Blue Belle (2010)
Written and Directed by Perry Lang
Originally created for a web-site called 3 Minute Pictures (URL no longer active), Blue Belle is a twenty-one episode web-series, with each episode running about three minutes long. Available on the (hopefully real) YouTube account of series creator, Perry Lang, the show is based on a true story and stars Tessa Thompson as an English teacher who works as a prostitute on the weekends.
The first episode ["As little soiled as possible…"] takes place in the classroom. No one has read the assignment, open discussion is stilted, and attempts to incite passion get shredded. What is immediately likable about Thompson’s Ms. Smith is that she doesn’t seem defeated. Tired, but still animated waxing Faulkner, her pupils don’t know what they’re missing. There is one student, Marcus (Calvin Piglman) who is paying attention and he takes her book choice, of The Reivers, as a message. In her lecture she talks about a character who defends a prostitute, not because he wants to have sex with her but because he sees her honor, when nobody else does. Somehow Marcus realizes, or makes the lucky guess, that she is this prostitute, and follows her to Vegas that weekend.
With any show that discusses prostitution, from Blue on Blue Belle, to Belle on Secret Diary of a Call Girl, “why” is always a top question. Why is Blue doing this? Blue never mentions money problems. When her dad ends up on the same plane as her to Las Vegas, she texts for backup and finds a fake boyfriend waiting for her at the airport. Paying him $500 cash, for a less than three minute performance, money is the answer people like, because it’s material and quantifiable. Without that, reasons get more involved. Blue hates this job and has put thought into how, or when, she could quit. A glimpse at her adolescence, in the series’ best episode, thirteen [“["The Top Half"]eflects how resolved she’s become to her present.
For only having three minute increments (including opening credits every episode), Blue Belle takes a lot of detours. On top of telling Blue’s story, we have Marcus, whose anger at being treated like he’s helpless, because of his wheel chair, makes him more determined to travel alone. A possible reason for his obsession with Ms. Smith comes out when he offers her a place to stay—his parents’ unused bedroom.
One episode is dedicated to Blue meeting a friend during a break between clients, a few telling scenes are devoted to Blue’s mother, and two episodes cover a conversation between her and a colleague, while they get dressed for the night. Instead of feeling limited by three minutes Blue Belle seems more determined to takes its time, with scenes that show the power of any casual conversation to make an impression.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
From some of the descriptions it sounds like there was hope that Blue Belle‘s would get a second season and you can feel that moving towards finale. Like the show’s tendency to gravitate toward individual moments, viewers will gravitate towards certain episodes but they all add to the larger character painting at work.
Check back next week when James McCormick returns us to B-movie glory with his buried credits actor.