Announcing the “Plastic Kills!” Short Film Contest Winners

In September, Hollywood, Health & Society (HH&S) and Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) began accepting submissions for “Plastic Kills!”—a horror short film competition designed to highlight the terrors of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on our bodies, our children, our pets, and our planet. The contest is part of Plastic Pollution Coalition’s Flip the Script on Plastics initiative, which aims to help the entertainment industry model real solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, both on set and in storylines.

We received over 60 film submissions in the horror, horror-comedy, thriller, and suspense genres. These films spanned a thrilling and chilling range of plastic related topics—from vampires choosing death over microplastics-laden blood, to spooky sea creatures filled with plastics and frightening false solutions like the myth of recycling—and we were astounded by the amount of creativity, technical skill and playfulness exhibited within the films submitted to this contest. 

With the help of our expert and notable judges—Jack Bender, Ian Brennan, Alan DiFiore, Esteban Gast, Paul Grellong, John Herrera, Liv Hewson, Peyton List, Jill Mazursky, Jonathan Penner, Paula Poundstone, Sean Reycraft, Paul Robinson, and Sarah Yarkin—as well as a public fan vote, we selected the cream of the creepy crop and are thrilled to announce our winning films:

Grand Prize Winner

Blastic

Dracula’s food supply is in jeopardy so he and Renfield set out on an eco-friendly quest for fresh blood.

“Drinking blood is out.” — Paula Poundstone, Comedian and Author: Home Movies, Inside Out, Hyperspace

“This is hilarious, campy, and embraced with so much energy by the performers. The fact that plastic would be fatal to a vampire is a perfect metaphor for the problem this contest is addressing. Not only that, the facts relayed, such as how and where to throw away dirty or otherwise unrecyclable plastics is handled perfectly and elegantly. While its tone may be fun, its message that blood itself can be poisoned by plastic hits home in an effective way.” — John Herrera, Writer and Producer: Handmaid’s Tale, The Purge

“Funny! Acting was just classic horror [enough] to be tongue ‘n cheek while being entertaining.” — Jack Bender, Producer and Director: Lost, Child’s Play 3, From

“I just LOVED this. Beautifully done, very What We Do in the Shadows-esque.” — Liv Hewson, Actor: Yellowjackets, Santa Clarita Diet, Under My Skin

Adam Wademan
Writer, Director, and Producer
Dracula in Blastic

Adam Wademan (he/him) is a writer, director, and actor originally from Nebraska. He had his debut as an actor and writer on the Omaha regional NBC comedy sketch TV show Omaha Live! from 2014 to 2015. Blastic is his fourth independent film project since 2018. 

Karola Sanchez 
Assistant Director, Director of Photography, Cinematographer, and Editor
Karola Sanchez (she/her) is a Spanish-American photographer and director of photography who started her career as an actress. She now teaches filmmaking to students at LAUSD schools throughout Los Angeles with Creating Creators.

Aaron Beal 
Renfield in Blastic
Aaron Beal (he/him) is an actor and writer from Indiana who dreams of a world without microplastics. 

I wanted to make Blastic in order to bring awareness to the catastrophic plastic pollution that has touched every part of the planet, leaving no one to spare, not even Dracula. We need entertainment that inspires policy change and regulation of anything made of plastic that includes the health of all life on earth.

 — Adam Wademan

Fan Favorite Winner

No Escape from That Within

We all ingest plastic poisons unknowingly, but as Alissa accidentally consumes more and more plastic, a strange creature begins to haunt her as the poison eats her from the inside out.

The winning “Fan Vote” film from the Slipstream site is No Escape from that Within, selected by viewers from screening the top 15 scoring entries.

“Evocative cinematography and a strong, committed central performance.” — Paul Grellong, Executive Producer and Writer: The Boys, Revolution, Hawaii Five-O

“Loved the images of the creepy strangers outside the window/inside the house. Plus it’s just gross. Simple concept. Great execution.” — Sean Reycraft, Co-Executive Producer and Writer: Mayfair Witches, Coroner, Killjoys, Vampire Diaries

Nathaniel Wisham 
Writer, Director, Editor
Nathaniel Wisham (he/him) is a Film Student at UC Berkeley. He comes to film with a passionate love for the horror genre and a love for conservation and the natural world. Coming from Sacramento, and without a background in film production prior to becoming involved with production at Berkeley, his past production projects have all been made within production courses at UC Berkeley, up until No Escape From That Within. His last work before it, The Worst That Could Happen was a comedy horror short about friendship, red flags, and vampires. He came to this project excited to finally make an attempt at creating a “green” horror piece, as his love for the horror genre stems in large part from its ability to make intangible issues and threats tangible to unsettling effects.

Tobin Carter
Producer
Tobin Carter (he/him) started his career in film at seven years old, when he was signed by his first talent agency and booked an international commercial. He has since appeared in commercials, short films, and TV shows such as Children’s Hospital and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Having grown up raising and rescuing various species of animals, he developed a passion and appreciation for the environment at a young age. He is currently writing a novel he hopes to get published, as well as completing a poetry collection that will be released soon! He is studying film at the University of California, Berkeley, and is very grateful for this opportunity.

Charles Baxter
Director of Photography
Charles Baxter (he/him) recently graduated from UC Berkeley’s film and media department with Honors. He likes making films with his friends. His last piece, Ant Farm, was a comedy about office work.

I find horror to be most effective on a personal level, and regardless of how big an issue plastic pollution is, I feel that the most poignant fact for a lot of people is the amount of plastic in our bodies. I figured that embodying the slow poisoning of our bodies by the very things we frequently use to feed ourselves would work especially well as a hard to spot, slowly encroaching creature, as well as with lots and lots of blood.

— Nathaniel Wisham

Runners-Up

Throwaway Living

A housewife trapped in a 1950s ad campaign becomes the unwitting messenger for a world consumed by plastic.

“Loved this. Made me laugh and cringe. What more could I ask for?” — Jonathan Penner, Writer and Actor: The Bye Bye Man, Let the Devil Wear Black, Horror Cinema

“Entertaining, visually striking, and structurally tight. Super effective, really good job!” — Liv Hewson, Actor: Yellowjackets, Santa Clarita Diet, Under My Skin

Laura Malatos 
Writer & Director

Helen Sun
Writer & Producer 

Laura Malatos (she/her) & Helen Sun (she/her) are a writing-filmmaking duo with an appetite for overly ambitious characters and darkly comedic worlds. Despite being born 5,000 miles apart (in Seattle and literal Moscow, Russia), they came together at USC and have been ride-or-die roommates ever since. Alongside writing, they collaborate on social media ads, music videos, and narrative films – jobs that have brought them unhinged experiences, from transforming their apartment into an underground bunker to staging medieval fights in the California mountains. They are excited to keep exploring heightened worlds in their work and bring complex queer and female-driven narratives to the screen whilst having a laugh.

We pulled our inspiration from the very real post-war ads that intensely encouraged the waste of single-use plastic as the way of the future. Looking back, these colorful corporation-driven ads feel like a horrifying pivot to point to as the beginning of the overwhelming plastic pollution of today.

— Helen Sun

Just One Word

The mysterious disappearance of a young woman’s reusable water bottle leads to a shocking discovery!

“Funny, shocking, and strong acting from an enormous plastic water bottle. The short builds and builds leading to a thrilling climax!” — Esteban Gast, Comedian, recently named as one of Grist’s 50 Fixers

“Facetime computer call is a contemporary way of immediately connecting to a current audience. Delivery is sharp. Since dangers of plastics are well codified in the audience to begin with, picking a particular problem such as a plastic bottle works well. Highly entertaining.” — Alan DiFiore, Co-Executive Producer: Grimm, The Expanse

Craig Wyrick-Solari
Writer and Director
Craig Wyrick-Solari (he/him) graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Film & Broadcasting and headed west as a young man. Gradually working his way up to be a Producer, UPM, and Director on network, cable, and streaming television comedies, some of his shows include the recent season of Mad About You, Pretty Freekin Scary, Hood Adjacent With James Davis, The Wayans Bros., That’s My Bush!, The Closer, Austin & Ally, and many more. In between series he continues to create his own short film projects, writing, directing, shooting, editing and mixing them in his Laurel Canyon workshop.

A standard convention in many horror films, the “skeptic” is the character who always doubts the warnings of the other characters about the dangers lurking in the shadows or the monsters towering over our cities. I wanted to twist this convention in a humorous way to poke fun at the many “skeptics” who doubt the harm that plastics are inflicting on our world. The title is inspired by the famous phrase from The Graduate—‘Just one word. Plastics.’

— Craig Wyrick-Solari

Single Use

That plastic grocery bag is a lot deadlier than it looks.

“This one was really great. I loved how the story played into classic horror beats. Like terrific movies, it was a story told VISUALLY! Scary. Fun. Effective!!!” — Jack Bender, Producer and Director: Lost, Child’s Play 3, From

“Great pacing, nice use of resources to achieve an effect that far outpaces the budget. Good use of score. Nicely done.” — Paul Grellong, Executive Producer and Writer: The Boys, Revolution, Hawaii Five-O

Stephen Parkhurst
Writer & Director 
Stephen Parkhurst (he/him) is a writer and director of short films and documentaries with a career in digital media producing series and videos for Business Insider, CNBC, Conde Nast, Facebook, and others. Meanwhile, he has directed multiple award-winning short films with a focus on horror, sci-fi, and comedy.

I live in New York City where single-use bags were officially banned several years ago. And yet, they still turn up everywhere! I’ve often considered the insidiousness of single-use bags: they seem so harmless and disposable, but the truth is that they’ll outlive us all as they suffocate the planet. What better inspiration for a horror villain could there be?

— Stephen Parkhurst

Bottled

When a young man buys a plastic water bottle at a convenience store, he soon realizes it has bloody consequences.

“I loved this. From the moment I read the label on the water bottle. Great effort from everybody. And the invention (and execution, really) of ‘The Plastiker’ was genius. Information was simply presented & incorporated in the horror.” — Sean Reycraft, Co-Executive Producer and Writer: Mayfair Witches, Coroner, Killjoys, Vampire Diaries

“This was super funny and I love the locations used and performances and costumes! Feels like a wild plastic fever dream!” — Sarah Yarkin, Actor: School Spirits, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Happy Death Day 2 U

Brayden Roberge 
Writer & Director 
Brayden Roberge (he/him) is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington’s film program. He loves cameras, elevator music, and making weird comedy shorts with his best friends.

BOTTLED is a mixture of our group’s backgrounds in surreal films and sketch comedy. We decided to make something for this contest inside an IHOP at 9am on Thursday, and by 11pm on Friday, we had a finished film. Because what else would we do on a Thursday night? Sleep? No thanks.

— Brayden Roberg

Watch the Top Films

You can view all 15 finalists’ films, including our winners, on our streaming partner Slipstream

Special thanks to Hollywood, Health and Society and our notable panel of judges who helped select our winning films.

More Plastic-Free Halloween 

Looking for more ways to keep spooky plastic out of your Halloween? Browse some of our past plastic-free Halloween resources:

Learn More & Get Involved

Learn more about Flip the Script on Plastics, including additional resources and latest news on how we’re helping Hollywood eliminate single-use plastics from sets and storylines. To get involved with our initiative, contact Amelia@PlasticPollutionCoalition.org

Stay tuned for our next short film contest coming up in 2024…..it’s going to be a good one!

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