The setting: 1960s Los Angeles. Inside a phone booth stands a beautiful woman wearing the portentous femme fatale uniform of red lipstick and high heels. Bright and eerie, it’s picture-perfection. In her first short film, LA-based photographer Alex Prager is going for pure, cinematic melodrama, hoping to catch just one emotion—despair—through her chilling juxtaposition of dreamy Americana aesthetics and back-story brimming with overstated tragedy. Set to a score by composer Ali Helnwein and starring model and actress Bryce Dallas Howard, the film takes its cues from the opening of Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter (1955), and the Hans Christian Andersen-inspired 1948 ballet The Red Shoes. According to Prager, Despair was conceived as a living, full-sensory version of her photographic work, which has previously been exhibited at M+B Gallery in Los Angeles, Yancey Richardson in New York and Michael Hoppen in London.