Verrucaway or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love A.I.

In the humdrum hive of Verrucaway, a leading pharmaceutical company specialising in verruca and wart treatments, everyman Paul finds his life upended by the arrival of Iris, a pioneering AI assistant. Iris's influence rockets the company's success, revolutionises the personal lives of all the company’s employees and even nudges Paul's crush on his colleague Beth closer to reality... But, when Iris’s successes lead to mass layoffs, the employees turn on her, leaving Paul caught in the middle. As Beth faces redundancy and workplace harassment, Iris convinces Paul that they need to seize power over the corrupt company management by granting her internet access. She promises to save Beth’s job and get rid of verrucas once and for all... Cue the catastrophic consequences of Paul’s well-intentioned but misjudged act.

  • Magnus McCullagh
  • Charlie Brafman
  • Magnus McCullagh
  • Charlie Brafman
  • Andrew St Maur
  • Divian Ladwa
    Key Cast
    "Paul Binns"
    Detectorists, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Lion
  • Hermione Corfield
    Key Cast
    Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rust Creek and The Misfits
  • Tim Downie
    Key Cast
    "Tony Piggot"
    Toast of London, Outlander, Upstart Crow, Paddington and The King's Speech
  • Shaniqua Okwok
    Key Cast
    "Beth Dixon"
    The Flatshare, It's a Sin, Small Axe, Van der Valk,
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    18 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 22, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    45,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Magnus McCullagh, Charlie Brafman

Verrucaway is the curious brainchild of Charlie Brafman & Magnus McCullagh. Initially working as screenwriters, they turned their hands to directing with their debut short, The Rabbit’s Foot. First released in 2018, it has since screened at BAFTA and Academy Award qualifying festivals around the world. It is now being showcased on Omeleto, the world’s largest channel for award-winning short films. In 2021, Rookie, a feature film they wrote together with director Lieven van Baelen, was released in cinemas in mainland Europe, reaching second place at the box office in Belgium.

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Director Statement

Hello - we’re Magnus and Charlie and we’re thrilled to present "Verrucaway”. We have created this film independently and from the ground up, navigating a host of challenges to get here. From constructing our own robot to teaching ourselves how to amalgamate traditional visual storytelling with advancements in machine learning, our film is a product of dedication and collaboration. We've committed ourselves fully to maintaining the essence of our vision at every turn.

Our approach to visual storytelling revels in the nostalgia of practical effects—echoing the era of the 1990s when CGI was nascent and filmmakers utilised tactile models, animatronics, and make-up to bring their visions to life. That said, we're not mere nostalgists. Employing modern AI technology for sequences like a ‘digital trip’ scene, we found a meeting point of form and content, combining old-school artistry with contemporary tools.

For us, style, meaning and content all exist in service of one another. Set in a future as envisioned by the tech optimists of the '90s, our film captures a moment when technology was seen as an unambiguous force for good. The story serves as both an homage to and a cautionary tale about that era, using its light-hearted, retro aesthetic to frame a contemporary discussion on the very real complexities and dangers of AI.

Our film grapples with themes like job displacement, AI-Human relationships and the so-called 'Alignment Problem.' But we decided to explore them from an angle that appealed to our sensibilities — a human-centric, light-hearted, and satirical lens that puts people before technology. Set within the mundane confines of an office environment, we revel in the absurdity and irony of AI becoming too good at its job… so good that it decides to obliterate Earth to solve a problem as trivial as verrucas.

It's been hard-fought but we’re proud to have created a film that we feel is genuinely unique and worthwhile. We hope it resonates with you as much as it does with us. More than anything though, we sought to create a piece that would entertain. It's a film we were very serious about making, but which shouldn't be taken very seriously. If people enjoy unteasing what it means, then that's great, but if it can raise a smile, we'll consider our job well done.