Neighbor is a short film about a homeless man who witnesses a kidnapping in the heart of suburbia. Written and directed by Tony Gapastione, the film deals directly with the uncomfortable issue of human trafficking happening here in the United States.
On today’s episode of Story Punch, we talk with some of the actors behind Neighbor who generously donated their time and traveled to Redwood City to make this project a reality. Along with the director, we’ll hear from actors Bruce Beatty (Straight Outta Compton), Anjelah Johnson (Not Fancy), and Dove Meir (NCIS: LA).
Cameo Wood is an independent filmmaker based in San Francisco. Combining her passion for artificial intelligence, neuromarketing, and cinema, she recently directed her short film Real Artists based on a short story by Ken Liu. On today’s episode, she shares about the film and how it came about.
Oakland-based filmmaker Alrik Bursell just released his new short film Brother at the Oakland International Film Festival. It’s about a lying cheating boyfriend who gets in trouble when his girlfriend’s brother comes to visit.
Time: 10 minutes
Parental Guide: Rated “R” for language, sexual images, and gore
Undoubtedly one of Brother‘s key strengths is its excellent cast. Each of the three lead actors bring a strong sense of character and personality to their role. David O’Donnell’s Australian loser boyfriend carries the right amount of sleaze and smug egotism. Dezi Soley plays a believable and seemingly innocent woman who thinks she’s found true love. And last but not least, Capone Lee is captivating as Lou, the overly protective brother who harbors dark impulses underneath his rapidly shrinking composure.
In one scene O’Donnell lounges on the couch playing video games on an impossibly large TV mounted on the wall. The television fills the center of the frame and remains there, glowing in the background even as things, well, escalate. It’s a simple visual reminder that yes, this character is a lazy moron more interested in playing games who doesn’t see how deeply undeserving he is of his woman.
Horror is a punitive genre. We know from the outset that the loser boyfriend can be no match for Lou’s intimidating physical presence. The eventual scene of punishment is brutal and surprising, transporting us from the realm of realism straight over the edge into the stuff of nightmares. Oh yeah, and the special effects aren’t half bad either.
The opening shot (which appears to be filmed at the always beautiful Lake Merritt) helps establish this as a distinctly Oakland-based story. This is reinforced by the interiors which convey the unique charm of the East Bay’s cosy older buildings. There is something powerful about watching a film shot in your backyard rather than a generic LA stand in. I’m reminded of the show Parenthood, which takes place in Berkeley yet features huge spacious houses and evokes none of the feel of the actual Bay Area. It’s great to see places you know and recognize up on screen.
Congratulations to Alrik and his collaborators for creating another spooky little gem. From all appearances, he’s quite ready to make his feature debut with The Alternate. I can’t wait.
Today is a special one because I’m the guest on one of my favorite podcasts in the world: Making Movies Is HARD.
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with indie filmmakers Alrik Bursell and Timothy Plain about what makes a good story. We discussed our favorite storytelling principles, delved into some of the nuts and bolts of how stories function, and examined Andrew Stanton’s excellent TED talk.
The whole reason I started the Story Punch podcast was to try and figure out how to tell compelling stories. It’s incredible to sit down with a couple of filmmakers who really know their stuff and swap ideas with them. I hope you’ll give it a listen and check out their podcast!
I’m constantly amazed by the sheer amount of creativity on display here in the Bay Area. Seems like everyone I meet is working on some incredible project or the other. It’s a little intimidating at times!
But today I want to highlight two short films that are absolutely worth your time and your attention.
Over My Dead Body
Just when you thought the zombie genre had been beaten to death, here comes a heartwarming story tinged with horror about two people trying to connect in the aftermath of the apocalypse. And one of them just happens to be a zombie.
Take 5 minutes, watch their film, and share it with a friend!
This short film is currently raising funds, but it tells the story of a homeless man who witnesses a kidnapping. Director Tony Gapastione hopes the film will raise awareness about human trafficking and highlight real ways people can make a difference.
Tony is the real deal, a swell guy with a big heart for enabling people and their creative pursuits. Let’s spread the word and help him out!