HISCOX FILMMAKER Q&A: 11:55
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Why did you want to tell this story?
A while back, my old friend Victor Almanzar invited me out for drinks to pitch me an idea he had for a film. He talked me through this elaborate, cops and robbers, shoot-em-up, action flic. I asked Victor what drew him to the material; he confessed he’d recently had some run-ins with the law. Since returning home from his service in the military, Victor had been arrested a few times. We talked into the night about his own life, why he had joined the military, and what it was like to return. The conversation stuck with me. Inspired, Victor, Ari, and I spent the next few months talking and listening, laughing and bickering, and ultimately writing and making 11:55, which Victor played the lead role in.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
Most of the roles were written for specific actors we’ve known for many years and inspired by real people.The relationship to the characters is one of relating to a community, or a family.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
As we were heading into production we cut a major character and subplot. It made the story tighter. (and the budget smaller)
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
We chose to shoot in Newburgh NY, which is statistically one of the most under-resourced and dangerous cities in the country. We were very intentional about involving the community in the making of the film. We hired over 150 residents of Newburgh. We had on open set and invited young people to hang out and watch the process. We patronized local businesses for housing and catering needs. Our outreach really paid off, and the city supported the film, and made the whole experience positive and inspiring for all of us.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
We shot on a few “hot” blocks – areas of drug trafficking. With strong relationships in the community we were able to bring a wide variety of residents into the collaborative process. There was one particularly difficult night where based on a situation on the block we were not sure if we were going to be able to shoot, but based on our good will in the neighborhood, we eventually calmed things down, and stayed on schedule.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
We worked closely with our DP Tim Gillis to come up with the look for the film. Much of the style of the film was dictated by the environment. Based on the subject matter, we wanted to work against the grittiness, and lean into the beauty of the city, while serving a very character driven narrative. The style choices started with what is the mood/emotion we’re trying to convey, and then how do we serve that in the most dynamic way.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
The film is a counter-narrative to the predominate stories that glorify violence, masculinity, and offer limited representations of people of color.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
I would say just decide it’s happening. Pick a date. Figure out how to make it for nothing. And act like it’s happening until it does. There’s a big difference between saying to yourself (and others) “I want to make a film” and “I’m making a film.” When you start to say and believe it’s happening people and resources will gravitate towards you, and the team you need to work with will emerge.
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