Two actors recently proved all that’s needed to make a great short film is a good camera with quality sound. To find other actors, all you need to do is to go up to strangers.
J.D. Walsh (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Love Liza, Two and a Half Men) and Mike Postalakis (You Are Not Alone, The Night Is Young) are the masterminds behind the video, Run & Gun Pilot, which was posted on Vimeo in early April and features ordinary citizens recruited from the streets of Los Angeles. The duo sought random people to perform alongside Walsh, the only trained actor in the video, who portrays an earnest cop tracking down his son. With no script, budget, or plan, Walsh said they came up with the idea to create the trailer when they had no money but plenty of time.
“We just realized that all you really need is a nice camera (Alexa), good sound, and an outside location that looked cool, and you could make something look very professional,” Walsh told Digital Trends. “We knew that we didn’t need to tell a cohesive story, we just needed to look like we were telling a cohesive story. I would also say that being in front of the camera so much when real money is on the line helped me relax when very little money was on the line.”
The Vimeo video is made up of two parts: behind-the-scenes footage of strangers accepting or rejecting the offer to join the film’s cast, followed by the actual film itself. It also reveals the collaborative, improvised bits of dialogue and story, as the “actors” helped spontaneously write a surprisingly captivating script on scene while the cameras rolled.
While the recruits aren’t actors by trade, they were convincing — or, at least they were in Walsh’s presence. Some passers-by erroneously assumed some of the action was real and even interrupted shooting, as is shown in the making-of segment. One man in particular thought Walsh was actually yelling at a woman in a wheelchair, unaware she had agreed to be in the film.
“Good for him for stopping [to] say that you don’t do that to a woman,” Walsh said. “He laughed as soon as we told him it was a movie. We met a lot of odd people downtown, but that lady in the wheelchair was the best.”
For the most part, however, Walsh said filming on the street was fluid.
“It’s L.A. so [people] look, but it’s sort of expected to see filming, so they didn’t really care,” Walsh said. “They check to see if you’re famous and if you’re not, then they keep walking.”
Overall, Walsh was pleased with the outcome, namely the actors who played the story’s antagonists.
“They are my favorite villains, ever,” Walsh said. “They remind me of the bad guys from Diamonds Are Forever. I love how one guy never says anything; he just smiles.”
Walsh said he and Postalakis weren’t doing it on purpose, but Run & Gun unconsciously continues the traditions of Italian neorealism, a post-World War II film movement that often involved filming untrained actors on location in working-class or poor settings, and its film theory cousin, Dogme 95, which was started in 1995 by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, and sought to eliminate special effects and technology from filmmaking. However, Walsh said their intentions had nothing to do with those movements.
“We’re not that smart,” Walsh said. “It’s influenced by having no money and a lot of time on our hands. Mike and I had done something like this years ago with a bad camera and sound,” Walsh said. “It’s something people would mention to us occasionally, ‘You should do something like that again.’ Finally, we had access to a nice camera for the weekend, so we took the opportunity to try it again with a good sound person.
“The thing Mike and I keep saying when we have these big meetings at networks now is, ‘Wow, it’s really true: just keep making stuff and good things will happen,’” Walsh added. “We’re stunned by it.”
Although Walsh and Postalakis had no serious message behind Run & Gun, it comes off as a spunky, skillful, and engaging short film that may help spawn a new form of successful anti-Hollywood pro-community filmmaking. As for the future, Walsh told us that he and Postalakis are shopping the film around.
“We’re pitching it to cable networks – we’ll see,” Walsh said. “It would be nice to have a real budget and do even more genres: a zombie movie, musical, or romantic comedy. Then the hope is maybe to one day make a feature.”
As for the short version of Run & Gun, Walsh is appreciative for the response the film has had.
“Thanks to everyone who watched it and left so many nice comments. It’s been really wonderful,” he said.