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Promotion & Interview – ‘Public Ransom’ – A Feature Film


Posted May 19, 2014 by

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‘Public Ransom’ – A Feature Length Film

Steven (Carlyle Edwards) is a self-serving, amoral author of very mediocre talent. When he stumbles across a crayon-scribbled “missing child” poster with a scrawled telephone number and the words “HLEPP ME?” written on it, he figures it to be harmless – and deciding to base a story around it, he calls the number. This leads to an encounter with Bryant (Goodloe Byron) who flatly claims to have actually kidnapped a girl, stating she will be released only if Steven pays a mere $2000 ransom within two weeks. Steven initially dismisses Bryant as a morbid prankster — until Bryant begins a relationship with his only friend, Rene (Helen Bonaparte) and starts popping up in his life in apparently coincidental, yet increasingly invasive and unsettling ways.

Visually inspired by the early films of Bresson, Fassbinder, and Jarmusch, A PUBLIC RANSOM is a slow burn character-study cum psychological-thriller in the spirit of the works of Patricia Highsmith – Featuring the music of The Detroit Cobras, Bellflur, Hundred-Hundred, and Goodloe Byron.

You Can Visit The Film’s Main Website Here – Public Ransom

PUBLIC RANSOM Goodloe Poster

Interview With Director: Pablo D’Stair

public Ransom Still 13 Ransom Still 6

Adam: First, let’s talk about yourself, what is your background and how did you get into filmmaking?

Pablo: My background, such as it is, is in writing—I’ve written a lot of novels, novellas, story collections that sort of thing. Then also I’m an interviewer and essayist, playwright, poet, blah blah blah. I’ve always wanted to make films in kind of a vague way (same as anyone kind of wants to make films, I suppose) but when I started writing film essay/critique regularly, the urge got more and more. And I realized after being teased a few times that this or that party might “produce” something of mine or “adapt” something—but then nothing ever coming of it—that I kind of just wanted to do it myself, underground. The films that most directly speak to me—as in I’d want to “do something like them”—are never standard fare, so the total auteur, DIY, underground lo-fi thing spoke to me. Just decided to do it.

Adam: Tell me about your film; ‘Public Ransom’

Pablo: The film is really a rather bleak character study wrapped around the germ of a noir/thriller—I like to think of it as “What if Jim Jarmusch had written Strangers On A Train” or something (though that might make it sound cooler than it is, haha). I “adapted it” from a short story I wrote of the same title, though the film is wildly different—the short was just the punch of the “creepy story” aspect while the film is character study, first and foremost (and a rotten, unlikeable character). It’s art-house noir, existential noir—I say it’s about the “horror of inaction,” an exploration of the depravity of amorality, as the film even posits straight immorality as a more positive thing. It’s slow burn, static, aggressive toward the audience in a lot of ways. It’s about a very lousy person who gets lousier and more unredeemable as things go—the audience, if anything, should despise him (almost, I hope, almost) to the point of wanting to shut the fucking movie off. Haha—just an all around pleasant viewing experience, I guess is how to describe it.

Adam: Tell me about the original idea for the project, where did it come from?

Pablo: As I say, I got tired of waiting to work with other people, so decided to go lo-fi, underground and do the sort of movie I’d always wanted. Understand: the restrictions and aesthetic of the film is wholly purposeful—something else that led to problems with every working with other people who always wanted to “wait on things”—funding or “better equipment” and so leaving things perpetually in the air. To get to the point that it became the film it did was interesting though—first it was gonna be a straight adaptation of the short story—an almost dialogue-less, creepy suspense piece. That didn’t take to me though—I felt like I was trying to imitate something in every sequence, like a technician (which I have neither the interest nor talent to be). So I kind of inverted it: constant dialogue, character based, highly specific visual aesthetic that had nothing to do with traditional cinematography and all. Figured if I was gonna finally do something, best not to worry if anyone was gonna dig it, haha.

Adam: Tell me about your creative process; what is your style, influences, methods of working etc?

Pablo: For this film, my touchstone was Lars von Trier’s Epidemic. That to me is the epitome of lo-fi, art piece, wholly original thing (added in to which: I love that film while most hate it, so I needed a touchstone like that). It’s odd, really, for as much as von Trier is an influence (or Akerman or Jarmusch or Fassbinder) I just as much love—fucking love—the genuine gritty aesthetic of things like The Driller Killer or The Creeper, things like Scream Bloody Murder and all. Underground cinema I don’t think is cinema that wishes it had bigger budgets and all that—it’s showcasing cinema rightly stripped of all of that. So I like obstructions, in this we set a lot of them, forcing an aesthetic and style to the storytelling and performance based on “how we were shooting” as much, if not more than deciding how we were going to shoot “based on the script.” I think the tighter the restrictions, the more imperatively interesting a film becomes.

Adam: How and where did you shoot the film? What kind of budget did you have?

Pablo: The film was all shot on location, in natural light—usually at night which made things fun—and much of it is done as “guerrilla” as possible which led to a few run-ins with police and/or security guards. One would not know for the way the final shots are framed, but the camera had to pretty much be concealed (it was when it couldn’t be that the authorities tended to pop in) so we could just do the scenes out in public, leading, as one would expect, to all manner of constant interruptions we had to work around. And we had no budget, none at all—we wound up spending, maybe, eight hundred bucks, including the cost of the camera and we joke that (though it’s true) the cigarette budget was the most expensive line item (we went through a fuck ton of cigarettes due to how we filmed). But, as I feel needs to be pointed out, we purposefully had no budget (and we turned down many kind offers for “better, nicer” equipment, as well)—it was one of the primary aspects of the philosophy behind doing this film. For us (making it) how it was being made was as important as what it was about etc. (to the audience it shouldn’t be, of course, but from the doing it side it certainly was)

Adam: What is the next step for ‘Public Ransom’, how are you going to promote, market and distribute?

Pablo: The film is, as was always the intention, free to view for all. It’s on Vimeo (password protected) but we post the password on the hub site. We’ve submitted to festivals, though that isn’t so much the goal for this project, and we put on screenings here and there. It’s really about bare bones filmmaking and free distribution, as far as “getting it out there.” I mean, it’s our first film, kind if a calling card, and it’s all about getting it seen. We want reactions—completely raw reactions—and have been very lucky in getting them from critics and viewers alike. The film’s been pretty polarizing, which is our dream come true–and a lot of time, someone who loves it says the same things about it as someone who hates it, haha, and there is nothing better than that!

Adam: Do you have a preferred area of filmmaking, or do you like to take complete creative control as director?

Pablo: I guess I like complete control, in a sense, but at the same time it’s all about participating with lack-of-control. For everything we planned and choreographed with A Public Ransom, it’s undeniable that things completely outside of our control led to some of our favourite elements—weather, having to switch shooting locations, time constraints leading to a kind of antsy energy. I think going in to something with a strict, auteur mind-set and then having the world just demonstrate “you don’t have the control you think” so you are forced to just roll with it is where it’s at, as far as producing art. Same with working with the actors—a level of control, but also knowing the reality of what gets filmed is so much more important than some abstraction of “what might have been filmed” or “what could be filmed” and so using the script page to get something real that might be as originated by the performer as by the script and director.

Adam: Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Pablo: At this very moment, we are just starting to shoot my second feature. It’s a paranoiac noir called DOCTOR, LAWYER, INDIAN CHIEF—working from a lot of the same aesthetics that went in to A Public Ransom, but also building on it—slightly more dynamic, larger cast, a script more evenly balanced between the intrigue and the characters. We’ll see—sometimes I think it’ll take me a few films to shed a lot of my prose-writer tendencies. I still feel like a novelist forced to work in images—which is great, a great tension is the tangling of experience with the writing and the absolute “I have no fucking idea what I’m doing” with the filmmaking haha!


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