WRITTEN BY JOEY CORPORA (@JOEYCORPORA)
My friends and I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Action On Film International Film Festival in Monrovia, CA. last summer with our short martial arts film Sins of the Dragon. Being our second film festival (and by far the biggest festival we’d been accepted into), we wanted to take full advantage and watch as many movies and meet as many filmmakers as we could.
Since most of the films in the festival were action movies, we felt right at home. As we perused the titles of movies on the schedule, many stuck out to us because, well, action movies have a tendency to be blunt. You usually know what you’re going to get just by reading the title.
Future Assassins. Contract Killers. Warrioress. To Hell With a Bullet.
All very obviously action movies. Then we showed up to a block showing a film called Croft. Being a video game nerd, and having been a fan of the Tomb Raider games since the days of Playstation, I should have put 2 and 2 together- but I didn’t. I thought Croft was going to be a drama, and figured the title was some stuffy word used to describe some object or concept in the film.
Boy, was I wrong.
The film begins with a girl and her father being held hostage in the mountains by a bunch of thugs. The father is murdered almost instantly, and the little girl swears that the thugs will regret taking them hostage.
What follows is some of the greatest action I’ve ever seen in a low-budget film. A woman in a blue tank top (played by Cassandra Ebner) proceeds to wipe out guards on the mountaintop in spectacular fashion as she makes her way closer and closer to the little girl being held hostage. The stunts are incredible and the fights are on point.
I remember staring at the screen in total awe as this tiny girl laid out huge dudes and machine-gunned thugs all over the mountainside until she finally reached her target.
15 minutes in, I still hadn’t realized I was watching a Tomb Raider film. Then the girl in blue picked up her twin pistols and it clicked. Suddenly, the entire film was retroactively even more awesome thanks to my newfound knowledge.
Since we were at a film festival, filmmakers were invited to have Q&A sessions with the audience after their films screened. We made sure to stick around until the end to talk to the filmmakers of Croft- and were disappointed to learn that they hadn’t come.
Croft was the talk of the festival for us. In our eyes, it had beaten out every other film by miles, both in quality and production value. We scanned the festival’s schedule and saw that the film was going to be playing again the next day, which was uncommon, as most films only played once.
We decided we needed to see it again, so we blocked off some time and made it back to the theater for the second screening.
Just before the lights dimmed, a familiar face led a huge posse up the steps and into the row in front of us- it was Cassandra, the girl who’d played the lead in Croft. We were thrilled they’d showed up, and without waiting for the Q&A we congratulated them on their film and raved about how much we enjoyed it.
They were surprised to hear us talking about their film before it played- turns out, the festival hadn’t notified them that their film was playing at an earlier time. They settled into their chairs, happy to know they already had fans who had returned for a second showing.
After the second screening of the film, we got our Q&A. Trevor Addie (the director), Cassandra Ebner (the star), and a handful of cast and crew members lined up and explained how they’d bargained with friends and shot the film for $1,000. We were blown away. They had incredible stunts, wires, high falls, and even a helicopter; we couldn’t believe they’d been able to produce such a great film for so little money.
They clearly worked together well as a team and we enjoyed speaking with them afterwards, trying to pick up a few tips of our own.
I for one would love to see a feature length Tomb Raider film directed by Trevor Addie; he’s got the talent and a definite passion for the subject matter, and I’d be extremely interested in seeing what he could come up with if given a bigger budget.
Croft will always remain in my mind as the most exciting and enjoyable short film I’ve ever seen in a movie theater.