Hard Crimes is a light hearted and refreshing comedy from writer and director Sean Topping. Out now on Vimeo, this short film is a comedic journey that all audiences cannot miss. Sean Topping provides a new and unique twist on the comedy and drama format that is a selling point all its own.
Hard Crimes tells the story of “A semi-professional swindler tries to have the value of her last mark appraised, but two of her new marks unexpectedly meet” .
What happens in the narrative consists of minutes upon minutes of comedy gold. Hard Crimes, is a short film full of sharp and witty dialogue all wrapped in an engaging and clever plot. With a run time of 8 minutes, Hard Crimes plays off like a pilot to a TV series. This is however, is not a bad thing seeing that Hard Crimes is able to pull audiences in with its humor and leave them wanting more.
Unlike typical short films, Hard Crimes is told in a mock-documentary camera style. The frame is shaking, the angles are wide, and the fourth wall between the film world and reality is almost non-existent. For Hard Crimes, this inventive approach to storytelling results in the film having a sort of realistic buffer around it. This allows Hard Crimes to ground its humor in reality and its dialogue in the existing, and not zany outrageous gags. Overall this camera style is a plus for Hard Crimes although it may take audiences some time to get used to.
Hard Crimes is full of three dimensional quirky characters that will have amused and entertain audiences. The cast share a chemistry that shines brightly on stage and engage audiences through the duration of the film. The cast of characters also do very well concerning the style of the film. Never do their performances feel out of place in the film’s documentary style, nor does it ever not fit in.
"I wrote the story around the characters that emerged during the improv sessions; some of the final scenes are entirely improv. More than half the cast received an IMDB writing credit as a result of their contribution to the script.
There was considerable doubt from the cast and crew about the validity of the script and how it would translate. In the words of one crew member, "the script was decidedly un-funny". In the words of an actress, "what the hell is this script about?"
A fairly substantial storm blew through Portland on the day of the shoot. On the way to the vista scene, we drove past a huge tree that had cracked in half and a downed live power line. The upside of the wind was that it added some immediacy to Holly and Annie's characters as they squared off, hair blowing in their faces."
Hard Crimes is a comedy comparable in style and form to other classic comedies such as The Office or Peep Show. It uses its unique style to deliver dramatic yet humorous narrative through stellar performances. Sean Topping has a gold mine on his hand with this concept, we can only hope that he and his amazing production crew expand upon this and create more comedies in this style.
INTERVIEW with Sean Topping (Director/Co-Writer)
First, what's your story? How did you become a filmmaker?
I love everything about motion pictures: from the texture of celluloid to the weight and precision of a camera to the soaring emotions the medium can produce. It is a confluence of art and technology in a way that no other medium can match. However, I felt excluded from being able to contribute except as a member of the audience.
I tried for many years to 'break in' to the motion picture industry through writing, but without success. Once it became technologically feasible to self-declare inclusion by becoming a filmmaker, I set out to write a script that I could shoot myself. The idea of the first film (Aftermath) was to show my writing abilities, but once I got behind the camera, my love of motion pictures returned.
The most liberating aspect of being an indie filmmaker is not having to write stories that I think someone else (e.g., studios & producers) will like. I can write stories that I want to have told that I think others will like. I am free to have dry humor and unconventional themes.
What inspired this short?
1) To be more funny. Having watched hundreds of shorts to see what indie filmmakers are up to, I found many of them to be somewhat depressing. Drama may make good cinema, but I found myself mostly enjoying comedy. An element of Monty Python's surreal humor is in everything I do; as both an acknowledgement of the constant state of absurdity in our own lives as well as to provide an outlet for comedic release.
2) To transform my identity as writer masquerading as director, to director who is also the writer. I had to let go of the idea that I needed to be in control of everything and open myself to spontaneity. To that end, I brought together several actors who had never worked with each other and gave them improvisational situations to play with; from that, the film emerged.
This approach probably should have been a complete disaster. However, I was lucky to work with some amazingly talented actors who made the magic that I was honored to record.
What is it like film making now after having made this film? Has your approach changed?
The variables for the next film are increased technicality and being my own cinematographer. It seems to me that so much in the film world is about facing my fears and being behind the camera is definitely one of them.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future?
I am about to shoot my third short next weekend - we had a dry run a couple of weeks ago and everyone is very excited! I'm working on a script for a Sci-Fi/Comedy episodic that will be my next project.
Any advice to filmmakers?
There is so much amazing work being published every day that it would be presumptuous to suppose that I have some unique angle on filmmaking. My only advice would be to those who have put all their eggs in one basket and have decided they have to make it (whatever that means) in film. There can be a great freedom in not having to impress anyone but rather making film for the sake of making the film. Of course it would be fantastic to be paid to be creative, but the dark side is compromise for the sake of money.