A Novice Filmmaker and His Very Strange Subject Matter
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because with cinema getting simpler, there’s no real reason to find a reason to not make a movie.
By Eugene S. Robinson
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
St. Louis, Missouri
When I got out of prison in early 2015, I wanted to get into films in a serious way since, when I was in prison, I was writing true-crime books on gangsters that I thought would make quirky-cool crime movies. I figured that the easiest way to become a filmmaker is to just make films. Not going to school, working on someone else’s film or waiting for one of my scripts to be funded, I jumped in headfirst and did something based on the cinematic visions I’d been having of a bunny rabbit going around whacking people on a moped. That something is something I just finished called Easter Bunny Assassin, Episode 1.
It premiered at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase this past July as part of the Comedy Shorts Program. What’s funny, though, is that I didn’t write the short as a comedy. To me, it was this real serious criminal landscape. Real smooth and James Bond–like, debonair and classy. The characters were quirky but deadly, like a cross between the Quentin Tarantino and Terry Gilliam movies that I loved. Like Breaking Bad meets Benny Hill. The crime element was a must, but I wanted it to be surreal and shocking to the senses. I wanted people to say, Easter Bunny Assassin, WTF?
I play the Crime Lord, the first target to get whacked by the Easter Bunny Assassin.
I didn’t win any awards at the showcase, but it was awesome seeing my movie, something I created in my mind, being shown on the big screen in a movie theater with a packed crowd. Everybody laughed and moaned when they were supposed to, and after the viewing several attendees told me how much my “dark comedy” titillated them. I even got an offer from Always Late TV, a local streaming service that wanted to distribute Easter Bunny Assassin.
Not bad for something I essentially wrote in prison. And not only did I write it, but I directed, produced and acted in it. I play the Crime Lord, the first target to get whacked by the Easter Bunny Assassin. We shot the film guerrilla-style on a Canon 70D, mostly handheld. This was low-budget filmmaking at its most chaotic. We had a plan but ended up basically winging it. With the costumes, scooters and animals, I was breaking a lot of filmmaking no-nos, but to me this was my film school. I saw it as an exercise, a way to learn a trade and hone my skills at the same time.
We shot the film over a weekend right before Christmas last year. It was two days of 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shooting. We had costumes, motor scooters, fake guns, a real rabbit and my white German shepherd on set. I wanted that comic book, graphic novel feel, so I was shooting in fish-eye. I love the way the lens warps things. Distorting images is considered amateurish by professionals, or so I’m told, but this is my vision, and I was running with it. I wanted to find out if I could capture the visions in my head digitally. Writing the scenes down in script format was one thing, but actually making scenes come together to work as a coherent and entertaining storyline was a whole other thing. I trusted my crew, though, and film is a collaborative effort.
I met them all at local film meet-ups, introducing myself and my ideas to people here in St. Louis who were actively participating in film projects. I had a short 10-page script, and when I shared my vision, the idea generated a lot of attention. Numerous people were ready to sign on and bring the project to life. Mostly college students from Lindenwood and Webster Universities, and my cast was a combination of local actors and friends from prison, guys I’d told about my filmmaking ambitions who wanted to give acting a shot. It was my overall vision, but I needed all these other people to bring it to life.
But now I’m writing, directing and shooting three more episodes for 2017: Santa Claus Crack Dealer, Tooth Fairy Mafia Don and Jesus Christ Junkie. I feel like a filmmaker now. Because instead of just talking about an idea and the possibility of it, I went and made it a reality. The Easter Bunny Assassin’s going to take over the world.