It was more than a journey across the North American continent for three Concordia University students.
Traveling from Canada to Nashville to Johnson City and Texas definitely leaves time for car ride conversation about life and kids and especially leaves time for exploration and unexpected revelations.
“Soft Gun,” which had its American premiere at The Stony Brook Film Festival on July 24 at the Staller Center, follows two cousins on an impromptu road trip through the Deep South and up to New York City. Produced by three film students (Alexandra Bégin, Guillaume Collin and Jesse Kray) in Canada, the film was almost entirely funded by a Kickstarter campaign, an online money-raiser tool the students used where they would only receive the money if they reached their goal. While filming, the crew kept donors up-to-date via social media and produced a documentary called “Fireworks.”
“I think that was a way to sort of engage them [supporters and viewers] in production a bit more,” Bégin said. In addition, Collin said that the filmmakers were posting 10 to 12 images per week during production.
After traveling and shooting across the States for the summer, the trio returned back to school for class. Bégin mentioned that none of their professors had approached them about the film to congratulate them but they have visited various classes as guest speakers. They sent their film to The Alaska International Film Festival where they won The Special Jury Prize and The Canada International Film Festival, where they won the Royal Reel Prize.
“It’s more for the industry than it is for the public,” Collin said before the film screened at The Staller Center. “We’re getting feedback from filmmakers. Montreal and, so far, Stony Brook were amazing experiences.”
The film originally started as a summer project. As the film began becoming more of a possibility, they started a Kickstarter campaign. The team liked using Kickstarter because it kept donors wondering if the campaign would meet their goal.
After receiving their funding two days before their self-designated deadline, the crew set off for Decatur, Ga. to start production.
To keeps costs to a minimum, the crew also picked up locals on the road to use in different scenes. They asked for more information about the areas were in and the locals’ names went into the credits at the end of the movie. A number of people would even approach the students when they saw the camera equipment. They included the names of donors and locals who helped production in the end-of-film credits.
Kray and Bégin developed the script about five minutes before shooting each scene. When they were not in on the road, they were camping out in tents. The script slightly resembled John Hughes’ 1985 coming-of-age movie, “The Breakfast Club,” in that the “cousins” discussed the future in regard to kids and what lies ahead.
For Collin, his favorite place to capture film was in New York City. Unlike most productions, the team actually filmed the movie in chronological order. New York was their last stop.
“It was all of us together before the film ends,” Collin said.
And still the film cost less than a Spike Lee movie without big time producers. Some of the soundtrack came from Creative Commons, where artists allow users to download their content so long as they are credited for its use in the final product. In addition, the students found a band who agreed to play music for different scenes in the movie.
“The fun part is having people together, watching it and having different reactions,” Collin said.