This Thursday, get your Halloween spirit into gear with a double bill featuring two local filmmakers. Grinning Faces, directed by Noah Tilsen, makes its debut while The City, directed by James Vogel, will be shown in an extended format at Riverview Theatre. There's going to be lots of blood, lots of sex, and lots of violence in both films, which were produced here in the Twin Cities.
James Vogel started working on The City three years ago. It's movie about a screenwriter with writer's block who finds inspiration through acts of violence. He came up with the idea when he was on the bus and saw two guys get into a fight. One of the man was provoking the other. Vogel was fascinated by the idea of the societal limits that people are afraid to cross. "To me it was a revelation. I had never seen anybody be excited about violence." From that experience, he decided to make a movie about it.
Vogel approached Ezra Stead with little scraps of notes about two guys who go on a killing spree. Stead told Vogel that it was an awesome idea, and the two of them got to work writing the script. Eventually they cast Greg Hernandez, who also contributed to the dialogue.
There were between 20 to 30 people involved in making The City, but Vogel said most everyone has at this point moved on to Hollywood. It took 16 days to shoot over the course of a couple months. The movie was shot almost entirely in Minneapolis, mostly in downtown.
Amusingly, the filmmakers never bothered with getting permits for shooting outdoor scenes, and police ceased showed up three different times. The first occasion was actually the first day of shooting. The actresses who were dressed up as prostitutes apparently looked a bit too real, so someone alerted the cops. "It felt like such a disaster at the time," Vogel laughs, "but it motivated me to just keep working on the film."
Another time, the crew had just wrapped. It was in the wee hours of the morning, and Vogel admits to having had a bit to drink. He noticed cops walking up so he told actor Greg Hernandez, "Hey dude, the cops are here for you." He went inside, and next thing he knew, Hernandez was calling for him. He walked outside with his hands in his pockets, not realizing that the police had their guns pointed at him. "Sir," they said, "Can you please take your hands out of you pockets?"
Vogel spent about $10,000 making The City, much of which came from tax return money and student loans. Luckily, he's gotten a distribution deal through American Film Market, "where Indie films go to live or die," he jokes. He's hopeful that he will make his money back, but cash was never much of a motivating factor for the young filmmaker.
Vogel says that the Twin Cities has its plusses and minuses in terms of creating movies. On the one hand, it's a lot cheaper to make a film here than in California, but at the same time the scene here is a bit clique-y, and there's a lot of competition. He often personally struggles because of the content of his work. "My films are very polarizing," he states. This is most likely in part due to the provocative nature of his stories.
Grinning Faces and The City play at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, October 28 at the Riverview Theater (3800 42nd Ave. S., Minneapolis). Tickets are $3 or free admission for those in costume. Mature audiences only.