Have you noticed that more and more of us are fighting lately? We’re fighting about this damn virus and wearing masks, we’re fighting about the lack of work and money, and we are fighting beyond the madness over race. In the history books, it says that we fixed the race issues years ago… and it’s been said, ‘if we don’t learn from our history, we are bound to repeat it’. When the face of racism rears its big head, you can stand and fight – maybe people get hurt and maybe you become a victim of violence… unless we take another approach. We can use the best platform in the world to send a message that everyone can read by placing it at the heart of the comedy, Tribes.
The timing for this film could not be better and there is already buzz for Oscar contention. The logline goes… An African American, an Arab-American and a white guy try to rob a train. However, no one wants to rob their own race. The script was the winner of the 2018 Page International Screenwriting Awards Short Film category and was written by tremendously talented and soon to be famous Andy Marlatt. Andy is a former journalist and has worked in television, online, print and radio including the BBC TV show, Comic Side of 7 Days as well as authoring Economy of Errors… then, he stopped everything – to raise his two daughters before returning to writing.
The script was picked up by director, Nino Aldi (Stillwater, Producer for 17 seasons of The Voice) because actor/producer and Emmy Winner, Jake Hunter (Man Out: The Series, Scene Study and Appland) was looking to make a high-quality film, for a big festival run. Jake is currently in production in Los Angeles on Class Act – a series he wrote, produced and stars in opposite Eric Roberts. In August, Hunter returned to The Bay for season four as both a producer and a series regular. Tribes is Nino Aldi’s 7th directorial short film. With over 15 years in film and television, he is a proud member of the DGA.
His Director’s Statement reads:
I was drawn to Tribes because it deals with a pertinent issue in our society today about separatism and how different we all feel we are from one another.
The team of actors, DeStorm Power (producer), Adam Waheed (producer), Jake Hunter (producer) and background actors were assembled with the rest of the producers, Patricia Chica from Montreal. She has directed over 50 hours of content and brings over two decades of writing, directing and producing experience and has produced award-winning film and TV for major networks and clients in North America, France and the UK. Patricia has just wrapped on her feature Montreal Girls, slated for a 2021 release. The highly curated LA Shorts Fest made the film available on YouTube as part as their Oscar qualification competition. The film reached 10,000 views in just 24 hours. If the short film wins, we could very well see it in the Oscars.
This film made me laugh but it also reminded me that we all have a responsibility to make positive change. I feel like I won the lottery when I was given an enormous privilege of interviewing director – Nino Aldi, producer – Patricia Chica and actor/producer – Jake Hunter. Nino only had 10 minutes to chat before taking another interview, so naturally I spoke to him first.
HNM “What motivated you to get involved with this project?”
NINO “Jake had written to me and wanted to try making a high-quality short – to do a big festival run with. I’d reached out to a couple screenwriting competitions specifically to look at their award-winning short form scripts. This one resonated with me, so I shared it with Jake and he shared it with everyone else. For me personally, this seems to depict the world in general – honestly and we thought we should do it; we already had quite a diverse team already. It felt like the right time and the right thing to do… as long as we could figure out how to get a train (laughing).”
HNM “Filming inside a confined space (subway car) with passengers must’ve been complicated for the camera operators. How many cameras did you have in there?”
NINO “We shot the entire thing single camera. We built the subway car on a set in 1 week because it was somewhat apparent that we wouldn’t be able to shoot inside one. Essentially what I did was – I created plots in the script and then broke it up into 7 scenes. We’d block them out individually as we went along, repeating the design shots for line crossing and other setups.”
HNM “It looks like everything is happening pretty fast, with a quick pace. How long did it actually take to shoot?”
NINO “We had a 2-day shoot and we didn’t start till after lunch on day 1, to be sure that the lighting was right. We used 360 lighting that allowed us to move quicker. It was closer to 1 ½ days and everyone was so patient with us as we were ensuring everything was going to work properly.”
HNM “Continuity is so important in a film. Did it ever become an issue trying to maintain that, shooting in a confined space?”
NINO “No, not at all. Everyone came both days and we had designed it, to shoot it out. We didn’t have to come back for other scenes, except one and we were able to keep everything in order. We came back at the end to shoot the Jemar (DeStorm Power) characters monologue about the geo-political. We filmed that differently than everything else and had to come back for that because it was a real mouthful and had to be a 1 take. Other than that, we shot everything in order and we had a great script supervisor that kept us in line.”
HNM “You mentioned that you had built the subway car in a studio. Where was that studio located?”
NINO “North Hollywood, because it was in LA. We tried to make it look like it was an East Coast train but kept it somewhat ambiguous. We did however, shoot some exterior shots over there for the opening scene.”
HNM “What was the most rewarding part about making this film?”
NINO “Most rewarding was collectively getting together. The action of creating the film was about the message in the film itself. People from all walks of life were involved, including the passengers. They had to be there both days and when you’re there all day and not getting paid, it’s a big pain in the ass. To be able to pull something like this off was so rewarding because it takes a lot and we’re very grateful.”
HNM “How long did it take to find such a diverse cast?”
NINO “We had a week (laughing). Before development we had the team lined up, thanks to Jake (Hunter). Once the funds hit, we had a week for scheduling. Props to the art department because it somehow got built by a team of less experienced builders and they managed to pull it off. The film was too short, but that’s how it goes with most films – money comes in late, so you can’t start till funds hit and you don’t have a lot of time.”
HNM “Where can this film be seen?”
NINO “Right now, it’s at the LA Shorts Fest. On Nov. 16, we have the ‘Short of the Week’ coming up.
Nino had to leave the meeting to race off to another interview. Producer, Patricia Chica and Jake Hunter were eager to continue discussing this fabulous film.
HNM “Now Jake, I’ve read your bio and you’ve had quite a journey in your own pursuit of acting. You played pro baseball before an injury took you out of the game. From there, you turned to modelling and moved to LA but had to resort to sleeping in your truck for many months as you worked as a personal trainer, bartender and special events caterer… however, just 2 years shy of sleeping in your truck, you signed on as a producer for the hit Amazon series, The Bay – which earned you an Emmy Award for Outstanding Digital Daytime Series. That is quite a turnaround and quite a story. You’re now writing, directing and producing?”
JAKE “I spent a little time settling in before starting to work on a few different TV shows before catching a break and winning a Daytime Emmy for producing The Bay. I also met Adam Waheed (Amed) and he was looking to get into the film and TV side – I was looking to get into the social media. We made a bit of a deal, where I’d help him with a short film and he’d help me out with social media. I then wanted to assemble my team to ensure I can make the best short film possible. That’s when I went to Nino and he went to the Page screenwriting competition. He then sent me a bunch of loglines to look through that would fit for Adam and I. This one was – Three thugs on a subway. Perfect! We both read it and thought it was great and then contacted Nino, who then brought DeStorm onboard. After that, we went to Patricia and began assembling the right team. We also had Jordan Taylor Wright and Will Meldman, who are really talented join the producing team.”
HNM “I really enjoyed your character in the film. Have you been in other films that have dealt with diversity or racism?”
JAKE “I’ve done different projects but this one is the best written project. Andy Marlatt wrote it and it’s done so well. This is the best script I’ve read that goes into diversity, as well as going into some of the issues going on in the world right now. All I had to do was live what was on the page, the writing was so good.”
HNM “As a producer, what were some of the biggest challenges in making this film?”
PATRICIA “For me, it was pretty easy. I think the biggest challenge started in post – I’m more of a back-end type of producer. That means, I get involved creatively during prep and the real fun starts for me in post-production, getting it out and building a strategy for where this short can go – giving it the maximum exposure through publicity, distribution and placing it in different curations, meeting with programmers while also creating a strategy that could bring this short to Oscar qualification.”
HNM “How did you become involved in this project?”
PATRICIA “I met Jake at Sundance 2 years ago and we hit it off immediately. I appreciated his drive, energy and mindset. It’s very rare to find people in the industry that have no BS and are truly committed to creating quality productions. He told me about this project and I remember meeting at a coffee shop in Hollywood. Once he gave me the logline, I was immediately drawn into the project before I had even read the script. We started creating a strategy that would result in the highest quality short with the strongest message out there with a plan to make it available to the world. It’s always been my vision to have 1 million views and so far, the process is working and we’re getting early Oscar buzz. We’ve been selected at LA Shorts, which qualifies short films for the Oscars. I also brought this short to Montreal’s, ‘Just For Laughs’, where it won 3 Awards, including a very prestigious one – The Funniest Short Film in the World Award. We had an incredible team which elevated the film to the next level.”
HNM “What would you have considered some of the biggest challenges Jake?”
JAKE “Needing to get a subway. I’ve never seen another short film that used a subway. We then had to fill that subway car with passengers that looked like New Yorkers. I cast everyone for this film and I’m not a casting director but we all had to wear many hats that we’re not used to – it was a passion project. We had to find 30 people from every race and background. We had to put together a great crew to move everything along because we were shooting 6 pages a day. I don’t think I could narrow it down to just 1 thing but those were the biggest challenges. It makes it feel that much more rewarding when you’re finished because you feel so good about how much you got done.”
HNM “Because this was a funny story with a great message, did that generate a lot of interest from actors?”
JAKE “We did get a lot of submissions but I hit up some actors that I’ve met along my journey that I could trust to deliver. Even the background actors had a couple 1 liners, so they were also experienced actors.”
HNM “How did you finance the film?”
JAKE “We all kind of chipped in a little. Some of the producers (Adam Waheed, DeStorm Power, Jeion Green, Patricia Chica, Stephanie Steponovicius) paid a little more than me. Jordan Taylor Wright also pitched in and brought in an executive producer, Will Meldman – who put in a large portion to cover the subway, so it was a group effort – the subway was pricey and took a lot of money to build.”
HNM “Patricia, you’ve had such an illustrious career coming into this project, having already directed over 50 hours of content and producing award winning film and TV for major networks and clients in North America, France and the UK. What types of stories are you drawn to?”
PATRICIA “It has to meet 3 requirements in order for me to say yes to a project. The first one; is it elevated and could it change the world in a positive way? Number 2; Am I going to have fun working with those people that make up the team and surround myself with? Number 3; This is the tricky part – does it pay a lot of money/will I make money with this? If I won’t, is it prestigious enough to compensate for the remuneration I would get… and the answer was yes. The strong writing by Andy Marlatt was the icing on the cake and it did match all 3 requirements.”
HNM “You had mentioned earlier that you had just completed your first feature film and it’s in post. Can you tell me a little about that film?”
PATRICIA “Absolutely, it’s called Montreal Girls and is a coming-of-age drama with a strong musical subculture element – inspired by my life, being a filmmaker and photographer in the underground scene in Montreal 10-15 years ago. I’ve been developing the project for 9 years and it finally got funded 2 years ago and we received the financing last December. It’s been a long journey but it’s worth it… then the pandemic hit. I had to adapt the script to a new reality of Covid regulations to film on set. It was very magical though, because everyone was following the same mindset that I teach and educate with, called Chi energy, I work with energy. It’s the first feature film ever made with Chi energy. My intention in the next 5 years is to see 1 million people in the industry using Chi energy as a standard. It will help to sustain harmonious energy with everyone.”
HNM “What would you consider one of the most important keys to have a successful film set? Is it great food, positive energy, being well organized?”
PATRICIA “It’s everything that you’d mention but what’s at the core of it, is the intention and your willingness to be of service. To be of service outside your ego is to be of service to the story and the project. For me, that’s the most important – which is why I wanted to work with Jake; not everybody thinks like him in the industry. Many people are all about me, me, me. I feel like Tribes really triggers dialogue, it carries a really important message but it’s also bigger than anyone involved. It’s a train on its own ride (laughing) and it’s always important to maintain the highest vision.”
HNM “Was this film always intended to be a 10 ½ minute film or was it cut down in post?”
JAKE “Me, Adam and DeStorm came in to give notes as the actors on the film. I’m not necessarily an editor and I think that being a good producer is knowing what you’re good at. I don’t believe they cut out much, if anything but we knew it had to be a 10-minute film. That was a must.”
PATRICIA “As a producer that deals with the back end, my perspective was to keep it fast paced and very tight. Under 15 minutes was the requirement to be eligible for the Cannes Film Festival and many other prestigious International competitions. Luckily, the script was 12 pages, so it fit into the 10-minute mark. Something that is very important for a producer to be aware of, is the duration of the short – it’s key for its distribution potential.”
HNM “Did the finished film reflect the same vision you had after reading it?”
JAKE “I’m not as much of a director as Patricia or Nino, so I’m not trying to see it in my head. I go step by step – I loved the script and thought that it would be a great character to play. I liked what I watched and that’s all you can ask for.”
PATRICIA “For me, as a producer – it is going where I envisioned it to go. I had created a strategy for it to qualify for the Oscars, we’re going to do ‘A-List’ festivals, we’re going to have a very important premiere with a lot of coverage from the press and a lot of media attention. I had always seen it going to Cannes and it was selected by the American Pavilion – so everything that was written into my strategy is happening and we’re there… the train is going forward. With everything going on this year with Black Lives Matter and the political conversations around diversity; it’s just the perfect time for this film.”
HNM “How long did post/editing take on this film?”
PATRICIA “From beginning to end, I know it was a few weeks in July of last summer.”
JAKE “I think they went back and forth with a few different passes. After that, the actors came in for any last remarks.”
HNM “Is there distribution lined up for this film after the festival run?”
PATRICIA “Yes, the biggest announcement we have coming up is – we were selected at Short of the Week, which is a platform for the best short films from around the world. It’s highly curated and they hand pick every short for a launch every week. I met with their programmers in March at a festival in Quebec, called Regard and told them that this film needed to be on the platform. It took a couple weeks for them to watch it before coming back and saying they loved it and want to launch it. We wanted to hold off on that launch until it had finished other festivals first. The release date will be Nov. 16 at shortoftheweek.com.
Please go to Youtube and watch this film. We all need a good laugh and we all need to work together to dissolve racism.