Crowd Control (United States | 2016, 13 min )
Directed by: Daniel Sole
Written by: Daniel Sole
Cast: Reynaldo Piniella, Salahaldin Hussein, Freddy Virola, Nuri Hazzard, Erica Annalise, Chris Ferguson, Helen Barnes, Justis Selman, John Bermudez
A young, black aspiring comedian scours his Brooklyn neighborhood to recruit audience members for a show that evening. His encounter with an undercover detective turns ugly, proving that not everyone appreciates a good sense of humor.
Interview:Daniel Solé is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker. His film “Crowd Control” will be screened as a part of the Shorts section in the 2016 NYC Independent Film Festival.
NYCIFF: What’s up, Daniel! Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Your film “Crowd Control” follows Tay, an aspiring standup comedian as he tours his Brooklyn neighborhood in an effort to drum up a crowd for his bringer show. How’d you first get the idea for the film?
DS: Last year I wrote a one hour pilot for a series. When I was finished, I realized there wasn't much I could do with it on my own. A good friend of mine suggested I pull one of the central characters from that pilot and write a short focusing on just that character. Tay seemed like the right choice. And because I had already written him as an aspiring comedian, the concept of having to recruit audience members for a bringer show made for a clear objective. It allowed me to show him interacting with all these other characters from his community and place it within the framework of a single day, which is more conducive for a short.
NYCIFF: For such a small budget it seems like you guys were able to get a lot of great locations. How did you manage to shoot in so many places?
DS: The rec center scene was the easiest to pull off because I shot it at the very same place where I helped run a teen program about ten years ago. It's city-owned, so they couldn't give it to me for free, but it was definitely affordable, and it was nice to go back and see a lot of the staff I used to work with. The basketball court is adjacent to the rec center and I obtained a separate permit for that. The bodega was a more hectic experience. The twenty year old who signed a property release two weeks before the shoot and swore he was the manager told me it was all good. But sure enough, even after confirming with him the night before, we show up at 7am with the whole crew and he's nowhere to be found. Instead, his father was there and had no idea who the hell we were. Thankfully, our actor Salahaldin Hussein had a friendly conversation with him in Arabic, and smoothed it all over. Overall, the locations took quite a bit of coordinating, especially because it was a two day shoot. I made sure they were all within a few block radius. This helped a lot with scheduling, but also kept us within the parameters of the story, seeing as we were following Tay walking around his neighborhood.
NYCIFF: Reynaldo Piniella gives a great performance as Tay, the aspiring comedian. How did you guys meet?
DS: Reynaldo was recommended to me by someone who was briefly involved with the project early on. I saw his reel and could tell he was obviously great. He already had some credits under his belt so I thought it was unlikely he'd want to work on such a low budget production. But he read the script and liked it, had a great audition, and when we eventually met up to talk about who Tay is, I could tell Reynaldo really understood him. As a newbie director, I learned a lot from him and his solid performance helped cover my ass in a lot of ways.
NYCIFF: As the screenwriter, your depiction of Tay seems so true to life. Do you have a background in standup comedy?
DS: I guess it depends what you mean by "background". Have I spent a few years wading into the hellish nightmare of NYC's open mic comedy scene? Yes. But I never got to the point where I was doing more than a few sets a week, and to really make it requires far more dedication than that. I love it though. I mean I hate it. I don't know.
NYCIFF: Good soundtracks are one of the hardest things to get on low budget productions. How did you go about getting yours?
DS: I reached out to DJ Teeko, who not only is a talented DJ/producer out of the Bay Area, but who I happened to go to middle school with. He's got a great soulful sound to a lot of his music. I sent him the screener with placeholder tracks and told him what I was looking for (and also what I could afford). He was excited to collaborate and I'm really happy with what he whipped up.
NYCIFF: You have a production credit on the song “Too Easy.” Are you also a music producer?
DS: I was a wannabe producer for a while in my mid to late 20s. I spent a lot of hours making beats in my bedroom, but like comedy, I didn't put in the work to take it to that next level. So after a few years of not doing it. it was really fun to collaborate with my brother. He's more tapped in to where hip hop production is at right now and also way better with drums. As for Nuri Hazzard, the rapper we got for it, that was a no brainer. He was the actor who played Squadron early in the short and when he auditioned I found out he was a rapper for real, and we connected over music. I was impressed by him because he's a young dude and somehow was familiar with all the obscure independent artists I listened to obsessively in college.
NYCIFF: A lot of what Tay goes through in trying to convince his friends to come to his show will seem familiar to a lot of independent filmmakers who try to cobble together a production on little or no money. It seems like you were pretty successful in getting a lot of people behind your film. Is there any advice you have for other indie filmmakers?
DS: This project definitely was built on favors upon favors. Whether it was Eric, my DP, supplying all his own gear and never charging me a dime, or Coach Lloyd from St. John's Rec gathering his basketball team to come out for a Sunday morning shoot. When you're running an operation on this small a scale, you survive on those contributions. And for that reason, I put a lot of thought into how I approach people and make my requests. And I follow two simple rules (I didn't know there were two or that they were rules until just now): 1. Never assume the person is going to say yes. This takes the pressure off the person you're asking, and it's also less disappointing when they say no. 2. If the person says yes, make damn well sure the person knows how grateful you are.
NYCIFF: Do you have any other projects in the works now?
DS: I'm working on packaging Crowd Control with my pilot to hopefully pitch it as a series. We'll see what happens!
NYCIFF: Thanks again chatting with us, Daniel. We can’t wait to screen “Crowd Control” as a part of this year’s festival!