When I first heard about our new assessment – that we have to make a campaign film – I immediately begin to think about some ideas. One of my first ideas was a film about and against capital punishment, but later we decided with my partner Katarina Leszkoova that we will do something else. Mainly because at first when I thought about my original idea, I couldn’t think of anything other than a real death row setting with credible props and locations… and I knew that we would never be able to create something like this at this level. So we decided to move on to another idea.
To oppose my original and quite difficult concept for a campaign film, we wanted to come up with something extremely simple. After a few completely different ideas down the drain we thought that maybe we could do something with that capital punishment thing, but we have to make it simpler. We didn’t really want to cause ourselves any trouble by coming up with a complex idea, so in the end we stuck with my original concept and moved along to preparations.
The original idea centered on death penalty and how through exercising capital punishment the “policy makers” become murderers themselves. Harsh and strong words, but we thought this would be needed to point out the contradictory nature of death penalty. Calling the policy makers, the executioners murderers can be offensive, so that wouldn’t be the point of our film. We want to give an extremely simple example to audiences: if they see someone kill a man, is it murder? If the answer to this question is yes, then execution can be seen as a murder right away. That’s the whole point of the film: we want to create a “revelation” in the audience that execution and murder is not that different at all.
In fact, that’s why our film has two characters played by one actor. In our film, the executioner and the convict is played by the same exact actor wearing the same exact clothes, simply put: looking exactly the same. In this straight-forward, almost obvious manner we want to reveal our message about the similarity between a murder and an execution.
At first we wanted to focus on death penalty in the United States, but as it turned out, our project and our final film is quite “locationless” – its situations and settings (which setting is purely symbolical) can represent any kind of nation, country or society. Mainly because it’s, as I’ve said it before, a symbolical situation with symbolical characters and location. This thing is indicated by the quite surreal events that happen in the movie: someone shooting someone with his hands, let alone a guy being at two places at once. I think that all these clues can help the viewer realize that this whole setting is not real – in a physical sense. So, as it turns out, I’m not sure that our campaign film is only for a US audience anymore.
As I’ve said it before, originally we were looking for data regarding capital punishment in the United States. According to www.deathpenaltyinfo.org, the Death Penalty Information Center, in the past 30 years 1277 executions were carried out in the United States, and in the past years the number was decreasing, although the punishment itself is still legal in 33 states.
Also, Amnesty International, our target organization in our campaign video, made a campaign film about capital punishment around the world:
In this video they focus on the progress they’re making throughout the years. In our video we wanted to create a new movement rather than summarizing all the success “we’ve” achieved so far.
Key messages and aim
The key message of our film is that capital punishment has a contradictory nature, because if we look at it in a very simple way, it’s hard to make a distinction between an execution and murdering someone. We want people to realize that, and if they have the basis for this realization, we want to help them develop this realization by showing them a website (www.amnesty.org/whosthemurderer), a fictional sub-site of Amnesty International that is dedicated to this new movement of the organization.
The making of the film
Even before we realized what we want to do, we began to look for a crew, what meant a camera operator alone. I personally wanted to edit the movie, and that meant that I would deal with sound effects, too (out of conceptual reasons, we wouldn’t have any on-location sound). We found our camera op, Jack Woodhams, who would help us gladly. As he is more accustomed to his own Canon 550D camera than the JVC HM100s the school is providing, he used his own equipment on this project. After the script was done, we asked Abel Diaz to act in our film.
Katarina wanted to make the film look a bit cold and gritty, and I think this look was achieved in the end. We found a good and easily accessible location in the means of a park close to Middlesex University’s Hendon campus. The sun shined on all of us that day, luckily enough.
Even though the original script said that the execution would happen with a knife, there was a smaller debate on set regarding that matter. In the end we decided that we would drop the knife concept and go on with a more surreal “hand/gun” solution, which worked nicely I think. The shooting itself didn’t take more than an hour thanks to a responding and quickly working team, good conditions and a simple concept.
Did we achieve what we wanted?
I’m quite sure that we did. The whole thing became the same film we wanted to create. Maybe it’s too simple…? Maybe it’s too universal, as something without a clear target audience – which can easily be the case, to be honest. Also, I’m very sorry about my lame narration/voice over. This is purely a producing error as throughout production and post production I, the producer, just simply forgot about the voice over… sounds amateurish, because it is, and there is no excuse. I will work as hard as I can not to make mistakes like that next time. But for now… watch the video and have your say.