Synopsis: Sloan (Clara Mamet) has a not-so-low-key crush on Neckface, an anonymous graffiti artist. Neckface (Raúl Castillo) has less-than-resolved intimacy issues and a no relationship policy. Which he makes abundantly clear to his obsessive fan girl. That is, until Neckface realizes he and Sloan may be the same kind of crazy; and embarks on a mission to win her back. Which may or may not involve exploiting his roommate (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), stealing a much-coveted pair of sneakers, and incurring the wrath of a ferocious lunch lady.
At a divergent point in their lives, two lifelong friends (Ivanno Jeremiah, Parys Jordon) meet at their favorite South London fried chicken shop.
The directorial debut from Abraham Adeyemi, ‘No More Wings‘ in the Don’t Look Back program was the winner of the Best Narrative Short Competition at Tribeca 2020. Once you experience the film for yourself, you’ll immediately understand why. With captivating storytelling, in a mere 10 minutes, you will experience two lifetimes of memories, regrets, and choices. There is a heavy cyclical feeling you cannot shake as you watch. The authenticity of the writing, directing, and performances will stick with you long after the credits. I was lucky enough to interview Abraham during the festival and get to peek behind the curtain of the process and the mindset. I cannot wait to see what is coming to audiences next.
Abraham, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about this extraordinary short. This feels like a major labor of love for you. Can you describe the specific inspiration for a story that will undoubtedly resonate with so many?
Hi Liz, thank you for having me and for the kind words about the film! Sure thing. Well, whilst this film isn’t biographical… My upbringing wasn’t too dissimilar to the two characters. I was raised in South London, went to a Grammar School… What really inspired me was spending some time thinking about two friends I grew up with whose lives have turned out quite differently, and imagining what it might be like if they were to meet at this point in their lives. And, above all in some ways, trying to understand why their lives have turned out differently when things were so similar for them.
What did you learn from your mentorship with Sam Mendes?
There was something that Sam said to me on set of 1917 which I actually wrote down… He said that I needed to make sure there was somewhere on set that I could be to concentrate and watch takes alone, without anyone’s opinion and that I always needed to be sure for myself that “this is what I wanted”. As I learned whilst on set, there are times where – for a host of different reasons – people might think they hit a scene but if it’s not how you imagined it, even the smallest detail, then it means it needs to be done again until it is. And whilst I didn’t have the gigantic set-up that Sam had – it was like a blacked-out marquee with TV screens and all sorts of tech that probably cost more than our film – in our own low budget way, we were able to ensure that I could concentrate and watch takes back without anyone else’s opinions but my own.
Being both writer and director, did you find yourself changing the script as you shot?
There were no major changes whilst we were shooting, no. I did quite a lot of work on the script beforehand. I initially wrote the script with just my writer hat on. Then, eventually, I had to switch to the director hat. On the morning of the first shoot day, I made a final few tweaks – things that probably came off the back of the rehearsal we did the day before – but I went in pretty happy with what we had on paper and I was more concerned about getting great performances and how things looked visually. On occasion, actors may have asked me if they could tweak a line, or just done it off their own volition and I’m usually fine with that as I trusted the actors I was working with and their understanding of the characters they were playing.
Thank you for adding subtitles. It was helpful to put regional slang in context. It was reminiscent of how our vernacular changes when we are most comfortable.
Ah, thank you! I’m really glad the subtitles helped. That was actually a suggestion made by Sharon Badal at Tribeca and I’m really glad I took the advice if it means ultimately that it made it more accessible for a wider, global audience.
How long did you shoot for?
We shot the film over two summer nights, which also meant shorter nights! Once that sunlight even began to creep up… It was game over. The first night we shot felt straightforward but the second night… The pressure was really on. But it could have been worse, up until about ten days before the shoot I was still clinging tightly to an ambition of shooting the film as one continuous shot and my first thoughts – maybe an hour into the shoot – was that I was so glad that I was convinced to scrap that idea.
Having three distinct roles, writer, director, producer, which was most enjoyable, which the most frustrating, which did you learn more from?
Ooh I love this question! I enjoyed all of them but the one which I am without a doubt most in my element with is the writing. I always say in life that I am most at peace when I have my head buried in writing and, actually, in these strange times it’s been the saving grace for my sanity. I’d have to give the frustrating award to producing because there are just so many things that go wrong but I can’t complain because, for all the hard work I did, my producer Abiola Rufai did 100x more in producing! So my frustrations must be so minimal compared to all she has to deal with… Without a doubt, I learned the most from directing. As a producer, I’m always learning but you have to remember, this was my first time directing and prior to this, I hadn’t been to film school nor taken a conscious interest in directing. From the moment I won the competition that gave me funding for this film (where one of the rules was that whoever wins must also direct the script), I had approximately ten weeks to learn how to direct. That was reading books, studying the art of filmmaking, the great advice that my more experienced peers were able to give me and so much more. Directing was definitely a steep learning curve but I’m so excited to get behind the camera again (something I never thought I’d say!).
Can you give us any clues about your upcoming feature-length script?
Which one?! There’s a concept for a No More Wings feature.
But, as for the one I reckon you’re asking about… I’m holding it tightly to my chest but what I will say is that Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is one of my favorite films. The entire trilogy, in fact, I love those.
Abraham, congratulations on Tribeca. I cannot wait to share your film with our readers.
It’s been a pleasure talking with you, thank you for taking the time to watch the film and talk to me.
Tribeca Film Festival 2020 Shorts Program- UPDATE REQUIRED
Out of this world Sci-Fi shorts.
Playing in this program:
Rosa Forlano, a 90-year-old Nonna, falls in love with a Robot while teaching it how to make spaghetti. Unfortunately, her recipe is forgotten after a software update.
A charming look at companionship through the eyes of a 90-year-old woman and her robot. Marco Baldonado, writes, directs, produces, and voices our titular character. It’s a lovely look at generational relationships in more ways then you’d expect.
A tongue-in-cheek Southern thriller about a rookie cop’s (Jenna Kanell) first date gone horribly wrong.
This film immediately sent me into panic mode as a woman. Never leave your drink unattended. Don’t worry, the universe works in mysterious ways.
Jack (Justin Kirk) works at a suspension facility where people choose to halt their lives. On the night of his suspension, Jack’s life takes a turn when he meets Jo.
Justin Kirk plays a heartbroken man who is confronted with his own mortality. This film beautifully explores the small moments that make living so wonderful.
Living in a dystopian, neo-steampunk world, a shy young man named Douglas (Seán T. Ó’Meallaigh) invests in a customizable carbon clone to help him win the girl of his dreams.
This shirt is a gorgeously stylized look at being confident in your own skin. It’s one of the most endearing performances of the festival this far.
An injured and grief-stricken miner (Ben Mortley) on the desolate planet Carmentis must overcome his personal demons in order to survive, but can he get there before the planet freezes?
Human instinct Vs the AI created to protect it. This short is completely unpredictable. It’s a beautiful commentary on the fragile human spirit.
An aging Sith Lord (Joseph Ragno) must come to grips with his past and discover why humility may be the greatest force in the galaxy.
Utilizing a booming voice over from Tim Plewman combined with lead actor Joseph Ragno’s physical performance, this film shines with true humor. It is pure fandom fun with a side order of redemption.
George works at a convenience store, desperately hoping for a friend. But George is a robotic service unit, and robotic service units do not have friends. Not yet, anyway.
This short challenges how emotion and information alter a being’s perception of others. It will leave the imagination running wild. I can safely say I would watch an entire series or full-length feature based on the storytelling laid out in this 13-minute cut. It sounds like I’ll be getting my wish, as the filmmakers have a development deal at Screen Australia for a dystopian rom-com TV show based on the characters in System Error. I could not be more excited. There is so much more to explore and laugh at here.
These films were curated especially for late-night.
Playing in this program:
No choice but to walk home alone, Hannah (Helena Howard) sees an opportunity for a ride, but others see an opportunity in her.
With a well-built tension familiar to any young woman, Twist leaves much to the terrifying imagination, making it all the more frightening. Beautiful performances bring fear to life.
When a young couple (Sarah Tihany and David Call) encounters a strange old man (Patrick M. Walsh Jr.) wandering in a snowstorm, they must decide if he needs help, or if he has more sinister intentions.
A real “What would you do?” scenario set in the middle of the road on a snowy night. It begs the question, “Who’s the real monster?”
Two men (Arron Blake and Philip Brisebois) of different ages meet for the strangest encounter of their lives.
While I’m not completely sure what was actually happening in this film, I know I was damn uncomfortable as a viewer. Performances are striking and I need to know more.
When notorious bank robber, the Momster (Amanda Plummer), catches her daughter Angel (Brianna Hildebrand) mid-gunfight, Angel thinks she’s being rescued… until she realizes she has to do the saving.
This short has a Robert Rodriguez/ QuentinTarantino Grindhouse feel with its quippy dialogue, vivid pops of color, and effective narration.
Callie (Hannah Levien), a small town gas station attendant, has an unexpected encounter which will change the course of her life forever.
This short begins by utilizing the major trope of failing electricity to build up suspense. The sparse dialogue is meaningful enough to create an entire backstory and the perfect amount of dread, culminating in a magical ending no one will see coming.
In the pouring rain, a junkie (Jerry Chih-Wei Huang) takes the hotel key of a man that his car has accidentally killed. As he walks into the hotel and finds that room, he has to face a mysterious journey that will never have an end.
This cinematic little masterpiece is a proof of concept from heaven. Not only visually delicious but one hell of a reveal that will keep you wanting more.
An unusual girl (Jolie Ledford) needs to get her teeth fixed at midnight.
The 50’s era sets, costumes, and lighting lead up to a visual shock that is both scary and delightful.
While I was not afforded to time to attend last week’s first round of Shorts, today I had the pleasure of seeing The NYFF52 Shorts Program 2, a collection of really well done films. Engrossing, never dull, and surely surprising. Shorts are always a bit of a challenge to chat about. They are, after all, not long in length, so I’ve decided to give you a quick and yes, short, description below the teasers and photos…