A Feature Foray

Soft Gun’s Evolution Across 7,000 Km

Soft Gun is a short film-turned-feature spanning the distance from Memphis to Montreal.
Soft Gun directors Alexandra Begin, Jesse Kray and Guillaume Collin.

Making a film is an incredible task at the best of times. Making a feature film is nothing short of monumental.

Introducing Alexandra Begin, Jesse Kray, Guillaume Collin, Isabelle Stachtchenko Sirois, Dejan Pavlovic and Michael Massicotte; young talent from Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, collaborating on their new feature film Soft Gun.

Soft Gun is a road movie about love and friendship, youth and anxiety. The film deals with cultural and familial identity, and the sense of belonging.

“The film is a buddy movie, between Alex and Jesse. Both characters seem to struggle with connection, so when they find it in each other, it’s a remarkable achievement” says director/writer/actor Jesse Kray.

Director of photography Stachtchenko Sirois said the group saw lots of road, lots of places, lots and lots of images.

“When I look back, the memories all melt into a blur—like watching the landscape fly past the window as you sit in the passenger seat,” she said.

“It was a challenge and a pretty grueling few weeks, but I think we all became better filmmakers for it.”

From Atlanta all the way to Montreal, Université de Montréal filmmaker Charles-André Coderre has created Fireworks, a multi-part documentary following the adventures of the Soft Gun film crew. It kept fans up to date with the making of the film in a stark, true-to-life video journal.

The Link interviewed the cast and crew in anticipation of their feature film.

What compelled you to make this film?

Alex (Actor/co-writer/ co-director): For me, I was enjoying the writing process when talking about a short film. I enjoyed collaborating with Jesse and Guillaume. When the writing was going well and getting bigger, I just wanted to dive into something, and it felt crazy, but my instinct said just go for it.

Guillaume (co-director): We had been working on different film shoots together since first year. [Last] February we talked about doing a short, road movie, starting in Atlanta [at] Jesse’s parents’ house, and coming to Montreal. A few weeks later, we realized our short film was becoming a feature length film. In a way, it became natural, like the evolution of the two years of university.

How has making Soft Gun changed you?

Guillaume: To be able to make that film on a really short budget, we took decisions and these decisions are part of the creation of the film. On a period of six months only, we wrote a feature length film, did a campaign on kickstarter.com, did the pre-production and shot for three weeks on 7,000 km while sleeping in tents three quarters of the time!

We learned about ourselves but also, to work with these friends, who became a small community, a family. You see people for three weeks, everyday, you wake up next to them, cook, shoot emotional scenes and at night, even if the day was hard, you are going to sleep next to your team. On that level, it is a crazy but unique experience.

Alex: I don’t feel like I’m the same person at all. I learned at an exponential rate what it is to be around people and cope in crazy circumstances.

Jesse (actor/ co-director): Also learning what it is to make a feature film. But I kept thinking, is this a feature film or is this all this other added stuff like camping and road tripping—another element that makes it something completely different?

Guillaume: The people we met on the road were so generous. We learned about ourselves but also met and discovered interesting places and people.

What was the budget? How did you fund it?

Jesse: We funded it online using this platform called Kickstarter in which you post your project and all it’s details and then people donate however much they can. They get rewards like a free DVD to an executive producer credit depending on how much they donate. It’s a really great way for people to raise money. Wave of the future.

Alex: It’s also good promotion and a good way to get your name out there. But it’s also a shit-load of work.

How has your following grown over the last few months of crowd funding?

Jesse: Soft Gun mania? It’s hard to walk out of my apartment building without teenage girls…

Alex: Harassing you. I feel like we’re gonna have to go through another wave of promotion in order to get the numbers up a little more for festivals and things like that.

Jesse: More Facebook friends.

Alex: Random people have heard about it and asked me about it. Obviously through friends, but still.

What is the difference between the script and what you actually ended up shooting?

Jesse: The script has evolved immensely. [It] never really stopped evolving. But that was part of it. We knew we would find things on the road that we had to work into the script.

Alex: I think the main thing was like the fact that the characters were going through the same journey that we were actually going through at the same time. That scene in the end in New York seemed to really make sense emotionally in reality.

What is your advice to feature filmmakers at Concordia?

Alex: Just do it. Find the best way to do it, and it might not be the best way, but just do it.

Jesse: It’s never gonna be the right time.

Alex: But you’ll always learn something.

Guillaume: Don’t wait for it. If you have a story that you feel needs to be shown, do it. There won’t ever be a perfect situation. There are so many ways of financing a film and releasing it. It’s worth trying and learning. And never be afraid to ask. People were so nice to us. We got authorization to shoot in so many places just because we asked.

To view the Soft Gun production team’s adventure with their film, visit their website and check out the web series Fireworks