What would you do if you saw a woman get pulled into a car? Would you follow the car? Would you just let it happen? What obligation do we have to help each other when the odds are against us?
These questions surround the plot of an upcoming short film, 3 Bullets, which was shot at a Fridley warehouse last Saturday. The film, which has four actors, is about a pair of sports memorabilia collectors who have led very different lives and are in town to sell their memorabilia.
After witnessing a woman get snagged into a car, the men, Joe and Tim (played by Clarence Werthen and Andrew Sass, respectively) decide to follow the car to a warehouse. Jamel Harris and Punnavith Koy play the film's thugs.
“They have to decide to what degree they are going to follow in and take action, and to what degree they are going to let this happen—how much obligation do they have to help her,” said director John Heimbuch. “They decide to go into the warehouse, and that’s what led us to Fridley.”
But the film, written and produced by John MJS McGuinness, is more than just about the crime.
“It’s more of a story of who these men are—one is a man of action, the other is hesitant and uncertain, and has always watched his friend succeed while he has not,” Heimbuch said.
The film’s Web site asks at the top, “What makes one person stand up and another stand still?”
The film, which will run about 15 minutes, will be the first movie Heimbuch has directed.
“I’m learning a filmmaking trade that hopefully will open doors in the community,” Heimbuch said. “It’s a unique, new experience to be behind the camera as opposed to being in the audience.”
The 32-year-old Twin Cities native is co-artistic director and founding member of Walking Shadow Theatre Company, a local nonprofit. He is also a playwright. McGuinness saw one of Heimbuch’s plays, The Transdimensional Couriers Union, and asked him to direct 3 Bullets.
Heimbuch has written and directed 15 plays, and said he thinks a few of them would make “really good films.” He’s taking this opportunity with 3 Bullets to get experience in film directing, with the idea of possibly turning one of his plays into a movie.
Originally trained as an actor, Heimbuch graduated from in Golden Valley in 1996 with a focus on theatre. He then attended Minnesota State University-Mankato and graduated in 2001 with a degree in theatre and a minor in dance.
“People with actor training are better at directing,” Heimbuch said. “Having a background in various different art forms gives a person a good art palette—you really learn how to tell stories better.”
As the director of 3 Bullets, Heimbuch said he works to “set the vision of how the piece is going to look and feel,” he said. But as always, he is still learning.
For example, he’s learning what to do when he sets three or four takes for a scene, then, in the middle of filming, a train suddenly passes by—leaving the cast and crew to work with only two takes.
“I’ve learned how to anticipate what to do when things go wrong,” Heimbuch said. “Unlike theatre, you can’t control the environment. With film, new things come in that are totally unexpected. It was a big eye-opener for me.”
‘Beautifully Perfect Location’
The film crew was looking for warehouse spaces to shoot the film and came across the Fridley warehouse, just off University Avenue, which was run by a friend of a friend of Heimbuch’s.
“It turned out to be a beautifully perfect location,” Heimbuch said. “We had a great experience.”
They shot scenes at the warehouse during the day on Saturday, from about 1 p.m. to midnight. When daylight was a problem, they blocked out the windows since the scenes take place at night.
Other scenes of the film were shot in Northeast Minneapolis and Edina.
The Twin Cities, with a strong arts culture, brings out many documentaries and short films every year, Heimbuch said, but he wasn't aware of that until he began directing 3 Bullets.
“I was surprised to the degree this community can support vibrant films,” he said.
With a starting budget of $3,000, the crew of 3 Bullets set up a fundraising web page for the film through IndieGoGo, where people can donate anywhere from $10 to $1,000.
So far, donors have given $710. Heimbuch estimates the final budget for the film will be about $5,000. Most crew positions are unpaid and much of the filmmaking relies on favors or friends. They are also shooting using high-quality video instead of the expensive alternative of film.
“Video has gotten a lot better. It can create a comparable quality film,” Heimbuch said. “It’s lowered the threshold of entry into the field of filmmaking, and bolstered small filmmaking communities everywhere.”
Heimbuch hopes to have the movie edited this summer and find local places to screen it. He plans to send the film around to national and international film festivals as well.
“The sooner we get it out, the sooner we can focus our energy into moving it forward,” Heimbuch said.