Simon & Stan
“And that’s how I became the new stealer of souls.” Simon – Travis Franks
Director of Photography: Jay Kim
Starring Travis Franks (Simon), Sean McGehee (Stan),
and Hannah Chandley (The Woman)
Simon and Stan! This bad boy was created for the 2014 annual CWU 48 Hour Film Slam. Having made Torch the year before, I feel like my bar was set pretty high to one up myself. The thing about these two day slams is that they always have very specific guidelines. For Simon and Stan, first of all it had to be a Western. We had to incorporate a bath towel (which Travis wears around his neck essentially the entire short), we had to have one of the characters named Simon, and we had to use the line “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small”. Oh, and on top of all that, the character named Simon had to be a mortician.
During the writing process we realized that all the other groups would take the mortician requirement literally and probably have one of their characters be an actual mortician. So, being the prick that I was at the time, I wanted to think of how many different ways we could take the “mortician” element in a different direction. Having to rely on one of the characters of our story be an actual mortician meant we would need to have bodies and other things that would just further complicate whatever story we wanted to tell.
So, first we went off on a tangent about making Simon work for a company called “Mortician and Sons”. It could have been a modern western about small businesses fighting against the man.
Do not read the following unless you’ve seen it already.
Somehow we got on the topic of what a mortician does, and I wanted to do something with an exterminator gassing someone in a shoot-off, and then somehow that all converted that into “what if the devil was the mortician?” and then BAM, we were off onto all these ideas about the devil. Satan, the ultimate mortician, that was our clever idea for passing the requirement. So we knew we wanted the devil to be in it, and it had to be a western… which reminded us instantly of those old fiddle competition songs and tales against the devil for peoples souls, Faustian stuff. So somehow we went from the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” to the devil helping a dying friend with cancer. It got weird in the brainstorming room, and there was pizza. What we ended up coming up with was this concept that Satan was real, but he didn’t have a physical body. So, he needed to test dying souls to see if they had what it took to take up the throne. It’s not really obvious in the final version of the film, because we cut some of the dialogue, but you could potentially infer that Travis’ character Simon is in some kind of coma during the entire film, but it’s not necessary for the story.
This also marked the first time I had made a film with all the correct film-making procedures. I asked one of my film major friends Jay Kim to DP. I was very much put in my place when he showed up to help for the festival. Jay had all the knowledge of the technical aspects of cinematography, the side of the spectrum that I’ve always lacked. I had been so used to being alone, having to handle all aspects of the video making process on my own. Having somebody else who actually knew the procedures, well, it was a very relieving experience.
Despite the horrendous cold weather we had to suffer through during some night shoots, it was a lot of fun filming. I couldn’t be more proud of Travis or Hannah, as they both nailed their performances.