After years of living a rough life Jose Melendez finally got his chance at redemption. A small jewelry store gave him the opportunity to start fresh...by dawning a gold suit and waving to traffic. For a former gangbanger this wasn't a glamorous way to make a living. And with the Florida humidity it certainly wasn't the easiest. But it was all Jose had. While most people would think, "Man, he's got a really rough job," Jose was always positive about his work and genuinely enjoyed it.
There were some challenges and great rewards to making this short, as is usually the case. We'll turn it over to the filmmaker, Brian Carlson, to give you more details:
Jose's story was a great one. It simply had to be told.
About a third of the way into shooting it became apparent that filming Jose while he worked would be difficult. You see, Jose works on a street corner. That limits the angles you can shoot him at (at least on wide shots). Furthermore he pretty much repeats the same actions and motions (it was funny to see how well he knew the timing of the traffic lights). In order to break things up a little I had to think outside the box. Besides doing the simple wide/long, static, and detail shots I incorporated some steadi shots. Now I'm not a steadicam expert...by any means. It's an art. Thankfully I only had to do enough steadi for a few shots. I'm really proud of how they came out, particularly the one at 2:46 (which was fun to do. Probably because it was dangerous).
High speed has slowly become a gimmick (ha...I made a pun). Kinda like shallow depth of field was when DSLRs came out. I didn't want the use of high speed to be a gimmick, something to use just because it was available. I think I succeeded in using it appropriately (especially at 1:55 and 2:36).
I had a couple happy accidents while shooting too. The shot where there is a police car in the background (2:30) happened inadvertently (I didn't call a cop for that one). I like how this shot plays off the dialogue of Jose talking about his most memorable experience as Mr. Gold. It was also a great way to juxtapose his past life with his current life. The shot of Jose at 1:06 was also a total accident. I was setting up my camera and checking my exposure and just happened to have the camera rolling. Thankfully he thought I was paying attention and flipped his hat. That scene really shows Mr. Golds character and attitude. The shot at 00:43 of Jose showing me his prison photos on his broken phone was another happy accident. At the end of our interview at his apartment I asked him if he had any prison photos on himself. The phone is such a great illustration of his life at that time. It always pays to be curious and ask lots of questions.
Jose and I became friends through this whole experience, which for me was the greatest reward. Last time I checked he's still out there once a week, waving his hat and strutting his stuff. He also got hired at a local hotel and is working his way up the chain. I know he's got good things ahead of him.
All in all, the film was very well received. To date it has over 200,000 views, was picked up by The Atlantic, was selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, got into the Brooklyn Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Love Your Shorts Film Festival, Hot Spring Documentary Film Festival, and the Little Rock Film Festival and was featured on local news and radio as well as other sites and outlets.