Read an interview on Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival’s blog with filmmaker Shilpa Sunthankar about The Company of Thieves, Westerns, and Kathryn, the bad-ass 1971 Dodge Charger!
Or watch this interview with Shilpa on "Have You Heard? with Byron Beck" as she talks about the film and POW Fest 2012!
"LIKE" The Company of Thieves on Facebook
Check out a promotional clip of the first two scenes on Vimeo
7th Eugene International Film Festival
Friday, October 19th
Regal Cinemas Valley River Center
Shilpa in attendance!
7th Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival
Saturday, October 20th
The Wealthy Theatre
Grand Rapids, MI
15th FirstGlance Film Fest Philadelphia
Sunday, November 11th
ALSO AWARD RECIPIENT! TBA at festival
Franklin Theater at the Franklin Institute
Shilpa in attendance!
13th DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival
13th FILMI Toronto South Asian Film Festival
Camera Obscura Film Festival
The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto
Phenom Film Festival
The East Bank Theatre and Marriott Courtyard
Shreveport/Bossier City, LA
5th Columbia Gorge International Film Festival
8th San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival
The Roxie Theater
San Francisco, CA
5th Portland Women’s Film Festival (POW Fest)
The Hollywood Theatre
The Company of Thieves received 4 Nominations from the
9th Annual Maverick Movie
BEST DIRECTOR – Shilpa Sunthankar
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Samrat Chakrabarti
BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS MAKE-UP – Alison Binford
BEST STUNTS – Jerry L. Buxbaumhttp://www.maverickmovieawards.com
Story Behind the Story
Actually, the idea for THE COMPANY OF THIEVES came out of another project altogether— the feature-in-development SEETA'S DEMON; I had very fortunately already collected a few brilliant people who were interested in working on the feature, and we all agreed it would be a great idea to put together an entirely independent short film that would showcase our skills and assist in gathering financing for the feature. I had a couple ideas in mind already, Thieves being one of them.
I wrote the original script in early 2009, and admittedly, it was awful: whatever brilliant inspiration I originally had for it had obviously died on the page in some bland urban storyline. For a number of reasons, I didn’t end up coming back to it until later 2009, and at that point, I decided to add an element of movement to the main character, Dex: I took him from the city to the vast American countryside.
I have always been inspired by westerns, particularly the idea of a man’s relationship with the vast space around him, the hard task of surpassing
that space for an ultimate goal. And as always in westerns, the hero’s goal is rarely cut-and-dry, it’s always morally ambiguous, an idea which I’m also attracted by: in fact, I furthered that concept in the story by literally having the hero make a deal with the Devil and, additionally, even ignore little signs that could possibly be interpreted as coming from God. The result is a story about a man and his relationship with right and wrong, his persistence in following the wrong path, no matter what signs he’s given, what options he might have in his life. And don’t we all do similar things, even if they’re not so critical?
The team liked the script and I set to putting the production together. Thus began the journey of creating the story of a thief named Dex who deals away his soul and sets out for vengeance against his partner, Sanjeev.
Creating the Thieves
I wish to point out, with much gratitude, the core of this brilliant team, who, quite a while ago, committed themselves to a vision of mine and, so, ended up contributing their vast talents onto this project as well…
Hank Harris, as DEX
Samrat Chakrabarti, as SANJEEV
Shawn Sundby, director of photography
And later, Stephanie Tichenor, co-producer
Lana Veenker, the casting director, was also on board from the beginning. The immense talent of these people, and many more, was the reason this project left the ground and got in the can.
When it was decided that the project would be shot in April of 2010, stunning Oregon spring, I dedicatedly set out across the countryside to explore and hand-pick every one of our locations myself. By the way, this is something I advise every independent director do: it is GRUELING, yes, but it’s the first, easiest way for you to inject your vision into the frame, and you may be able do it on your own timeline, perhaps before even pre-production starts. Additionally, I created a personal rapport with the property owners, so they felt that they were really a part of something. Truthfully, each of them was their own fantastic personality, who trusted their property to us in the true spirit of Oregon hospitality. Make sure to consult your film office, they generally have quite bit of location suggestions already handy.
When I had found locations that I liked, I promptly got Shawn Sundby onto them as well: when he was excited about shooting there, I knew we were going to have something magical. Then, of course, came the vast task of assembling our cast, crew, and equipment. Even with the help of Stephanie, it was a monumental undertaking.
Luckily, most of the casting was already done, due to the fact that I geared the script toward talented actors I knew, who I had wanted to work with. The rest of the characters, but one, I cast in late 2009: Lana Veenker and her associates, as usual, made it hard for me to choose among an incredible talent pool. The last character— the Indian Girl— I found through a friend who teaches Bollywood dancing classes to younger girls.
From the beginning, Shawn and I were pretty much attached to bringing a Red One camera onto this production: I had seen his previous Red work on a magnificent, locally produced short film, Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Byrd McDonald, and was very interested in working with his eye and the camera, with the future feature in mind. Fortunately, a friend in San Francisco, Martin Meunier, was very generously willing to donate his Red One for use on the film. And yet another friend, Darren Demetre, just happened to be driving up here at exactly the right time to courier it for us. Other equipment was brought onto set either through generous deals from local vendors or by crew members themselves.
Stephanie, Shawn, and I worked together to bring on a pretty solid crew of resourceful and talented hard-workers. Actually, as we got closer to the shoot, this was really something that Shawn, Stephanie and her crew took on, and I’m still speechless about how many great people were there and how dedicated to the project everyone was. There is nothing I could write here that would even reasonably approximate my gratitude for the kind of talent this cast and crew contributed to this film.
So, nearing a shoot, I usually find I never have near enough ready for Day 1. But actually, when the Thieves shoot arrived, most of us found ourselves surprisingly ready: we even attended an industry party the night before!
There’s no disguising it, though: the shoot was brutal. The schedule rescheduled itself, like it does on any shoot, really, and three of the four days ended up longer than we ever could have thought. Day 1, we completed the beginning forest location scenes; we knew going in that it would be a gorgeous, but incredibly challenging location, and boy, were we right!
Day 2, we shot everything in the front of the church (Priest’s scene, front walk-up with children, Little Indian Girl); Katherine, the Dodge Charger, also made her debut this day as we shot her being bought and also driven by Hank in a lovely set of shots; we ended with the beautifully shady scene of Dex trading cash with the Woman and Jimmy.
Day 3 was entirely dedicated to the end shootout in the rear quarters of the church. All one location, with stunts included, it still ended up the most agonizingly long day of all, and yet also the day some of our best work really came out of us and went straight into the camera. Some of the most dramatic magic happened this day and the camera, in very good hands remember, recorded all of it.
Day 4 was filled with parts and pieces all across town: the super-fun gun shop, process trailer driving, and the Bum’s scene in front of the Old Mountaindale Store. We finished the day with the stunning scene between the Englishman (aka. the Devil) and Dex, which actually took place at my in-laws house. My husband’s grandparents were very gracious to let us shoot this beautiful scene in their living room.
And that was it. We managed to keep it to the four days we planned: it was hard, but thankfully short. Hank and Samrat went their separate ways to Los Angeles and Boston and we all got sleep. There was some unfortunate damage to property and equipment that we learned about later, but not as much as there could have been for such a hard, fast indie shoot.
Since then, the summer has been pretty much a giant balancing act between my new position as animation producer at great little studio in downtown Portland, called Fashionbuddha Studio, and working on post for the film.
After considering and talking with several editors over a couple weeks after the shoot, I decided to work with Jed Burger. He has been the dedicated editor of the film since late May or so and together we’ve been digesting the visual edit of the short piece-by-piece. I’ve realized at this point, looking at the footage over and over again, that this piece is so gorgeous that nothing less than the absolute best decisions can be made on it: the production and the talent contributed will really accept nothing less. It has taken on that much life of its own. I guess that’s my humble opinion. Hopefully others will agree.
The last, but never the least, of those whom I must recognize on this page are my family. My parents never had to be supportive of my radical idea to be a filmmaker, and my brother never had to read all my scripts, but they always have, and have been the only people throughout my life who consistently believed in me. And contrary to what Ben, my husband, insists, he is in fact truly my backbone, and a significant reason I’m able to do anything of my own. My eternal gratitude goes to them.
As always, this couple-page synopsis of everything that occurred in creating THE COMPANY OF THIEVES is yet still quite paltry to all the efforts, stories, contributions, recognition and subsequent gratitude that really can possibly be expressed.
The Kickstarter project was successful, feel free to take a look at the page! You can also see the clip in HD on Vimeo and really see the hard work so many dedicated people put in!
Also, a complete cast & crew list is soon to come, as well as more stills!