A wonder of an independent film, Adam Leon’s “Gimme the Loot” — opening today — is quick, lean and economical.
It gets great performances out of newcomers and uses natural locations to brilliant effect. It’s not precious or gimmicky. Above all, it’s highly entertaining.
The determined Leon, who wanted to be a filmmaker since he was 4, didn’t go to film school: “At my college, there was this great DVD library, so I’d watch a movie every night and did my own cinema studies,” he says.
Leon, who attended the University of Pennsylvania, landed a job as a production assistant for Woody Allen. He was given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit in on editing.
“I saw how he was able to cut things that were good, and sacrifice them for the greater good of the movie, and not be sentimental about it. It taught me a lot,” he says.
“Gimme the Loot,” Leon’s feature debut — which won the best narrative feature award at South by Southwest this year — tells the simple story of two New York graffiti artists, Sofia (Tashiana Washington) and Malcolm (Ty Hickson), who decide to tag the New York Mets’ Home Run Apple.
Over the course of a highly problematic day, they attempt to raise $500 they will need to bribe their way into the ballpark.
Leon planned every aspect of the movie, which has 50 New York City locations, before rolling cameras. He even wrote a few “practice” scripts he discarded.
“Every day for two years, I woke up and asked, ‘How can we make this movie?’ and ‘How can we make this movie better?’” he says. One plan was to prepare so well that he didn’t need to shoot “coverage” — close-ups, alternate angles, etc.
“You just plop a camera down, you trust your actors and you trust your crew,” he says. “We were able to shoot four-seven pages a day, on the city streets.”
He rode the subway and listened in on conversations to write the script’s realistic slang. He also encouraged his actors to let him know if he was getting something wrong — and they did.
At the same time, he wasn’t concerned with the movie being 100 percent realistic.
“We were really conscious of it being a movie,” he says. “That was the concept from the beginning: Let’s have fun at the movies tonight.”