Interview with Christopher Leon about Poker
By: Darida Rose
We’re speaking today with Christopher Leong, the writer, director and producer of Poker, a short that I we could call a comedy/revenge film. The film was shot on an iPhone and the initial idea was rejected by a film school instructor. But the results here speak for themselves. Thank you for sitting down with us.
Darida Rose, Phoenix Journal (PJ): In the promotional material for the film, you mention that the film was originally a student project that the instructor refused to allow. Could you tell us the story behind this?
Christopher Leon (CL): I don't want to drag their name in the mud but it was something that irked me. It wasn't so much that I got an F for pitching it but rather them approving other students' films that displayed certain themes and images that I got downgraded for pitching. The class was not permitted to shoot without their pitches being approved. After 5 attempts to pitch something they wouldnt downgrade me for, I was the last student to get the green light. Though admittedly the pitch wasn't exactly perfect (no pun intended), I remember just sitting in that room seeing films that were very well-done but went against the guidelines set for the class and contained similar content that I pitched. It wasn't so much just them having personal opinions and beliefs about a certain subject but of certain students. Its pretty disheartening how even in the "more accepting" environments, there are factions who figure that living in a city like San Francisco automatically makes them "unconditionally open and accepting of all pepople and beliefs" even after they state otherwise. However, I don't let it undercut The City's rich history nor undermine the people who make San Francisco, if not the world, a better place. While shooting the project for that particular class along with finals for the others, I met my Cast and Crew for Poker.
(PJ): The soundtrack is great. Each song seems to be telling part of the story. Could you tell us about putting the soundtrack together and your reasons for these songs?
(CL): I always liked older music growing up. It could've been my parents and grandparents playing it in the car, or the moment I finally realized how little sense the majority of the latest hits made. It always sort of bothered me how fans of today's music willfully ignore the people who sing beautifully at open-mics and post covers on YouTube; giving little to no recognition, in contrast to the established artists who use auto-tune, mumble, barely recite bits of a sentence, or all the above. With Poker being a tale of today's dating and hookup scene, I thought an older generation of music would better illustrate the story in a modern era than a song with no sense nor at least one grammatically correct sentence.
(PJ): We often hear about how easy it is to make films these days because you can make a film with your phone. But you actually did this. Could you tell us what it was like to use your iPhone to create this film?
(CL): It was certainly easy to carry and travel with. Yet, unlike the common videos and pictures we see on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, I was shooting a written narrative. Instead of just using whatever was there, I as the director had control of my subjects and other aspects like lighting and sound.
(PJ): Did anything unexpected or interesting happen on set?
(CL): Definitely alot more people flaking or stepping down than I anticipated. Some understandably had more pressing matters like school and their paid jobs. Others just lost interest just days before principal photography and even dropped out during the shoot. The actor who was supposed to play Troy had scheduling conflicts with other gigs then I had to step in. Amazingly, the final cut looks the way it does considering how much went on behind the scenes.
(PJ): This is admittedly a loaded question, but did you have any worries that your film incite copycat revenge seekers?
(CL): I definitely would not encourage something like that. Though there will always be copycats, why not remind someone that the world doesn't revolve around them? In movies and shows, both protagonists and antagonists alike deal with an extreme consequence of their action; whether they deserved it or not. In Poker, something as invasive and rude as eating someone else's sandwich after leaving behind a messy bathroom is met with an extreme consequence.
(PJ): Do you think the protagonist deserved this kind of revenge?
(CL): Honestly, though poetic justice is certainly in order for people like the protagonist out there or worse, I thought it was too far for that particular nuisance. Yet, it is also why I wrote it down in the script. Thankfully, movies and shows gives us leeway of doing something heinous and outrageous without actually doing it at the cost of our humanity.
(PJ): Some of the shots are black and white while others are colour. Could you tell us about your choices here?
(CL): The black and white is a tribute to older films dating back to the late 1950's and earlier. The colored scenes resemble the color of poker chips; commonly used in the actual game. I figured that the key events that drive this short story, or "the cause and effect", could stand out more with different colors; getting the audience to notice.
(PJ): Can you tell us about any upcoming projects? (CL): I am currently recommencing the production of a DC Fan Film I wrote. Acting as the Writer, Director, and Producer again, I only shot enough footage to shoot a mood reel last year; with a lower budget and Shelter-In-Place underway at the time. I am excited to return to the set and pick up where we left off after a rather complicated year to say the least. Though comprised of fellow freelancers, my film, "Come On, Harleen" is not the average fan-film nor a mobile film.