The Kickstarter.com initiative set up in 2008, is a God’s send for young filmmakers. As a source for funding from everyday folk for any sort of creative project, “Crowd Funding”, as it’s commonly known, has quickly become the go to for first time filmmakers looking to get a quick injection of cash to help get their project off the ground, into production and positively distributed. You’ll Know My Name, written, directed and starring the up and coming Joe Raffa, used the website to distribute his 2011 movie to film festivals and, in his words, “Find the audience it deserves”.
You’ll Know My Name stars it’s director as Nick, a high school senior hoping to get over his ex-girlfriend and being a more than “that guy who went out with that girl” by setting up a midnight confrontation with the man who stole her away.
It is very much in the same vain as the debut of another member of the Jersey alumni, Kevin Smith, but replaces geeks with Jersey tough guys (think of it as the illegitimate lovechild of Clerks and Jersey Shore). Conversations are extended explorations into nonsensical randomness, with the odd quirky character and utterance of sexual innuendo. And while it’s not a direct comparison to Kevin Smith’s 1994 debut, you can certainly see the inspiration in the simplicity of it’s shots, the dialogue, the wooden performances and even the setting (I swear it’s filmed at the Quick Stop).
The crux of the film nicely intercuts the advent of their relationship with the aftermath of it crumbling without ever being overtly blatant about it. It’s a very eloquent hop back and forth between their happy days and the events leading up to Nick waiting to throw down in a car park, and on the whole it is actually executed quite well. Similar to Hunter Richards vastly underrated London, it is very much a soured love story with a subtle use of flashbacks to show where and how it went wrong…but unfortunately the relationship between Nick and Christina just isn’t explored enough. Whereas London illustrated a relationship to a detailed degree, You’ll Know My Name sort of glosses over it. Being evidenced in that the film is only 75 minutes long, it’s a shame that any extra time wasn’t invested into developing Christina as a character a little more. We never really understand why she leaves Nick in the first place, and it’s quite unfortunate for the development of the story as it leaves a bit of a gaping hole in the movie.
The film is filled with the believable characters, something commonplace of American Indie. While it might be fair to suggest none of the lead performances will hardly set the world alight, they all do enough to sell their characters on screen. Ultimately, these people are supposed to be real people, and in that respect, it’s difficult to overly criticise any one performance in the film without sounding harsh. Alexander Mandell is convincing enough as the heavy-set douchebag, with Chuck Connors (Nick’s vain friend Chris), Brian Gallagher (as Nick’s police officer cousin) and Davy Raphaely (as the aptly named Tommy Tongues) all offering a much-appreciated douse of comic relief.
The non-existence of a soundtrack, a somewhat lack of creativity in shot selection and an occasional lapse in content do hamper it as an enjoyable piece of entertainment, but for a debut movie that cost only $35,000, a lot of the films shortcomings just have to be forgiven. It won’t win awards, it’s not the best indie film on a budget ever made (London was made on a similar budget, but looks and plays far better), but I think immense kudos needs to be sent Joe Raffa’s way purely for getting this film made and having the drive to push his talent in front of the noses of the movie community. While there may be the odd question mark over the quality of his feature debut, the one thing you cannot question is Raffa’s passion for the medium, and for his art.
Joe’s next feature, Six Degrees of Hell starring Corey Feldman, is slated for release later in the year.