Filmmaker, editor, and creator of Krisp Films, Kriston Johnson granted a short interview to No Film School about his project, Paradise City: a short documentary about homelessness, addiction, but ultimately love and happiness. The film follows a young homeless couple, "Christina" and "Papi," as they shed light on what it's like for them to live in the City of Brotherly Love. Watch the full film below and jump down for the interview:
Krisp Films' captures an interesting story, both narratively and cinematically, which you can see up on the screen, but the story that went on before the thought even crossed their minds to make a documentary is just as interesting. Like many run and gun documentary filmmakers out there (I used to be one of them), a narrative can be picked from anyone: a business owner, a mysterious graffiti artist, or a couple living on the streets of Philadelphia.
Often times the story is fleeting, and catching it means setting aside the comforts and advantages of having a thorough plan. I think that this can often lead to compelling filmmaking. For Krisp Films, I think it lead to making a project that truly meant something to them.
NFS: So, tell us about Paradise City.
KJ: Paradise City is a Love Story -- not your typical love story. But, love can be found in different varieties. Yes, there's a lot of drug use in Paradise City, but when I witnessed Christina and Papi's relationship first hand it was way more than that. They really cared for one another. They looked out for each other. Christina, Papi & Crash the dog are the main subjects. We followed their lives for 3 days.
NFS: How did you come to the decision to make this film?
KJ: Wow, spontaneous luck! My friend, photographer Thi Chien, was looking for some subjects to shoot for his book and we came across Christina & Papi. After speaking with them about a lot of random things we asked and thought it would be cool to follow them and to see how they live. It was 3 days out of our summer that we really appreciated the time we spent doing something different and out of the ordinary. After filming, we didn't completely have an idea of how it was supposed to be edited. We didn't want to go the typical route and make it all about drug use. So, we tried our best to make it more of a love story between two young people who just made some wrong decisions.
NFS: Can you give us some specifics about the film: planning, funding, crew, equipment?
KJ: When we first started shooting this documentary we only had one day to prepare and didn't know what to expect. We met them (Christina and Papi) the day before, just walking by, and they looked interesting to speak to, so we started a conversation with them. The next day we were shooting. There was no budget. We actually paid them at the end of shooting some cash for their time and great story. We crowdsourced on Indiegogo last year -- just hit over $2,500 to help with editing & fulfilling perks. The crew was small. It was me as the shooter, photographer Thi Chien, and interviewer Brandon Davis . A Canon 7D was used to shoot video and my photographer used his Canon 1Dx for photos We captured some good b-roll with that also. Lens choice was Canon 50mm 1.2, Canon 24-70 & Tamron 17-50 as the run & guns. And one Rode Video Mic.
NFS: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
KJ: These were probably two of the smartest people I have ever come in contact with. The amount of information and knowledge they knew surprised me a bit. So, it was a good time hanging with them. Papi had so many stories that this could have easily been an 2 hour documentary. I'm just happy I can share our journey with the world finally and hope that everyone enjoys it as much as we did.
A few things stick out to me about this project: it was done on the spur of the moment, it had zero budget, and the filmmakers found their story so -- romantically (if I may say so). Walking past each other on the street? How perfect is that? The film demonstrates what you can do with a camera, a story, and a lot of tenacity. I like the tale about how they came to shoot the documentary just as much as I like the film itself. If only there was a The Making of Paradise City featurette and an extended version of the film -- I could watch Christina and Papi for hours. C'est la vie.
Link: Krisp Films