With One Day to Prepare, Krisp Films Brings Us 'Paradise City': a Documentary About Love & Happiness on the Streets

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.

Welcome to Paradise City from krispfilms on Vimeo.

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

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Your Comment


awesome post

April 11, 2013 at 4:29PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I'm very blessed, thank you for posting this

April 11, 2013 at 6:02PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I was so touched by your film that I had to comment. Well done! Tragically a beautiful young woman overtaken by drug addiction and a partner who is so addicted himself that he is incapable of caring for her.

Their mutual guardian angel being Papi, probably the unspoken link that helps hold them together.
This film should be compulsory viewing for all children and their families.

Lastly DSLR film making still is looking good despite the plethora of digital cinema cameras hitting the market.

April 11, 2013 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Very stylish homeless people. Street chic.

April 12, 2013 at 9:29AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


It was fine to watch with the barrier of my computer screen present. I wouldn't invite these bums (please note I don't mean this as an aspersion) into my life. Honestly, would you? What a couple of sad sacks and the filmmakers are trying to morph it into a love story? Something doesn't seem right here. Maybe it's artistic mysticism and I don't get it. I see wretchedness. Not anything to celebrate the style of. Seems too glib and sophomoric. Glad I watched and glad to vicariously witness a portal into some strangers life. But give me Frederick Wiseman any day.

Also, why does this seem relevant to me? -http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/04/10/charts-of-the-day-9/

April 12, 2013 at 1:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


April 12, 2013 at 2:39PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


In all honesty, couldn't agree more. When the title card at the end showed up saying it's a story about.... and "Love and Happiness" popped up I kind of rolled my eyes. We've heard them say it and they would agree that yeah of course they love each other and all but, they want to be clean. They don't like the life they are living. She wants a farm. He wants to be clean and travel. If they used their love to get clean maybe and pulled through... That would be a story about love and happiness. Personally, I think this is a story about addiction and survival. Showing us a contrast to the average person's life and letting the audience in on what this awful drug can lead to. They said it themselves, everyone leaves you. I don't know. It was a fantastic watch. Just think they as filmmakers need to rethink their overall message a bit.

April 13, 2013 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Barret Bowman

All in all an engaging piece, but rather thanks to its subjects.
I somehow felt that Kriston Johnson's ambition is grander than his skills....and please can we stop blurring the lines between what is a film and what isn't?
I would rather call this an impromtu documentary not a film!

Again, appreciate the effort but can't understand why it's being presented as so special

April 13, 2013 at 8:56AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


it was so good I have watched lots of documentary about drug addiction form different countries but this one was the nice one

January 5, 2014 at 1:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


This is really sad. It doesn't strike me as a love story... anyone who has spent time in this type of world will instantly recognize this dynamic here because it's sadly a stereotype. It looks more like a predatory/parasitic relationship, the real question never covered here is where do they get the money to fund two dope habits which will generally cost hundreds a day? Begging for quarters won't cover it. The next question would then be who would stand to gain from this relationship and from her being addicted? was she using before she met him? I would love to see a follow up.

March 26, 2015 at 12:27PM, Edited March 26, 12:27PM