Making zero-budget films inevitably comes at a price: the quality goes downhill, providing actors/actresses with a wage is practically impossible, so the difficulty of raising talents’ interest is tenfold, crowd funding is just plain messy, and shaky camera movement is a by-product of inexpert hands.
We’ve all seen the “Blair Witch Project”, we’ve all witnessed the motion sickness of unintentional queasy cam. Achieving certain artistry in low-budget films therefore, is something very hard to pull off. It only takes a few factors to ruin an otherwise good production: mishaps in lighting, delivering an awkward line and inexpert editing amongst others.
No one is perfect their first time around. Taras Demian Groves, however, a young writer/director with an apparent penchant for breaking film convention, is eager to prove us wrong. His debut film The Profesional takes place in a parallel London where contract killing has been made legal by the government. A camera crew decide to follow Eli Shepard, a hit man with over 100 kills on his hands, in order to understand his line of work and provide a character study of an apathetic sociopath. Filmed entirely on his Panasonic Sf100 camera, one would expect the quality to be reminiscent of home videos, yet The Profesional, misspelt on purpose to represent the flaws of society, is surprisingly professional, no pun intended.
Eli is detached, mechanical and brutal in his cold handlings of people. Yet Taras has mapped out his protagonist in such a way the audience feels, if not sympathetic of his plight, then empathetic for his survival. It takes talent to turn our backs on a victim – Eli’s target – and root for someone who we know to be a sociopath-something not even Patrick Bateman fully achieved in American Psycho.
It’s not just the film itself which encompasses all the raw beauty and subtle undertones of a grim, bloody alternate London setting. The script is also written with flourish and style, well beyond the writer’s years (Taras wrote the script in his early twenties). The genre itself could be described as a psychological, urban western, but there’s no use in banding it into just one category – it criss-crosses a number of genres.
The camera crew pepper the hit man with questions as the day goes on, eagerly scratching at the surface, but Eli remains elusive and unmoved. When asked how he feels emotionally after single-handedly killing a man in cold blood, he can only respond physiologically. When further interrogated, Eli admits that the government selected him for such a career because of the characteristics he fulfils as a “cleaner”.
But don’t be fooled, those interview questions form only a small fragment of the film’s make up. Along the way we meet the quirky and often bizarre characters which form Eli’s universe, all interconnected with visuals which are reminiscent of Hitchcock’s belief that aesthetics alone can create a solid story. Following Eli across a forest green, a look of express peace etched into his dull eyes, we watch as he calmly chases yet another victim, gloved-clad hands gripping his favourite weapon. his axe, an apparent extension of himself. This one clip, set to the backdrop of Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto, No. 1” is almost reminiscent of Kubrick’s famous “Singing in the Rain” scene from A Clockwork Orange in tone, the quality of such a clip really spitting in the face of Amateur films’ assumptions.
Those are the definite perks of putting together a multitalented crew: the actor, Adam Dada, who plays Eli Shepard, also composed the music and was nominated for “Best Music” at the Movie Maverick Awards. And if you’re left cold by Adam’s searing brutality, then Nadia Serantes’ warm bubbliness will add fresh undertones to the film’s overall vision. She portrays the lovely “Izzy”, and was also nominated for “Best Supporting Actress”, who gives homage to a wonderfully awkward meeting between her and the camera crew, adding shots of humour to the film. Adam Honey’s soulful portrayal of Eli’s target is hauntingly beautiful, adding the humanity to a character which Eli is clearly lacking.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, the following are just a few of the awards the debut film has won:
Feature Film at the Depth of Field International Film Festival, “Best Original Screenplay” – Los Angeles Urban Film Festival, “Silver Award” for best Film Score – Global Music Awards, “Award of Merit” – The Indie Fest Film Awards, “Award of Merit” – Accolade Global Film Competition, “2nd Place” Best Crime/Drama Feature – The Indie Gathering International Film Festival, Nominated for “Best Ensemble” – Los Angeles Independent Film Awards.
The Profesional is eerie and introspective and at times downright disturbing, but it just goes to show that a zero-budget production can go far with the right crew and a powerful vision-who needs Hollywood?
So definitely go check out this indie film if you appreciate the up and coming talents of the film industry.