6th Annual Williamsburg Film Festival: Photo Op

Thursday, November 19th 2015

By: Trish
Edited by: Marcy

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the premiere of Randy’s short film, Photo Op, at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival. It was held at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn last night. The screenings themselves were in a small theater in the basement of the hotel, with an even smaller bar area in the front.

Photo Op was being shown in the second block of films of opening night, all of which were filmed in Brooklyn. It was a very rainy & windy night, and by the time my friend and I reached the Hotel we were drenched! While waiting in the bar area for the first block of movies, (which were already running late) to be concluded I ducked outside to look for a signal for my phone. As I did I ran right into Randy! I think he was just a bit surprised, yet genuinely happy to see that we had made the effort to come see the film in such  “miserable weather,” as he put it. But while my friend & I looked like drowned rats by the time we arrived, he looked quite put together! I guess he had a better umbrella, LOL!

There must have been over 80 people waiting in that small cramped bar area, which was probably only meant to hold 60! When we were finally allowed in, we wound up being at the back of the line, right behind Randy, so my friend was also able to wish him good luck on the premiere as well. As Randy got to the door, he realized he didn’t have his ticket! The young woman at the door said, “Oh, it’s OK for one of our stars.”

Of course by the time we got in the theater, there were no seats left! Randy and a few of his friends were sitting on chairs placed against the wall on the stairs! They looked like they were having some difficulty seeing from that angle and several times got up to see the screen. Eventually we were given some chairs behind the last row of seats, and although we probably had a better view, there was a lot of noise and distraction as the servers ran back and forth to the kitchen and people open & closed the doors heading to the restrooms.

Photo Op was listed in the schedule as playing 7 th of the ten movies in this block… but when the music came up for the 7 th film, Randy turned to look at his friend, who I believe was involved in the film as well, and he just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.  Two more films played and then the lights came up and one of the organizers began to introduce people for a scheduled Q & A session, and we still hadn’t seen Photo Op! Randy, who had moved to stand behind us with his friend Jordan who had arrived late, just let his jaw drop! He was stunned! It was quickly determined that there had been a technical issue with two of the films… but I was worried that they would have to be rescheduled for another day.  Luckily that wasn’t the case and within a few minutes Photo Op was playing.

It opens with Randy, happily snapping pictures in a local park. He smiles, with a wistful expression as he watches the happy couples he his capturing on film.  He looks fondly at a particular same-sex couple as they stroll hand in hand through the park.

The next scene takes place sometime later, as Randy enters a local bistro where one half of the couple he had captured on film is sitting at a window table reading the newspaper. He awkwardly moves to the bar and is greeted by the hostess who asks, “The usual? Mac & Cheese and a mint tea?” She goes to get it, but Randy stops her and asks only for the tea. She looks a bit surprised as she smiles at him fondly.

Randy is restless as he fidgets in his seat, all the while watching the man at the window table. He asks the woman if there are any papers to read. She tells him, “Up near the front…” but when he doesn’t move to get them, she rolls her eyes and mumbles something like,  “OK, sure, I’ll go get them.”

He can’t sit still as he continues to watch the man, and he finally moves to a table facing the windows, moving his camera, his bag, his coat, his hat, his scarf, before sitting down. When the woman comes back she looks at him at the table and says, “You moved, “ as if Randy sitting at the table were a big deal. Randy flips through the paper, which was accompanied by very loud crumpling paper sounds, when compared to the rest of the soundtrack, while he continues to stare at the man.

When the man sighs and rests his head in his hands on the table, Randy picks up the camera and snaps a picture. Of course it makes a clicking sound, which alerts the man, who stares back before getting up to leave.  Randy rushes over, stumbling over his words as he tries to apologize. His body movements are awkward and almost child-like as he explains that he’s a photographer "who takes pictures." But he’s so nervous, he can’t even get a full sentence out before he stops, takes a deep breath and blurts out, “Would you like to get a coffee sometime? Even just here?“ The man just responds by sadly showing Randy his wedding band. Randy looks devastated and just shakes his head and moves off.

The next scene is in Randy’s rather trashy apartment. He angrily unlocks the door and leans back against the closed door with tears in his eyes. He takes off his camera and coat and hat etc, and sits at the table cutting an article from the paper. He then takes it over to the wall where there are dozens of pictures and other articles. As the camera zooms in, you can see the pictures are of the man in the café and his husband, who has been cut out. The close-up of the article reads, “Second Brooklyn Man Still Missing. “

At this point the camera pans behind Randy to the floor, where there is a man tied and gagged on the floor. Randy goes over and removes the blindfold as the man struggles. Randy just stares at him, the anger and jealousy evident in his eyes. He then goes to remove the man’s wedding band and places it on his own finger. With a malevolent smile in place, he pulls out his camera and takes a picture of the stunned man as the screen goes blank.

All I can say is WOW! All prejudice aside, this really was the best film in the group that we saw. So much was done in just a short 9 minutes! Randy’s ability to convey innocence and awkwardness in both his speech, and facial and body movements, to his transformation into the cunning stalker/kidnapper in just a few scenes was nothing short of remarkable! The film also enhanced the effect with the happy Randy outside and in bright light, to the awkward unsure Randy inside, to the most insidious version in almost complete darkness.

Absolutely wonderfully done! I hope it makes its way to other festivals… This short film most definitely deserves recognition!