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“The Naughty List” Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Spring 2017 Official Selection

By Alex Ziraldo / last year

The Naughty List” Directed by Paul Campion is like”Elf” meets “Sopranos.” Two mobsters in the witness protection program happen to meet jolly Old Saint Nick. But when they do, Mr. Claus’ definition of naughty or nice isn’t what your grandma is used to. The film won the “Best Ensemble Cast” Award at the Austin Comedy Short Film Festival Spring 2017. Tagline: “On Christmas Eve, two American mobsters come face to face with Santa Claus, and discover what it really takes to get on the Naughty or Nice list.” We caught up with Director Paul Campion for an interview and he shared some of the behind the scenes story about the production of “The Naughty List.”

Q1: Why did you think that your film was a good fit for the Austin Comedy Short FF?
A1: We researched the festival before we submitted our film, and saw that the Austin Comedy Short FF screened more unconventional comedies than a lot of comedy film festivals. The Naughty List is a bit of a tricky one to pigeon-hole, as it’s a bit too dark and sweary for most mainstream festivals, but  the Austin Comedy Short FF seemed like a good fit.

Q2: What inspired you and your team to make this film?

A2: I read Brian Keene’s short story called “The Siqquism Who Stole Christmas” back in about 2008, and asked Brian if I could turn it into a short story. He said yes, I wrote the script, then it sat on the shelf for years as I was busy with other projects. Brian and I have been trying to get a feature film adaptation of his books off the ground for years now, and I suggested what we needed was to make a short film first, as a calling card to trying to fund a feature, and “The Naughty List” script was all ready and waiting. I really wanted to direct something as it had been a few years since my last film “The Devil’s Rock“, so we just got on with it and get “The Naughty List” made.

Q3: What made the actors interested in being a part of your film?
A3: They all really liked the script and the theme of belief and what makes someone good or bad, together with the characters, which are all multi-layered and in constant conflict with each other. You have two professional criminals, both of whom are killers, yet one of them still believes in Santa Claus, and the other doesn’t but ends up having no choice but to believe. And then we have what first appears to be your classic happy Santa, but who then subverts expectations to reveal he also likes cocaine, whiskey, swearing, and watching lesbian porn with his wife.

Q4: How were you able to get the locations for your film?
A4: We didn’t use any locations. The whole thing was a set we built in a small studio in South East London. We tried to find a wooden cabin location, but there aren’t many wooden buildings in London, let alone a wooden hunting/holiday type cabin, so we decided to build our own. That also gave us complete freedom so we could light it the way we wanted, and move walls if we need to put the camera in a certain location. Also we built a fake fireplace so we could pull off the effect of Santa Claus coming out of the small fireplace, which we wouldn’t have been able to do with a real fireplace. The exterior shots at the beginning and end were visual effects matte paintings that I created, and the POV shot of TONY written in the snow by Tony peeing was something I filmed with my iphone while I was on a snowboarding trip- his name was spelt out with orange juice though, not real pee!

Q5: Can you talk about your sources of funding and favors that you received to complete this film?
A5: We knew we couldn’t afford to finance the whole film ourselves, but because Brian Keene has such a big fanbase and is so prolific on social media, we decided to try and raise as much as we could through a Kickstarter campaign. That was very successful, then I put my own money in, and we had another private investor who helped us out. In terms of favors, on a short film every understands that short films don’t make any money, and that you’re really doing it for the love of filmmaking and to try and make something that helps you step up to bigger projects, so everyone is giving their time for free and for expenses only.

Q6: Has creating this short film helped the careers of the people involved in any way?
A6: For Brian Keene and I, it’s helped get our names up on the film industry radar, so when we start moving forwards with the feature adaptations of Brian’s “Dark Hollow” and “Kill Whitey”, we’ve got a really good calling card to show what we can do, which I hope will help convince the gods of film financing to back us on one or both of those projects.

Q7: What were some of the challenges that you encountered while making this film?
A7: Probably the same that every short filmmaker faces which is never enough time and money. Also short films take a long time to make, because everyone’s giving their time for free, so you have to be flexible and be prepared to work around your crew’s free time That’s particularly true in post production, where the editor, sound designer and vfx artists were all doing the work in the evenings after working their day jobs.

Director Paul Campion
Q8: How do you and your team use social media to promote your film?
A8: We have our own Facebook page – www.facebook.com/Brian-Keenes-The-Naughty-List-1627046654178789/ . Twitter feed @The_NaughtyList
Brian Keene and I promote it on our own channels and then many of the cast and crew share and re-tweet.

Q9: Can you tell us about a time when something really funny happened on set, that didn’t get caught on camera?
A9: We shot over 3 days, Friday to Sunday. What we didn’t know was that on Sunday there was a very enthusiastic and very loud Gospel Church in the industrial unit right next door to the studio. The studio wasn’t sound proofed and we were separated by just a concrete wall, so sometimes the sound recordist had get us to stop and wait for the sermon or singing to stop. We always wondered what they would have thought if they knew we were making a film about a pair of drug dealing swearing porn obsessed mobsters shooting Santa in the head just next door. 

Q10: Can you list any awards, nominations or official selections for this film?
A10: So far we’ve screened at the One-Reeler Short Film Competition; FILMSshort Competition; Midwest WeirdFest; Bonebat Comedy of Horrors Film Fest; Comicpalooza Film Festival; Fantasia Film Festival; and we’re an official selection at the Genre Blast Film Festival and Nightmares Film Festival. We won the Award of Excellence at the One-Reeler Short Film Competition, and of course we were nominated for Best music and Best Comedy Short at your own Austin Comedy Short Film Festival.

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