Solomon Mayfield, a contract hitman out of his depth in the world of crime, decides to leave it all behind and move on with his life. But backing away is not as easy as he thinks, and if he wants to make it out alive he'll have to fight for it.
Director: Clyde Hanna
Producer: Clyde Hanna
Editing: Clyde Hanna
Cinematography: Clyde Hanna
Visual Effects: Clyde Hanna
Music: Clyde Hanna
Actors: Clyde Hanna, Michel de Freitas (voice)
Screenplay: Clyde Hanna
How it came to be
I’ll admit. This was a long one to make. I got this idea back in December of 2020 to do a simple thriller all inside one man’s house, and right away I knew this would work a lot better than my other idea, which was gonna be a mashup of all sorts of large-scale ideas and visual effects and… confusing sci-fi stuff. So I started writing, but couldn’t quite think of an ending for it, and what I’ve learned is that a great idea for times like that is to just give it room to breathe, step away from the computer for as long as it takes, and then when something hits you just write it down. I talked to Michel about the details of the story and once it got to the final draft we were both thinking “Yeah this works…”
How I made it
First things I filmed were all the green screen parts, which happened to be at the end of the film, but when you’re filming it’s all just a jumble of whatever’s convenient. I mean even like a week before I released Contractor I was still filming with almost all the rest of the film edited because it had just never been convenient until then. I also threw myself on a bunch of pillows in front of a green screen to get the falling down the stairs shot, and in fact the whole stunt was just a combination of cloning, green screen, and my sister wearing the henchmen’s outfit to fake getting hit. At another point, instead of having to go up to the dark attic I opted to just film in the dark in my room, illuminating my face with this fireplace loop on my computer whenever I wasn’t using the lighter. I also set up a chair against the wall in my room and had just one light hitting my face. So the interrogation scene shots are all 100% real, except in one where I extended the walls so that the shot would work better on widescreen and added a table. Later during editing I asked Michel to record some lines as the interrogator in the last scene, and for the most part I’d say they were pretty good.
The colour palette
In all my projects, I try to find a consistent colour scheme that matches the evolving tone throughout. In Contractor, I think it definitely adds to the tone, and without it I have a feeling the response to the short film overall might've been one of confusion and not the intended satisfaction that came with the payoff at the end. The images above are some of the best frames I selected to represent the palette of the short film, which would probably be the ones I'd show to someone who had never seen it. The composition might be the best in the top left frame, but it always irritates me how much visual noise was in frame (not the best camera settings I guess).
VFX and editing
In a lot of places, the VFX might not be that noticeable, but it’s in a lot more shots than you’d probably expect. I worked a lot in Blender for the bullet-time knife shot, and did a lot of compositing for some other shots as well. I divided my editing timeline into 3 sections partly because the short film is 11 minutes in total but also because it follows a distinct 3-act structure, so there’s that.
The soundtrack in Contractor was probably the part of the film that most people responded to, and I would probably agree that, if nothing else, this element is what holds up best. I wanted to do something different than I'd done in previous projects, but that matched the tone (similar to the colour palette) and was consistent. With synths you can tend to get carried away with all the possibilities, so it's important to keep your themes in mind and maybe stick to some of the sounds you think can be reoccurring throughout the film.
Overall, this was an incredible experience for me and, while I would change a lot of elements nowadays, I think it's a sign of progress to see your mistakes and know what you would do differently (for my next project I'll have to stay away from the weapons and/or violence in general, so as to not develop much of a schtick too early). Thanks to everyone who went and watched this short film and gave feedback, it's always massively appreciated and just cool in general.