Having your film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival is a dream come true for most filmmakers but not a very common occurrence. Tim Collins and Jillian Kibler, junior year filmmakers at the Art Institute of Atlanta, certainly weren’t entertaining any pie-in-the-sky expectations on that level when they first began to enter their short film Kiss of Death in various film competitions. Yet the young filmmakers are in Cannes, where their small labor of love has been selected as an official entry in the annual festival’s Short Film Corner competition.
It all happened rather quickly. It was after Kiss of Death was accepted into the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival that Collins went on the festival website to look at the list of other films that got accepted. That’s where he saw a logo for the Cannes Short Film Corner on the poster of another film and learned about the program which was created in 2004 to help nurture young producers of short films through workshops, conferences and networking seminars. The catch is that your film has to be selected by a jury to be eligible for this potential career launcher.
“I had to upload a copy of the film to their website and go through the entire registration process,” Collins said. “I think the entry fee was about 85 euros. I really didn’t think about it much after that because it was Cannes and nothing’s really gonna come of that, probably.”
In fact, he forgot to even tell Kibler about that he had entered their film, so they were both shocked about a week or so later when they received official notification that Kiss of Death had been selected. But there was more good news: The Art Institue called to say it would pick up the duo’s travel expenses. “That was really incredible because it would have come out of our own pockets,” Kibler said.
Kibler and Collins have collaborated on other student films together, but Kiss of Death is an important calling card. The film, with a running time of approximately 10 minutes, is about a couple who plan to leave town but their departure is complicated by the arrival of a mysterious stranger. Kibler classifies the short as a neo-noir but stressed, “We definitely wanted to stay true to classic film noir with the black and white, the camera angles, the costumes, the dressed sets and the time period.”
Collins said the idea was to “take the very familiar elements of a classic genre that people are familiar with, and combine them with a more modern twist at the end. Some things would have been considered taboo back then [due to the production code].” So the filmmakers decided to approach their film as if it were a long-lost film noir that was in violation of the code and is now being discovered.
There was another reason why the filmmakers decided to do Kiss of Death as a film noir. “My mom was an antique dealer, so we owned all of the costumes we used and all of the set decorations and the props,” Kibler said. “We originally wrote the script to be more modern than it was and then I said, ‘Why don’t we do a period piece?’”
Kibler and Collins met their first quarter at the Art Institute of Atlanta and have done frequent collaborations ever since. “Our styles matched and we worked really well together,” Kibler said. “What we often end up doing is splitting the responsibilities right down the middle.” The duo work as a tag team on all aspects of the filmmaking process from the directing to scriptwriting to cinematography though Kibler is more likely to tinker longer with the editing while Collins spends additional time on the writing.
Currently the filmmakers are still entering Kiss of Death in other film festivals. It was just accepted as an official selection for the New York State International Film Festival, and Kibler and Collins hope to enter it in the Atlanta ShortsFest and the Atlanta Independent Film Festival, so there may be some opportunities to see the film locally in the near future.
The filmmakers are also busy with other projects. “We have other scripts that we are talking about making as either a short or a feature,” Collins said. “One of the other films we shot around that same time as Kiss of Death is still in post production, so we’re concentrating on getting that completed.”
Last but not least, the duo plan to document their nine-day journey to Cannes with GoPro cameras in the manner of a daily film diary and have launched a dedicated Facebook page so friends can follow along.