Think about it. A film with a $1,000 production budget has less than 1/10 of 1% of the production budget of even a low-budget Hollywood film.
The minute your average Hollywood "C" lister walks on the set, the budget goes over $1,000.
$1,000 is less than 1/10 of 1% of the production budget that Uwe Boll had for the notoriously awful "Bloodrayne."
How many ways can I say it?
$1,000 ain't much.
Yet, that's the glory of true independent filmmaking.
For $1,000, a filmmaker puts together a script, gathers a few friends, enlists a few tech buddies and either borrows or buys the best camera he can possibly afford.
$1,000 gives you grassroots filmmaking.
On $1,000, writer/director and co-star Ron A. Williams has given us "The Cross Over," the story of Jeff "Smooth" Hughes (Eric "Teck" Humphries), an up-and-coming urban rapper for Focus Records, led by Sid "Vicious" Vic (Ed Roan). Vic himself came from similarly humble beginnings and built Focus Records from the street up...Of course, he did earn the nickname "Vicious" along the way.
When a post-concert incident brings Smooth face-to-face with the man he's become, we are taken on a journey that impacts Smooth, Vic and Detective Lewis (Ron A. Williams), a police detective who has been detailing Smooth's shady detailings for the past five years and doesn't respond well to his sudden change of heart.
I'd imagine it must be tough to be an independent filmmaker.
Seriously, can you imagine?
You spend $1,000 of your hard-earned cash, put your heart and soul into a production and hope, almost beyond reason, that you can manage to at least break even and that maybe, just maybe your film will be seen.
Will it be accepted into festivals?
Will any film critics review it?
Will film critics and audiences be able to look past the obvious challenges of an ultra-indie flick? Or will the film simply be trashed by critics used to wide-release motion pictures or, minimally, arthouse flicks?
So, let's get the simple truth out of the way.
"The Cross Over" will not win an Oscar award this year. It's highly unlikely that you'll see the film playing at your neighborhood multi-plex anytime soon. The film is, as would be expected, plagued by the usual signs of an ultra-indie flick...the sound mix is inconsistent, the cinematography occasionally shaky and dark and the production design is most likely of the "this was available" variety.
There, we have that out of the way.
To be honest, even if I had an "ultra-indie" curve, "The Cross Over" would not be a four-star film. Of course, if you've been reading my reviews for very long you already know how rare a 4-star film is for me and have probably noticed I've yet to give the elusive rating in 2009.
So, why bother?
Why should I take my precious time and review such a film?
Why should you go out of your way to find such a film once it becomes available?
The heart and soul of contemporary cinema lies in films like "The Cross Over," films that allow up-and-coming writers, directors, actors and techies the opportunity to hone their crafts, build cinematic networks and pursue their dreams.
Virtually any true actor/writer/director you meet has an appreciation for films such as "The Cross Over," the films that give working class film professionals the opportunity to actually work.
Yes, there are those who go to Hollywood and are "discovered." They become overnight successes. It happens.
But, it is rare.
More often than not, the story is much more like Ron A. Williams, a working class actor whose credits on IMDB feature more "uncredited" film experiences than breakthrough appearances. Yet, it's actors like Williams and his cast members here who are the heart and soul and future of independent film.
Is "The Cross Over" brilliant filmmaking?
It is, however, a film worth watching. "The Cross Over," features a writer/director serving up a compelling story with as much pizzazz, heart and soul that $1,000 can put on the big screen. Williams has assembled a cast of talented actors and actresses who clearly "get" the message of "The Cross Over" and give themselves to the experience.
Leading it all, Williams shines as the conflicted cop who faces the collapse of years of work when Smooth begins to change his path. As Smooth, Eric Humphries is believable in both his rap persona and as he begins to alter the path he's on, while Ed Roan almost brings to mind Suge Knight as the self-righteous CEO whose dreams of corporate domination could potentially go up in smoke without his prize rapper.
Filmed on location in Maryland, "The Cross Over" is a beautiful blend of urban drama, faith exploration and character study with a script by Williams featuring natural dialogue and solid character development given the film's sparse 66-minute run time.
While "The Cross Over" is certainly hindered by its low budget and tech limitations, it also gives us glimpses at the talents of promising writer/director/co-star Ron A. Williams and his gifted ensemble cast.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic