by Emily Jacobs
"I just want you to be entertained and prepare for an unforgettable time. There are no clean getaways."
That is the mission statement of Stephen Smith, director of the 12-minute thriller, The Rendezvous, that is making its way to the film festival circuit, after a private screening at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring on April 20.
Produced by Janine Shore of J9 Management, The Rendezvous is about a woman who convinces her lover to steal an extremely valuable object from her husband in exchange for riches and the good life. However, the woman's would-be fail-proof plan falls through with a surprise ending and multiple twists and turns throughout the 12 minutes.
Originally from Louisiana, Smith married Shore five years ago after meeting in 2005 when they were both working in the music industry, with Smith directing music videos and Shore producing them. Currently living in Potomac, the duo shot The Rendezvous in a private mansion not far from their home, with plans to use the 12-minute thriller as a showcase piece.
"The location was a big thing, I built the story around it,"said Smith. "As a filmmaker, you have to do something that sets yourself apart. I had to make something epic with action, thrills and excitement that would be entertaining throughout. I wanted to have this one commercial showpiece that we could use for the film festival circuit. I'm really proud of this film."
Shore, who grew up in Potomac and had her bat mitzvah at Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, described the film as Alfred Hitchcock meets the Twilight Zone, and added that they made something that they themselves would want to sit down and see.
"It's an epic, live-action, short film that we think is different in that it's sexy, action packed, suspenseful and is entertainment at its best. It has multiple visual and special effects and fantastic elements like underwater scenes and balcony and ceiling shots."
The film even has an original score, composed by Emmy-nominated composer, Mark Koval.
Smith's story is truly one of rags to riches and determination, as his worse than humble beginnings in Louisiana had him thinking that making movies was "about as likely as me taking a trip to Mars," he said.
After joining the army, Smith took a chance and made his first narrative short film called The Deamon, starring Gaelan Connell, who later performed in Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat with Johnny Depp. Smith then went on to direct music videos, with the most famous song by the band Clutch, called Electric Worry appearing on MTV in 2007.
"He is completely self taught and didn't go to film school but has become so successful through his pure tenacity," Shore spoke of her husband. "He takes every opportunity that he can to learn and has been doing this since his 20s. He is incredibly talented, especially for someone with no formal training and has a wonderful sense of timing and a great eye. He's also a great storyteller and writer and extremely knowledgeable and passionate."
Smith's work has also received recognition from Oscar-nominated director Arthur Hiller after the couple got the chance to be introduced to him years ago. Smith and Shore sent him some work samples and received a personal letter from the director in return.
"We couldn't believe that he had watched all of this stuff and took the time to compose this long letter telling us to pursue film. We thought, we're onto something here if this guy who has had this ginormous career that's spanned decades is telling us to go for it. We took his advice and fostered a relationship with him over the years," said Smith.
Smith, who hopes to have a feature film in theaters within the next five years, spoke of his producer and wife, Janine, describing her as a "powerhouse producer that doesn't take no for an answer. She's extremely charming and cares about getting it right, which frees me up to spend time on the creative stuff. She has the biggest heart and is my everything,"he said.
So, buckle your seat belt and get ready for a 12-minute thrill ride. Check out the trailer for The Rendezvous at stephensmithfilms.com.