Native Lewisville filmmakers release dark comedy ‘Hello Gangster’ on Amazon

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on Jun 17, 2016

A band of friends has been filmmaking for more than 15 years. For the first time, one film, “Hello Gangster,” was screened at a movie theater and distributed for sale. The 82-minute dark comedy was completed with five people and less than $1,500.

The story follows Simon Cardoza, 30, a defeated working man. Matt Barron, 32, plays an aspiring musician who cuts a bad deal with a loan shark. The nefarious fellow takes Cardoza’s dog as collateral, thinking it’s Barron’s. Cardoza ventures to raise the money before the dog, and his friend, get executed. A kidnapping ensues before the “losers with no promise” hitch a plot to rob restaurants for the cash.

Cardoza said his mission was to show the power of independent film.

“Technology has revolutionized filmmaking to where people can shoot Sundance level films on an iPhone, like “Tangerine,’” he said. “This film will make people realize that you don’t need all the glamour and glitz; you just need the gumption and know-how to get it done.”

Cardoza said that’s where the director and producer, Richard Krause, shines. Krause has worked in commercial film since the age of 19 when he started full time in the Dallas Cowboy’s media department.

“He took the reins of writing the script. He set up the lighting, did the cameras and was a essentially a one-man production company,” Cardoza said.

Krause and Cardoza both graduated from Lewisville High School in 2003 before briefly studying in the Radio-Television-Video-Film program at the University of North Texas. They each credit their abilities to media technology courses at Dale Jackson Career Center.

“Dale Jackson gave us the opportunity to start making films and we really haven’t stopped,” Cardoza said. “It’s so awesome LISD supports vocational studies instead of pouring all its money into a $50 million football stadium.”

Krause said he sat next to Cardoza at Dale Jackson and they often worked on projects together.

“We did a bunch of action stuff starting out because that’s the first thing you want to do when you pick up a camera if you’re a guy like us,” he said. The most memorable was a trailer for a fake action movie ripping off Snatch and Reservoir Dogs — for which they won a state award. Richard later helped produce the Sundance-nominated short “Dig.” Cardoza assisted on set.

Like most filmmakers in their early years, all their ideas dawned from imitation and replication.

“We’d see a movie we liked, rip off major elements and make it our own,” he said. “They all turned out into really stupid comedies.”

The team started filming “Hello Gangster” more than two years ago. Barron, discouraged with his music career, called Krause looking for a new project. Krause had been trying to make the film with people he knew in the industry but development kept falling through.

So he asked the crew if they wanted to make a fun movie with guerrilla methods like they did in high school. Filming took about five months because it was completed outside of their day jobs.

Cardoza and Krause said that many of the film’s scenes were based on personal experiences, like a memorable scene involving the board game Risk.

“We played Risk quite a bit when we were younger and had crazy backstabbing alliances,” Cardoza said. In one instance, he almost had a physical fight with Matt at his parents’ house before the neighbors called the police.

It wasn’t their first run-in with the police and Cardoza fears it won’t be their last, he said.

All of the film was shot in the Dallas area, mostly at Krause’s Dallas apartment or in Lewisville with creative filmmaking. Cardoza said that the team skirted required permits by filming at the most opportune moments.

“We waited for Halloween night. We decided to put on our masks, fill bags with candy and gave candy to the teenagers working and just asked them if we could film,” he said. “They didn’t care because they’re teenagers working on Halloween and we just gave them candy.”

Krause would wear a yellow Pokémon suit so nobody would think it was a real robbery, Cardoza said.

“You don’t need to wait around; you can make films anywhere any time any place. F— the rules, just do it,” he said.

The team recently held a private screening at the Angelika and released the on-demand film on Vimeo and Amazon.

“If nothing else happens with the film, I’m still extremely proud of the film because I knew what it took to make it,” Cardoza said.

Krause said he’s lucky that he “grew up at the right time.” Working in commercial film at a young age coached him on how to work with the film’s small budget and new technologies.

“Commercial film is constantly working with smaller and smaller budgets,” he said. “When you get a commercial nowadays, the budget is so small you cut corners on the quality or you find ways to be creative.”

The only times the DIY film team felt resentful of their approach was when personal and professional disputes crossed paths, Krause said.

“We all knew each other too well at times,” he said. “It can be hard to balance that relationship.”

But in the end, Krause couldn’t have consummated the subtext of dialogue without them, he said. Their brotherhood and experiences helped tell a deeper, nuanced story.

Krause said the team can’t really put any more money into promoting the film than it took to produce. They hope awareness of it spreads through grassroots means and they can raise some money for future projects, “to make them a little bigger and better.”

“It’s like a mixtape you drop on the street and hope someone picks up, puts in their car and listens to,” he said. “It’s just something I worked on in my little second bedroom on my laptop.”

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