Stervyatnitsa. Six months ago, an assassin walked into a St Petersburg nightclub to collect what was owed… Not everyone made it out.
A Two Gunned Saint story.
A few months ago we caught up local director JG Blank amongst production of his upcoming action thriller Two Gunned Saint. Before the production embarks on its final hurdle (which you can support here), JG Blank has been kind enough to share with us an insight into his recently released prologue, Stervyatnitsa.
JG Blank: Stervyatnitsa is a short film prologue to our upcoming feature length action thriller, Two Gunned Saint. It’s about our hitwoman encountering something sinister on the other side of the world. Maybe Russian bad guys are a bit obvious but I couldn’t help myself. And in fairness I did buy a pair of ridiculous John Lennon style sunglasses for the main bad guy to make him look a bit different but common sense prevailed and they remained in the box.
I wanted to make a really compact, self contained action scene in this short film, limit myself to one location, 4 characters and 3 weapons, so I’d have to focus on the story and character of the action, how she, outgunned and outmanned, has to out think and out manoeuvre her assailants to survive. Mainly by being straight up ruthless.
We only had limited camera rigs, so I thought it’d be interesting to shoot in a fairly restrained style, holding on a lengthy close up shot as she takes aim etc to give her a sense of remaining calm amid the chaos escalating around her. (Though I’m looking forward to being able to afford a proper tracking shot and more lights again.)
On a similar note, there’s a Sheffield based musician I’ve worked with before called Isis Moray whose work is this really ethereal, hypnotic electronic sound, which is kind of the exact opposite to what you’d normally expect on a shootout/fight scene but I figured would be worth the risk. If we could make it work it’d be a fairly unique combination. It also has this very tough and feminine, sort of enchanting quality, that makes our lead seem like some High Priestess of death, like Cristina Rodlo in Too Old to Die Young, (I should say we shot ours before that came out). To be honest I spent months trying to find the right music, so think we really got lucky with this, characters even turn their heads in time to it.
I wanted to enjoy the aesthetic too, dial up the neon lit, electronic atmosphere and have fun with it. I was setting up to rehearse another scene on Two Gunned Saint and took a picture of our lead actress against this red light and a lot of the idea for the look came from that. That’s her own jacket in the film, not a costume but I thought she had such a cool silhouette, she was like a fully formed screen anti hero like Snake Plissken. She’s the Kurt Russell to my John Carpenter which is a comparison that I think is unfair to both of us but in different ways. It’s also very unfair to John Carpenter.
My main regret is that Charlotte, who was the production designer spent many nights designing all the labels on bottles and all the signs in the background and we translated them into Russian, but you can barely see any of it. Though you can see one that says “No spillages on the dance floor” which is a kind of gallows humour pun that probably fewer than 1% of our audience can even read but I do enjoy a joke that no one gets. Plus I regret the box of breakaway glass bottles in the shed we didn’t use.
It’s only 3 minutes long so it could be ridiculous that I have so many words about it but there’s so much skill from so many talented people in it I could go on. The lighting makes it look more expensive than it was. The choreography is full of little character beats. Also Shannon who did the VFX really killed it with the muzzle flashes, I’ve seen so many bad muzzle flashes in action movies and it’s a relief to not be one of them.
This whole thing really is setting up for what we’re going to do in Two Gunned Saint, it’s no accident that our bad guy here says the words “This is just the beginning.” Because we have loads more coming up.
Oh and the cryptic title, it kind of translates as Vulture.