Top 10 2023

When given the rare opportunity to capture images of an enigmatic famous painter, a photographer is forced to confront the limits she will go for her art.

By now you should know our general rule of thumb: The longer a short film is, the better it needs to be. So when you see a 40-minute film up on Film Shortage you ask yourself the question – is it worth the time? Well, yes, yes it is. ‘A Brush of Violence’ is an incredibly well toned and paced film that carries the story through its deep character development. The intriguing and dark style created by director Daniel Lawrence Wilson keeps us on edge of suspense from beginning to end – where time never truly seems to drag. The film is about Akila, played by Mia Krystyna, a prominent photographer who is given the rare opportunity to capture images of an enigmatic famous painter. From there Akila is forced to confront the limits she will go for her art. A thrilling drama that will keep you on the edge of your toes. We checked up with Daniel who gave us a little more insight on his ambitious project:

Yavor Vesselinov

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

It started as a writing exercise that slowly evolved into something I ended up loving and wanting to pursue. I had papers taped on my kitchen wall and when something would come to mind I would write it down in a list format. It would be a piece of dialogue, a prop, a location, a theme, etc. Over time I had a few dozen random ideas that led me to writing out some story drafts that ended up turning into a script.

How did you go about casting for Akila and VIO?

The casting process was a long experience for me as the characters needed to have specific qualities. For a few months, I went through over 20,000 profiles on Backstage with 8,000 submissions to myself. It was overwhelming but I took it one day at a time. Production took place in St. Louis, Missouri, and Yavor Vesselinov who plays VIO submitted as a resident living in the same city. Later I found out he was an actor from Bulgaria who just moved to the states with hopes to move to LA but his plans got stuck during lockdown. He was the only actor in the country that read for VIO. Mia Krystya I found after obsessively searching for several weeks, this was the character I looked for the most since Akila is the lead in the film. As soon as I saw her face I knew this had to be her, she at the time was actually a film photographer which contributed a lot to the project.

Mia Krystyna as Akila

What led you to create and ambitious 40 minute movie? What held you from going full feature length, or from shortening to a 20-minute film?

On my desk, I have a handwritten note card that says “Make the film you wish you made” and I just did that. The script was nineteen pages and I honestly didn’t expect it to be this long but it felt best to us at this run time. I had other filmmakers tell me to cut it in half for festivals but the goal always from day one was to make something that I love and not for anyone else.

Tell us about your preparation for such a long film?

I treated the project like a feature film which made the prep incredibly thorough. The film has 16 locations, 25 cast/crew members, a total of 50 extras with four months of prep, and 14 days of production with talent hailing from St. Louis, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, and Berlin. Since I’ve been producing for over a decade I know that all the important decisions are made in the prep. So I took it very seriously when it came to all of the hard work upfront. By the time our shoot dates arrived my team and I didn’t have to debate or discuss much because we all communicated so greatly prior that we all knew what the mission was for each day.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer fellow filmmakers?

To not get discouraged. You’re going to get told no, ignored, and have limitations through every step of the process of making your project. Always try to create something that you genuinely enjoy and love thinking about because the journey if done right can be a challenging one.

What do you hope people will take away from ‘A Brush of Violence’?

As far as the story goes I hope it makes some viewers think about their legacy as an artist. You can put it all on the line and eventually you will be forgotten which is the harsh reality but there’s some beauty in the freedom when you recognize that.

Which films you can say directly inspired this film?

The film was actually inspired by my love for podcasts and documentaries. The material I shared with the actors were documentaries Look At The Pictures, Exit Through The Giftshop, Harry Benson – Shoot First, David Bowie – The last five years, and movies At Eternity’s Gate, Ex Machina, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Inspiration was pulled from all over but that is what I encouraged the actors to watch during our prep phase.