Upcoming Murder Mystery Filmed and Set in the Hudson Valley
As if the Hudson Valley wasn't becoming a new hub for filming, a new movie that was shot in the area just released a trailer. Not only was it shot in the area, but the story is set in the Hudson Valley, and is being produced by members of the community.
Looks Can Kill Releases First Trailer
Looks Can Kill is the brainchild of Hudson Valley resident Erik Jensen. Erik wrote the script and is the director of this project. Looks Can Kill marks the directorial debut of Erik Jensen; however, this is not his first production by any means. Erik has worked on the Showtime drama Escape at Dannemora working alongside director Ben Stiller, and HBO's The Staircase starring Toni Collette and Colin Firth. His credits also include 24 episodes of NBC's The Blacklist, being a consultant on Netflix's The Irishman, and several productions on ID and A&E.
One of the great things about Looks Can Kill is that it is very Hudson Valley centric. Erik is the founder of Jensen Creative Consulting Agency. Erik enlisted the help of cinematographer Derek White and his Poughkeepsie-based company Good Time Film Studios to produce this film. Not just that, but many members of the cast and crew are from the area.
To top it all off, the story is set in the Hudson Valley! so many productions who shoot around here will use Hudson Valley landmarks, but in the context of the story, they are somewhere else. Not this time: when they say they are at Vassar College, they are at Vassar College. When they say they are at Shadows or Mahoney's on the Poughkeepsie Waterfront, they are there on the Poughkeepsie Waterfront. I love that it really showcases the Hudson Valley front and center, and that was something the cast and crew really wanted to focus on.
Discussing the Plot of Looks Can Kill
I got a chance to speak with Erik, along with several other members of the cast and crew. When asked about the plot of the film, Erik said that it is about a flamboyant serial killer who assumes the identity of a Hollywood producer. He tries to bait college girls by getting them to do photo shoots and by promising extravagant parties. The New York State Police forms a task force to track down and capture this killer. Looks Can Kill is only the first part of a planned trilogy set to come out.
When discussing setting the scene and establishing the world of Looks Can Kill, Erik really focused on the colorization of the filming. “The color is the main thing in this project. The color is what brings out the Hudson Valley because of all the natural colors and the beautiful landmarks in our area.”
Before the movie is released to the public, Looks Can Kill will be submitted to the Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto Film Festivals.
Meeting Members of the Production Team of Looks Can Kill
My main connection to this film was my friend, Assistant Director, Brendan Lynch. Brendan and I have known each other for years. We worked at a camp together, and since then, we have supported and helped each other out with film and music projects. He is one of the cofounders of Production House 45, and is an incredible talent.
We reconnected recently, and he was telling me about this incredible film that he worked on. Brendan was good friends with the folks at Good Time Film Studios. He told me that Erik showed up to a filmmakers meet up at Good Time where he pitched his passion project. He said despite being hesitant at first, Brendan felt something was telling him to get involved in this project. Brendan said,
It has been wild, Erik is such an interesting director to work with, he has so much passion for this film that he’s moving mountains to get it done. It was also great to know I was working with my good friend and DP, Derek White from Good Time Film, we are good friend and bringing this project to life has been magical... What the film community is creating in the Hudson Valley is vital to filmmakers here. They can take their ideas and really made them happen, Looks Can Kill is a great example.
Erik introduced me to the Executive Producer of the film, Toddrick Brockington. Toddrick and Erik worked together on the set of Escape at Dannemora and had fostered a relationship ever since. As Toddrick describes it, they built capital and stock in each other over the years. Prior to this film, Toddrick had no experience with the Hudson Valley; however, while shooting, he told Erik, ‘Once we make [Looks Can Kill], I’m getting a big house out here! Right on the Hudson!’” Toddrick said one of the most fulfilling parts of this process was meeting a lot of the locals and the extras. He said it was a terrific experience and seeing how far people came to be a part of this from all over the country.
Meeting Members of the Cast of Looks Can Kill
Nicholas Sperdute is one of the lead actors in the film. I tried to get some info on his character, but there was very little that he was allowed to say. He did tell me that is fairly unique compared to other roles he's played. He said that it expands his range and that it is a different path in his acting career. Nicholas is originally from Newcastle, Pennsylvania but now lives in New York City where he acts and teaches at Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop - New York. Nicholas recalled that his biggest scene of the film was the first thing that he shot. It was trial by fire, he called it. He said it was nerve wracking at first, but it helped him find the character and move from there.
Ylza Delgado co-stars in this film, playing the role of Lauren. Again, I couldn't get too much on the chracter, but at least this time I got a name! Looks Can Kill marks Ylza's acting debut. She was a friend of Erik and his girlfriend Heather, and they encouraged her give the audition a try and read some lines. After seeing her line reading, Erik felt they she portrayed Lauren they way he wanted. Ylza said "Being that this was my first acting role, I would have never thought of myself loving film. So I appreciate Erik for seeing the talent, believing I can do it and actually going through with it. The best gift I received was realizing that I can actually act."
Actor and musician Ricky Bats plays one of the detectives in Looks Can Kill. Ricky and Erik have been friends and worked together on Escape of Dannemora. Besides acting, Ricky Bats is a touring musician and rapper. Originally from the Bronx, Ricky now lives in Massachusetts. When we spoke, he talked about going back on the road to tour, just after shooting Looks Can Kill. When I asked him how he fits it all in, he said "I make my own schedule. As long as home is situated, and my wife is situated because she holds stuff down at home that allows me to move and shake and bake, you know?... I live and breathe this stuff because I want it."
Despite playing a detective in this film, Ricky once found himself on the side of the law.
I did 17 years in prison. I’ve been home going on 9 years. I came home and I turned all of this around. I even played an inmate with Ben Stiller in Escape at Dannemora. I was working with them for 3 months... At first, it was just work. But as time was going on... it was giving me flashbacks and giving me anxiety. It just seemed so real because I was living that life already... But all the energy that I have towards the streets and the negativity, I turned it towards the music and the brand.”
Funny Stories from Set
Everyone I had a chance to speak with all said that they loved connecting with the cast and crew. Toddrick specifically talked about the connections being made throughout the production. I loved his term "social capital."
“It’s all about social capital. A lot of people think its about the money, but your relationships are more valuable than money... A lot of people don’t look at relationships in those terms. The person brings the value. You take any successful person; that person was in them before they became wildly successful. They came before the money, so sometimes we can’t put the money first. You got to look at the value in the person.”
When it came to specific stories from production, a few people kept coming back to the story of the "haunted lamp." After a night of filming, Ricky Bats went back to his room in the Airbnb. When he tried to turn off his lamp, the bulb stayed lit. He tried unplugging it, and it still stayed lit. Ricky went downstairs where Erik, Toddrick and some other cast and crew were with the lit lamp in his hand. It was evident that he was creeped out saying, "I think there is an evil spirit in my room!" Unbeknownst to him, it was just a prop lamp that he had in his room. Ricky may had been spooked at first, but that experience was one of the first big laughs shared amongst the cast and crew, and one of the earlier bonding moments.
"What Do You Want People to Get Out of This Film?"
Actress Ylza Delgado: "This film sends a message for people to see that you have to pay attention to your surroundings and the people who you call your friends. Everyone you meet and know does not have your best interest."
Actor Nicholas Sperdute: “I hope that people enjoy it, really. It’s an entertainment thing. I really hope that they go in and don’t know what to expect, and to find something that makes them move a little bit... I think we need that right now, something that people can take in frame by frame, and enjoy it.”
Actor Ricky Bats: “This is stuff that really happens. These are real life experiences. I want people to get the awareness that there are crazy people out there, and that there are people missing. There’s a lot of that human trafficking... It’s a great movie and a great concept. Erik Jensen did a hell of a write-up on it. I think that he brought the characters together, and I hope people get something out of it and enjoy.”
Executive Producer Toddrick Brockington sees this as a different take on suspense thrillers: "“The main character could be anyone at the bar having a drinks. You’re not suspecting him. You watch movies and you think, ‘Oh yeah, that guy is definitely the killer.’ This here is getting in the head and the mind of the killer. I told Erik once that you have to almost be a psycho to write this so brilliantly! [laughing] You know what I’m saying? It feels like a confession. I’ll compare it to rap. You have rappers who rap at you and then you have Jay-Z, and he’s just conversational. So in this case, with the movie, you’re actually with this guy and you’re really breaking it down.”
Assistant Director Brendan Lynch: "I want people to know if they have an idea for a movie that they don’t need to be in Hollywood to make it happen. All it takes is the drive to get it done and having the team to make that happen, that’s what Erik has done with Looks Can Kill... I just want to hammer home that no matter what, follow your dreams, because your time will come and when it does be ready to put everything you got into it."
Writer and Director Erik Jensen: “The cast and the crew were the foundation for me to create this. Without a team, it isn’t possible... For anyone who is trying to do something like this in the Hudson Valley and worldwide, if you got the faith and the power to do it, you can do it. I want to see other people from the Hudson Valley doing these things and taking that leap. It’s like rolling the dice: it could go one way or the other, but you won’t know unless you do it.”