Story by Jennifer Linn | Photography for Home Magazine
When Jillian Kibler and Timothy Collins made their short film “Kiss of Death” they had no idea it would go anywhere.
But go somewhere it did. It went from being viewed in the class it was made for at the Art Institute of Atlanta all the way to France where it was shown at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
The film, a neo-noir, has been shown at several film festivals domestically as well, including several in Los Angeles.
Kibler, a Cumming native, and Collins, of Atlanta, met in class in October 2014 during their first semester at the Art Institute of Atlanta and have worked on several projects together since then. They are now seniors at the school.
Last December they were wrapping up their 11-week semester where they made three short films and one commercial, when they realized one of their classes wanted another short film.
“‘Kiss of Death’ was literally written on set of some of the other ones and then we shot it within two days and it was edited two days later,” Kibler said.
In all, it took about two weeks to make the 10-minute-long movie, which was the most rushed film they made that semester.
The film is about a young thief and his wife preparing to flee town by sunrise, until the arrival of a mysterious stranger halts their plans.
“‘Kiss of Death’ is a film noir and it’s a homage or tip of the hat to classic film noir,” Kibler said. “Now it’s considered neo-noir but it’s basically a 30s 40s crime drama.”
Collins said they wanted to take elements of film noir, such as black and white photography and femme fatale, as well as crime elements and add a modern twist to it.
“We wanted to take something classic and make it feel like it was filmed back in the 30s and 40s and bring it back into a more modern element because we don’t usually see black and white movies made now that have that 30s and 40s feel.”
The film was shown in class and then posted on Vimeo, a video hosting, sharing and streaming website. After that, people started to take note.
“We literally were like, ‘oh I’m proud of this, this is a good class project that got us an A-plus,’ we got an A on our final project and then just put it up on Vimeo and the L.A. Neo Noir Film Festival contacted us,” Kibler said.
“There were no expectations beyond just getting a good grade and then all of this came and it was just really a surprise,” he said.
The organizers with the Los Angeles Neo Noir Novel, Film & Script Festival asked them to submit the film to their festival, where they ended up receiving a silver award for Best Short Film. When applying for that festival, they were told about a site that would allow them to submit to other festivals at the same time. Collins went ahead and submitted the film to other festivals, not telling Kibler specifically which ones he submitted to.
Soon the young filmmakers received an opportunity to go to Los Angeles in March for another film festival: the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. Kibler, Collins and the three actors in the film flew out to Los Angeles where the film won another award, this time for Best Student Directors.
“It was pretty cool to touch down and be like ‘we’re in L.A.’ for the first time and it’s for one of our films,” Kibler said.
It was in Los Angeles they received word their film had been accepted to the Cannes Film Festival.
“He (Collins) didn’t even tell me he was putting it in that one,” Kibler said. “When he told us it was the Cannes Film Festival and we actually made it in, we were freaking out.”
In May the filmmakers packed their bags and headed to Europe to experience what is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.
“It was like if the biggest film conference in the world was at a 5-star beach resort in Europe,” Collins said. “It was just like a dream especially for aspiring filmmakers to be around so many hundreds of people that are all there and passionate about the same thing you are in this really beautiful place.”
Kibler said the energy at the festival was inspiring.
“It’s cool to feed off of other’s creative energy and talk about all this crazy stuff that you love,” she said. “Film nerd stuff, which is our language.”
While there they attended the premiere of “Neion Demons” — a film directed by Nicholas Winding Reffins — as fillers, people who sit in the audience to make it look like it’s a full house.
“It was definitely really cool to see somebody’s work that you love or aspire … it’s just so beautiful,” Kibler said, adding that it was interesting to get to see the stars’ reactions to their own films as they watched it.
As for “Kiss of Death,” the film was shown in the short film corner at Cannes. The short film corner allows viewers to watch films in this area at their convenience, there isn’t one larger screening of the film.
“Kiss of Death” was shown at the American Youth Film Festival in July, as well as other festivals, including the Newfilmmakers New York festival in New York City in September and the World Film Festival in San Franciso.
“Every time we make a film we want it to be better than the last,” Kibler said. “We definitely did not expect it to start in a festival circulation.”
Collins said the film was made with the intent of showing friends, parents and classmates.
“We do try to put everything we have into everything we do, even if it’s just going to be a class project.”