Vegas baby, Vegas. That’s a battle cry that the movie Swingers made famous. The lights, spectacle and 24 hour night life is appealing, but what lies Beyond The Neon?
In the case of this heavy and entertaining interview, human trafficking is part of the dark backdrop that can make all that neon fade. Beyond The Neon follows famous Youtuber Joseph Saladino (AKA Joey Salads) while he an his crew document a dangerous experiment to expose the exploitation of human sex trafficking in Las Vegas.
The cast also includes Cynthia Lucero (Nix, X-Men Revolution – TV series) as Tracy Collins, a woman who has a personal connection to this investigation, Marisa Dzintars in the role of Marlow, Woodrow Wilson Hancock III and Seth Hancock as Sid.
I was blown away by this edgy, indie, crime Thriller. Beyond The Neon blurs the line between fiction and reality in chilling ways. For genre fans, this movie provides something very new and more importantly, it has a message you can take away from it.
All of this will be explored in the interview with the filmmakers of the narrative feature Beyond The Neon, so let’s get on with it shall we?
As answered by Woodrow Hancock, Marisa Dzintars, and other filmmakers from Beyond the Neon.
Curt Wiser: Let’s start at the beginning, (This is a line from the movie, I’m trying to be clever) what was the origin of Beyond The Neon? Did it start by having Joseph Saladino (Joey Salads) wanting to do a project?
Filmmakers: When BNF and Tiftin Media Finance pitched the story about girls in Las Vegas being trafficked, we didn’t know how much of a problem human trafficking was in America. Most people reference Taken but the reality of how it all works is far different.
Joey was brought on after the second year of R&D as the project called for someone with real life experience in dangerous situations and social experiments.
CW: The movie achieves a great deal of realism by casting professional actors as well as real people who live within the subject of Beyond The Neon. Tell us about producing a feature this way, the challenges and the benefits.
Filmmakers: The actors and the narrative simply serve to amplify the voices and stories of the real victims. Talented actors, like Cynthia Lucero as Tracy, carried the emotional arc through the information we wish to convey.
Without dropping any spoilers, the opening scene with the initial escort interview (as seen across the movie’s marketing campaign and on social media) was written and produced to be the first injection of information. The actress with the blurred face delivers our first emotional beat.
(I can attest to that opening from a viewer’s perspective, it was very impactful and immediately sets up the interesting balance maintained throughout the movie.)
CW: I got the impression that elements of the production had a fast and loose style with some improvised moments that added a raw energy on screen. Is this description accurate? What was the writing process like on this?
Filmmakers: The writing process started traditionally with a firm outline of each act. Scenes and sequences had clear goals, emotional arcs, and setbacks. We kept rehearsals on set to a minimum, kept it loose while rolling, and sometimes had to throw lines or physical moments in to motivate the cameras. It was designed to match social media content, like one big YouTube video.
(Well this strategy worked, I would like and subscribe.)
CW: My research found that #freejoeysalads was a real hashtag that went viral, which you referenced in the movie to comedic effect. Tell us about how real life influences helped shape Beyond The Neon.
Filmmakers: The real experiences that were shared with us carved the narrative, but we’ll never be able to capture the true depths of the psychological and physical horrors that these victims have and still are facing.
CW: There were some very intense scenes in the movie, which felt so raw and real it was hard to watch (in a good way.) How were filming these scenes approached while on set?
Filmmakers: Director Larry A. McLean (Pacific Rim, Robocop – TV series) has a huge stunt background. His leadership gave the actors an element of trust with the actions and with each other. Those scenes were heavily rehearsed, and that included justifying how, why, and where a camera would be involved.
CW: Beyond The Neon was the perfect type of project to use a multiple camera technique. Talk about that process and about how many takes would you do for each scene?
Filmmakers: This style is unique, we had to justify a camera being on in every scene, sourced lighting, and visually aimed for a level of “effortlessness” that Fernando Madero, the Director of Photography, mastered.
There are two camera operators, and sometimes they pick each other up. When you see a camera rig on screen, it’s been “dummied down” to appear more believable as a YouTuber’s rig, not a professional cinema set up.
Some shots were so raw, they only got one take. In the set ups with 3, 4, 5 or more hidden cameras, the actors really had to stick to the script and hit their marks, it was very technical in the most high stakes emotional scenes.
CW: The movie has a wide range of tones and emotions, all in a natural, organic way. What do you want audiences to feel after watching Beyond The Neon?
Filmmakers: The purpose of the movie is to spread awareness about how modern sex slavery happens in America. We hope the topic is talked about more.
(I hope that too, it’s one of the reasons I’m happy to be sharing this interview.)
CW: I always like to end these interviews with the same question. What is the question you always wish would be asked about this project? Here is your chance to answer it.
Filmmakers: The best question we could get in response to this movie is “How can I help?”
Many anti-trafficking orgs will say the first step to this problem is awareness, educating yourself and those around you. Creating environments where victims can come forward and get help, or preventing these situations to begin with by providing better services for high-risk youth, foster kids, LGBT+, child abuse victims, etc.
There’s a lot to be done, and we only hope to get the conversation started.
CW: Thank you for getting the conversation started, thank you for taking the time for this conversation. What release info can you share , how can we see Beyond The Neon?