The Truth About R. Paul Wilson’s Feature Film “Con Men”
In 2015, I found myself in Samy’s Camera store in Los Angeles about to purchase an expensive camera to add to my collection for the purpose of making my first scripted feature film.
While the sale was going on I realized that the money I was spending on this camera might be enough to make a zero budget movie with the right people in Glasgow – film and TV professionals who wanted to do something. different and who could trust me enough to devote their time to such a crazy idea.
Moments later I walked out of Samy’s house without the camera, called these friends from the parking lot at the camera store and to my surprise they all said “yes”!
All I had to do was write, program, produce and direct a movie for less than $ 5,000.
The scam is on
The resulting film Crooks was shot with the same camera I used for my previous shorts and the documentary Our magic.
As our original cinematographer had to return to Norway unexpectedly, our camera operator John Young stepped in and helped make the film amazing despite the limitations of our equipment.
In fact, I’m still amazed that not everyone thought everything was a scam given my past on The real commotion but somehow we had a small but determined team working with a cast of talented strangers to make a gritty little scam movie set in Glasgow.
The storyline was based on the concept of a limited TV series with several long-running episodes following a group of scammers as their world falls apart and each of them is forced to find themselves in situations beyond their control.
The opening story of this series featured a con artist, Rob, who studied with a famous elder. When the unknown young crook Tom comes to tell Rob about the violent death of the old man, they team up to get their mentor’s final score.
But being a scam, nothing is as it seems and you only learn at the end who jostled who and why.
The film follows the relationship between two generations of crooks who share an old-fashioned mentor who gave me the opportunity to include several of my favorite scams in the story.
My focus as a newbie filmmaker wasn’t to make the movie about scam games but about the crooks themselves, so my choices were influenced by what situations I wanted to include in the script and what we could. allow us to do on the set.
The film opens with a scam where a brand is convinced to bring a large sum of money to a late night diamond deal that ends in disaster, forcing the victim to run for the exit without their money.
This is where we first see Rob in action and learn how good he is at playing a role for the Miller as over the opening titles we learn that he also spends his time in craft fake antique furniture in a private workshop next to Rob’s secluded country house.
Tom is also seen arriving in town before being brought to Rob’s house to tell him the bad news about Joe, their mutual mentor who was killed in London a few days before.
After checking out Tom’s story, Rob learns that Joe had the details of how to buy tickets to an exclusive, secret and illegal high stakes poker game in Glasgow. So Rob agrees to teach Tom the ropes so they can eliminate this game.
The chain scam
Rob employs Tom to help him defraud a jeweler with a cunning con that I learned from the late Ron Wohl, a wizard and rogue games expert who revealed the scam to me years ago.
Ron lived in New Jersey and had heard of a scam game where local businessmen overpaid for gold chains they believed to be 24 karat but were actually much worse. quality.
What interested Ron was that some of these businessmen were jewelers and had tested the gold themselves before closing the deal and in any case it was absolutely clear that none of the chains had been changed during the process.
So how can they be completely unwanted when they’ve been tested like the real deal?
The chains were never swapped as they were still junk, but the deal itself took place in a dimly lit area which helped the chains look out of place.
More importantly, it helped crooks replace the suction cup test kit with an identical one that would react to cheap chains as if it were pure gold!
In the film, Tom acts as an unintentional distraction while Rob does the dirty work; the chains pass the rally, the deal is done, and the deed is done.
The bridge switch
After a few days alone stealing handbags and camera gear from tourists, Tom is told he has to change a deck of cards during the game and after a demonstration from Rob, returns to his hotel to work on the move until in the big day.
Of course, it would be a recipe for disaster if a con artist who is supposed to make this kind of move only has a few days to practice.
A sleight of hand on the bridge takes years to master, but there’s a method in Rob’s plan – if anyone gets caught, it would be Tom!
Meanwhile, Rob could easily slip away while Tom faces the music.
Naturally, nerves are on edge when Tom walks into the abandoned building and finds that the illegal card game is being played by a gallery of local gangsters, the most dangerous being the loudest and closest to him at the table.
Needless to say, the plan goes awry and even if Tom does manage to change the cards, there is no doubt in the gangster’s mind that he was cheated for reasons which you will learn for yourself if you watch the movie. .
What I can tell you is that this situation actually happened in a private game outside of Las Vegas where a perfect bridge change was exposed by a completely different scam that the change team of bridge was not aware of it.
The result was that two teams of cheaters fought for cheating!
this situation plays out quite differently.
The great revelation
I’m not going to reveal the final con but I think it’s a pretty interesting twist on the genre, which leads to another surprise that would fuel the show’s next story, which I still hope to someday do.
Scams in Crooks are all real but used for dramatic purposes and maybe if I’m being honest I wish I had made these scams a little bigger.
But if you know how to make a 90 minute feature film in 12 days for under $ 5,000 while including all the elements, rhythms and ideas you could want later, I would love to hear from you!
Crooks is available on Amazon Prime, as is my second scripted feature Isolani (in US and UK) and you can see trailers and a few of my shorts (all with an element of magic or deception) on www.rpaulwilson.com.
Interestingly, I find the lessons learned from a life of studying deception to be extremely useful in problem-solving as a filmmaker and although my business relationship is based on honesty, the way a crook and a magician think can be a powerful tool on a movie set. .