In this mockumentary, Gareth, a muckraking British reporter played by newcomer Billy Hill, uncovers the kinky underground world of America’s shoe salesmen. Filmed in an actual underground lair, the basement of the Capitol Lounge, director Robyn Bennett leads viewers on a seamy tour of this shoe fetishists’ garden of delights. With the help of screenwriter Joe Flood, The Shoepranos explores the dangers of shoe obsession. “It’s not about the women. It’s about the shoes,” explains the world-weary bartender, played by Jeanne Mayeaux. And shoes are stars in this production, from towering golden heels to thigh-high black boots, all provided by production designer Libby Sallaway.
Created for the 48 Hour Film Project, The Shoepranos was written, filmed, and edited in a mere 48 hours. Starting on Friday night, the writing team of Joe Flood and Nellie Lide got to work on their fanciful shoe tale. Mockumentary was the genre chosen out of a hat at the 48 Hour Film Project kickoff meeting. And the writers had to include several required elements: Buddy Johnson, a shoe salesman; a paint roller as a prop; and the line of dialogue, “So, you’re the guy with the shoes.” A mockumentary on shoe salesmen seemed like a natural fit.
By dawn on Saturday morning, the script was done and a shot list was prepared. At seven, the Midnight Motley cast and crew assembled at the Capitol Lounge for a full day of filming. Robyn made expert use of the location, including for example, a sinister-looking picture of Richard Nixon which was hanging on the wall to heighten the aura of shoe menace. The actors, notably Billy and Menchu Esteban, also took full use of the many interesting props in the bar and improvised some great scenes. Their foot in lap chemistry is one of the highlights of the The Shoepranos.
In addition to being the director, Robyn played a “shoe digger” in pursuit of the wealthy and mysterious shoe designer, Buddy Johnson, played by a cigar-smoking Julie Naff. Also putting her best foot forward was producer Tyler Hamilton as a shoe-obsessed Southern belle. Cameraman John Roegner put down his DV to play a Texan cradling a gold, snakeskin pump. Geoff Fisher plays the bouncer in the shoe lounge and Joe Smutz gets to say the memorable line, “I’d like to get my shoehorn into those.” And all the women in the production, cast and crew, slipped into their best footwear for a memorable ground-level shoe shot by director of photography Tom Benca.
Filming wrapped up near midnight. The following morning, Julie ably edited the picture, using quick cuts and overlapping dialogue to give it that documentary feel. The exhausted team of Robyn, Tyler and Julie turned in the movie with time to spare on Sunday.
The Shoepranos played to a packed house on May 6th, 2003, at Visions, part of a full slate of 48 Hour movies. The film received big laughs and a tremendous response. For the filmmakers of Midnight Motley, this could be the first step on a rewarding journey.