A Note From The Director

“Clean Kill” is my thesis film and marks the end of an amazing four years at the Tisch School of the Arts. The central story of a hitman who finds himself being chased physically by his enemies, while being trapped mentally by both his medical condition and his conscience, is one that has been in my head since I arrived at NYU. I would have felt as if my time here was incomplete if I did not attempt to bring it to the screen.

Some of you may be asking, “Why make a movie about a hitman? Why not make a movie about someone good?” To answer this question I have to give you a little background on myself. The film that has inspired me more than any other is John Woo’s “The Killer,” a film about a hitman who is undone by his conscience after accidentally blinding an innocent woman during one of his assignments. I found the film’s unbalanced mixture of moments of visceral action and serene stillness strangely beautiful.  Even more inspiring was the depiction of Chow Yun-Fat’s hitman’s ethical code. His actions are never justified, but he is clearly not pure evil, shown by how he repeatedly risks his own life to save others.

To understand how John Woo came to make “The Killer” I began to study his inspirations. What I found was that Woo had been so strongly influenced by another film, that in every interview about “The Killer” he refers to it as an homage. The film Woo is referring to is Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samouraï.” In this film, a modern hitman lives by the strict moral code of the Samurai. Again, the man’s deeds are never justified, but as in “The Killer,” the character is redeemed by his refusal to harm an innocent person, actually sacrificing himself to save his innocent target. 

Both of these filmmakers understood that a “hitman” film could provide more than simple crime stories. They used the genre to fuse the mythology of the doomed lone gunmen of the American Western with the mythology of the honorable Samurai of Japanese films. By displacing these older film archetypes into a modern context, Woo and Melville created something original and powerful. The stories and characters in their films are universal because they are a mixture of mythologies and archetypes that we are all familiar with. 

What makes both of these films interesting and worthwhile is that, rather than showing a flawless hero — “Bond, James Bond”— survive and overcome every obstacle, these films explore something much more interesting. By examining the other extreme, the person who would be the villain in most films, but doing so in a complex manner, these films ultimately aim to show that just as the best person has at least some bad in them, the worst people still have some good in them.

I know that I am not alone in my admiration for these two films and for the genre that they essentially created in its contemporary form, because my screenplay inspired by these films has gotten some of the most talented young filmmakers at Tisch to pour their energies and efforts into helping to make this film.

Unfortunately, talent alone doesn’t take a story from script to screen and the budget for a short film is sizeable, not to mention daunting to those of us still in college. We’re counting on all the donations we can get— money, locations, equipment, transportation, even meals to feed a cast and crew of at least twenty!

As “Clean Kill” marks the end of my time at Tisch School of the Arts, I hope it will also mark the beginning of a long and productive career. To this end, and this beginning, I would be tremendously grateful for any help or support you can give us.

Thank you,