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‘The Two Plates’ from the Filmmaker’s Perspective

The Two Plates is the story of best friends who, after growing up on the mean streets of Richmond, Virginia embark on the ultimate hustle after they come across counterfeit plates. Their money laundering scheme and murdering ways lands them on the radar of not only Richmond authorities but also the Secret Service. A full on investigation and a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues but is there a rat? Everything’s about whom you can trust, and friendships will be tested. The Two Plates is a raw, gritty, edgy, fast-paced film that doesn’t tiptoe around the harsh realities of hustling and urban inner-city life style. The amount of violence and crime in the streets is real, and capturing the essence of that was important. The Two Plates not only explores the lifestyle of the hustler and the hood but also the characters that dwell there. These are real people…real people in bad situations, but they’re not that different from the rest of us. They face the challenges we all face, only under different circumstances.

A few years back producer Mean Gene and I (Jonathan Straiton, The Two Plates Writer/Director) produced a music video for hip hop artists, Assassin and Ambush, and that is where we met music producer Roderick Smith, Jr. We shared a mutual love of movies and began brain-storming plot lines. There, the theme for The Two Plates was born. Once production was a wrap on my first film Big Fish in Middlesex, I dove straight into pre-production on The Two Plates.

There was a very specific vision in mind for the filming of The Two Plates. We wanted the audience to be a part of the action without the roughness of a documentary. Test shots of both special effects and action sequences were rehearsed, filmed, and studied. We wanted the gunshot effects to be shocking and over the top, yet still realistic. Because of the dangerous nature of using squibs (a blood pack with gun powder and a wire fuse), the challenge was to safely re-create the look a squib provides. My special effects director, Tim Reaper, had to carefully design how to execute this difficult effect using fish tank tubing, safety pins, stage blood, and an air compressor. In the end, the results were stunning, and even though we all saw how the effect was created there were cringes all around when we watched the footage of the fight sequences.

Our overall goal was to make our independent film look like a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie. Once filming began it was important to capture the essence of the “mean streets” of Richmond. We filmed on the Northside and the Highland Park of Richmond, areas infamous for being “mean”. Often we were not greeted with the warmest of welcomes. The goings- on of the authentic street hustlers of the neighborhood didn’t stop around our production and there were times it seemed that life and the environment around us did in fact imitate art. There were challenges and roadblocks to overcome filming in these locations, but that didn’t stop us. We kept filming even when the production van was broken into and prop guns and supplies were stolen. We dusted ourselves off, replaced what we could, and kept going.

Post production lasted a total of 3 months with over 26 hours of footage shot between two cameras. The film was being cut and scored simultaneously. The digital effects were the most tedious in Post. It was decided early on, due to the environment we were shooting in, to use digital effects for the muzzle flashes of the guns versus blank guns. We did not want to draw extra attention to ourselves nor cause an outbreak of violence.

September 13, 2008 was a memorable day for all of the attendees at the historical Byrd Theater. The film sold out before the ticket office opened, forcing the theater owner to sell a handful of tickets to standing room only patrons. The film went on to tour the festival circuit for several months making it’s debut at “The B-Movie Film Festival,” “The Chicago International Hip Hop Film Festiva,l” and the “10th Annual Bare Bones International Film Festival” where the film won “Best Urban Picture.” 

The Two Plates is now available OnDemand and will be available everywhere on DVD February 9th.  Reserve your copy today!

Thanks for reading-

Jonathan Straiton, Writer/Director, The Two Plates

-Thank you to Jonathan Straiton from Maverick Entertainment for his insight into making The Two Plates.  Congrats on your film’s release!

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