When a double-crossed deal between dirty police detectives and ruthless drug enforcers goes awry, a struggling addict musician finds himself in possession of the only item that can put an end to the out-of-control, bloody feud. So naturally, he heads downtown to the local pawn shop to score a few bucks off it.
After the problematic item becomes stuck within the shop’s secure walls, however, two enterprising pawnbrokers find themselves amidst the deal of a lifetime. Will they be able to score for themselves before a bombardment of violence strikes? Will any one of these nefarious characters survive when three bloody storylines come crashing down on the small town hock shop?
Local filmmaker Steve Drake brings to life, Hocked, an independent dark comedy filmed entirely in Montana by a volunteer team of local talent.
With his family being 30+ year veterans in the pawn industry, writer and director Steve Drake had no problem creating an original narrative inspired by true stories from the hock shop. What started out as a side passion project soon turned into the young videographer’s most challenging film to date.
Says Drake, “Luckily the team and I were no strangers to storytelling. Some of our earliest backyard movies date as far back as middle school. However, more recently, I started getting an itch to make a full feature film. At first I was overwhelmed by the sheer scope of building a feature film script as compared to a short, which I was more accustomed to.”
Like so many great stories, the events that take place in the movie are inspired by real life events. “I started writing what ultimately became the Hocked script in early December of 2018 as a project to possibly pursue as an online series. This particular series was set to feature reenactments of true stories based on my own experience working behind the counter in an actual pawnshop. After being essentially raised in the family pawn shop, I had no shortage of personal stories to draw from, and for the first time I felt like the stories flowed without obstruction.
“Even the characters seemed to write themselves since many were inspired by unique Bozemanites that had come through the shop over the years. Unfortunately, I had only gotten half a dozen pages or so complete when my folks told me that they would be permanently closing down in only a few month’s time. The good news was they were willing to leave the shop untouched for 2 months, so that I could film the movie’s main scenes within the walls of the shop, assuming I was able to put everything in motion. I took this as a challenge to kick the old screenplay into high gear. It soon became my entire life.”
With a production company of his own to lean on for the required equipment, Drake quickly got to work storyboarding the scenes that were possible, and researching ways to create scenes that seemed impossible on such a deadline. Multiple filmmakers were used as sources of inspiration during the creation of his first feature film.
“I had no idea where to start with Hocked… but luckily I had an entire wall of movies at home to review certain techniques that I wanted to put into place. Kevin Smith, Guy Ritchie and the writers of the Cornetto Trilogy are the three major resources I studied. What I respect about Smith is his ability to pull compelling conversations out of simple scenes by creating dynamic characters. Similar techniques were used when writing dialogue for the pawnbrokers who spent most of their time working at a dull, failing pawn shop. Writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg from the Cornetto Trilogy are incredibly methodical in their narratives by not including anything into the script without a very specific meaning. Whether it be incredibly subtle foreshadowing or their dry British humor, you can go into their film knowing every line and prop in frame was put there for a purpose. It was with this mindset I tried to stay true when outlining the framework of my story. Lastly and possibly most importantly, director Guy Ritchie helped me believe that I should even attempt to make Hocked. His earlier work on Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is such a grandiose and wild narrative with dozens of great characters and somehow he made the entire film work with a relatively small budget. As we are also working with a tight budget for Hocked, it has forced us to think creatively to solve problems and push performances to take over the scenes where at times production value may have lacked.”
“If there’s anyone that can make a movie on a $600 budget, it’s Steve Drake,” jokes Ty Slater, who plays Detective Marshal Connor in the film.
Incidentally, Hocked was produced on an ultra-low budget of only about $1,000. This was only achievable because his video production company already had all the necessary equipment and the family pawn-shop provided a perfect set for the film at no cost, but Drake is convinced that this will not be apparent to viewers.
Filmed entirely in the dead of Montana’s unforgiving winter, there were plenty of hurdles that needed to be overcome during the filming process. Frigid shooting conditions, filming permit red tape, shoestring budgets, hard-drive crashes, and an increasingly tightening filming window were just a few.
Drake mused, “There were plenty of moments where we began to wonder if we would actually pull this thing off. We were pushing our gear’s capabilities to to the very limit each day and many of the outdoor scenes were especially grueling on the cast and crew. We all had to put our heads down and keep the cameras rolling.”
Actor Rich Ledoux, who plays the ever-addled musician Lanny Green said, “There was one scene in particular in which I contemplated Googling ‘treating early onset frostbite’ while warming up in a running car in between takes.”
Drake cites Bozeman as being the main catalyst for the film’s upcoming completion. “Everything about this project was fueled by our incredibly supportive community. The sets are places you have probably driven by, and if you don’t recognize any of the actors, you probably aren’t from here. Our concept art was put together by Bozeman artists and even the soundtrack was hand-picked from a few of our favorite local musicians. It doesn’t even seem like the same film I wrote a year ago because so many creative people were able to add their own twists to it along the way. Every person involved dug deep, and we made the most of all the resources we had at our disposal. If I knew you on a first name basis, odds are you had a part in making this movie. It is amazing to see so many people and businesses in the Bozeman area jump at the chance to support one of the most unique films ever attempted to be filmed here. Take it from me. If this was any other town, it would have resulted in a movie that simply wouldn’t have been as much fun to watch. I know that multiple performances are going to pleasantly surprise people.”
Of the 50 plus actors that appear on screen, only three had prior acting experience. All of the cast members had to commit body and soul to the idea of transporting themselves inside the mind of a character written on a page for a few brief moments on camera. Then many would have to return to their day jobs only a few minutes later. Bartenders, baristas, rideshare drivers, accountants, professional detectives and even a few rappers were all molded to fit into the ever growing tornado that was fast becoming the wild world of Hocked.
Ledoux said, “Trying to portray this unique mix of onscreen gloom and charm as to elicit the required sympathy that I felt was necessary for the character was no small challenge. I had to dig into the dimly lit corners of my own soul; the process really becomes exhausting when you, truly and hopefully, are successful with that and then attempt to temporarily step away from it and back into your current everyday life, with all the positivity that that requires.
Although the film has many dark moments that act as the guideposts through the timeline, the movie’s overall objective and tone is quite the opposite. In a world where indie films are dominated by world-changing think pieces, Hocked is simply here to give the viewer a good time and strives to hearken back to the adventurous retro style of films from an older generation.
“While Hocked is an indie film by all definition, it isn’t looking to change your mind or trigger an existential crisis. It is a dark comedy, which is a genre few filmmakers in our area have explored, and I believe it succeeds in going beyond anything our town has seen in a really unique and entertaining way.” says Rachel Franz, an Associate Producer on the film.
Montana has recently been put in a unique position with the new film tax credit. Productions outside our state can now claim major benefits by hiring local cast and crew. The intended effect, of course, is to create more filmmaking jobs for Montanans, as well as explore an untapped wealth of opportunity within a state that is teeming with natural backdrops and talent. With a better infrastructure and collaborative filmmaking community, this state is poised to really start reaping the benefits of the tax credit, and seeing more projects like Hocked coming out of all the nooks and crannies of Montana.
“This project has been quite an odyssey but it has also had a significant effect on my future plans in the film industry,” reflects Drake, “Living in an age where excellent gear is affordable and the community is so supportive gives me the confidence needed to continue to build off what we learned from Hocked and roll into more large scale, creative projects.”
Production is currently deep within the final stages of editing, with all sights set on submitting the film to all six of the major Montana film festivals, as well as holding a local Bozeman premiere tentatively set for January 3, 2020.
Fans of the film, and new supporters of the project, can follow along on all news and film updates at the official movie website www.hockedthemovie.com
as well as search #Hockedthemovie on all major social media platforms. Drake is sure to mention that fans can look out for the film’s full length red-band trailer to release in December 2019.
Drake finished his thoughts, “With things being the way they are, in the film industry today, it seems like everyone is trying to change the world. Hocked is a brutal and unabashed flick, here to take you away from the world for a window of time and be the movie that’s just damn fun to watch and doesn’t require any action besides eating some popcorn. If people leave the theater with a sense of pride in our town and get excited about getting involved with the up and coming indie film scene here in Montana, then I’ll consider this film a major success.”
Loaded with absurd workplace humor, and streaks of gritty violence and intense action, Hocked is one low budget epic not to be missed.
The Montana Premiere of HOCKED will take place January 3, 2020 at the Ellen Theatre.
Single Six Media is a Bozeman based video production company driven to find and capture stories from the community that deserve to be told. Over the years, they have worked with local nonprofits, artists, businesses, and sportsmen to create compelling video projects that go beyond the average narrative. With a Bozeman theatrical release set for January of 2020 and a subsequent film festival circuit, Hocked will prove to be Single Six Media’s most ambitious accomplishment to date.