When the pandemic hit, Chris Rodriguez ‘21 and Grant Rosado ’21 knew they would need to make a film within the limitations of a COVID world. They also realized that due to many productions shutting down across the entertainment industry, there’d be a gap in content.
Using a skeleton crew and a small cast to minimize risk, the duo’s R&R Film Studios, made ‘Twas the Night, their first full-length feature filmed in Savannah, Georgia, the summer before the start of their last year at Emerson.
“We were thinking about a genre we could shoot and sell to a distributor that people are going to need. We thought holiday content,” said Rodriguez.
The film premiered at the 36th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF), and is streaming online through November 21. There will be a red carpet event at the festival on November 20 with co-writers and co-directors Rodriguez and Rosado, as well as members of the cast and crew.
The film will be released on demand on services including Apple TV, iTunes, Amazon Video beginning December 3. It will also be in theaters in at least 10 cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
“It’s a spin on the traditional Christmas movie,” said Rosado. “You have Christmas classics when in-laws come and hijinks ensue. This takes the classic Christmas movie and has a naughty twist. Naughty or nice – we decided to go the other direction.”
The film is about a newly engaged couple trying to host the perfect Christmas dinner for their soon-to-be in-laws – while trying to hide a body in their house.
Rodriguez said they wanted to flip the Hallmark holiday film on its head, and they took inspiration from different genres.
“We looked at Hitchcock films, as there is a big element of surprise,” said Rodriguez. “The comedy that comes in holiday family films is there, and it’s got that dark comedy feel.”
IMBD lists the movie as a comedy thriller. The movie is being distributed by Vertical Entertainment.
Other Emersonians who worked on the film include director of photography Taelon Ratliff ‘21 and digital imaging technician Annabelle Gabriel ‘22.
“We took a lot from Emerson. I feel Emerson helps in learning the artistic values of shot composition,” said Rosado. “We did a cool thing in the movie. We made the music and shot the scene around the music. Those are tips we learned from different directing classes at Emerson.”
The duo met when they randomly were assigned as suite mates their first year. They chose to be roommates sophomore year, studying at Kasteel Well that second semester, and started their company that year, too.
At one point in their Emerson career, Rodriguez said they took a class together in which the professor let them work as a pair on their projects.
“It really helped us to understand each other’s work style. When we’re on set it’s a lot more cohesive,” said Rodriguez. “Co-directing can be difficult. We did so much practice on sets. We were really able to come together in a good way.”
Rodriguez said learning how to make movies on 35mm, while editing with tape and scissors in Film 101 really gave him a good understanding of editing. He also greatly benefitted from attending Emerson’s E3 program.
“E3 really helped me with networking. It really helped me with marketing. E3 really teaches you how to learn all these skills that are general in business,” said Rodriguez.
“When you’re producing your own movie, you’re doing your own mini startup that will last a year or two. I applied the skills to launch a business to make a movie as far as the business side goes. Learning how to make a movie is a big challenge, and then what do you do with it afterwards? You have to sell it, and market it.”