WARNING: THIS PRESS KIT CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE FILM
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The midnight bus greets a Boy just trying to catch some sleep, but the Man who boards after has more intimate ideas in mind... plus tip.
BY: SAFI JAFRI
I was inspired to write this film while still in the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus as its youngest member in its entire history. Created and composed by Julian Hornik, "75 Cents" was one musical movement within an entire body of work titled "@queerz" that chronicled the stories of queer youth across the country.
As a queer member of Generation Z, I couldn't help but feel incredibly visceral emotions while rehearsing such music... so I began writing. Due to COVID-19, the Spring 2020 show was cancelled and so was my life in San Francisco. However, the manuscript was still in my laptop and my desire to tell such a story never escaped.
Originally meant to be my college transfer application visual supplement, 75 Cents turned into a film that I knew in my heart had to be released to the world. With the blessing and support of my now former chorus, the story originally meant for the stage of the SF Gay Men's Chorus now lives on to hopefully see the light of the silver screen.
My name is Safi Jafri. I hope this film evokes the same emotion that its musical inspiration evoked within me. This short is just one song in the grand album that is the queer experience...
JOSEPH boards the midnight bus once again, still heartbroken by his family's decision to kick him out for his sexuality. Downtrodden and destitute, just trying to get some sleep, a MAN boards the same bus... ignoring every other empty seat except the one beside Joseph. Offering the boy gum, the Man finds his way "in". They strike up conversation - predator eyes gaze at innocent prey, hands tip toe to thighs - and the Man invites Joseph back to his place
to lay his head on a proper bed.
Back at the Man's high-rise apartment, Joseph tip-toes his fingers over a desk riddled with trophies and framed pictures of a whole life. As the Man asks Joseph about his life and his family - getting only monosyllabic responses - they find a glimmer of comfort in one another. Yet it is at this moment that Joseph notices the child support paperwork on the Man's coffee table - bringing him back to reality. Despite his reaffirmation of discomfort, the Man approaches - soothing and swaying Joseph with his words and his touch. As Joseph's hand clasps his pendant and eyes stare into the framed portrait of the Man's family - with kids likely the same age as him - the Man finds his way around Josephs body and to his belt... the belt unfastens.
Joseph lays lifeless, staring out the window to the dark skyline, by the bed as the Man - now empty of any and all empathy - gets up, un-crumples something, and places a towel down beside before heading to the bathroom. As the shower water runs, Joseph sits up, but feels something beneath him. Suddenly, he thuds against the window to see a leaking stain on the bed from where is backside was. Horrified, he panics as his eyes catch the $20 bill sitting on top of the towel. Stain, towel, bill, stain, towel, bill, stain, towel... bill. His hands grasp instinctively for his chest yet find nothing to grab onto. Even more terrified, Joseph grabs the $20 and checks his pants to grab his pendant. In the palm of his hand is a pendant and accompanying cross, engraved with the words:
ALWAYS OUR SON...FOREVER MOM & DAD'S
Gleaming with a resolute sadness, his eyes make their way forward towards the balcony beyond the glass window.
Joseph makes his way onto the balcony, overlooking the midnight hour harbor. Lights along the aircraft carrier and Victorian-era vessels of the bay lay dim as the red light of the building flood Joseph's periphery on and off. His looks down - it's a long way down - and looks outward - it's a ways way to what was home. His mind rings with the horns of the Lord's Day of Judgement and the echoes of the last words he heard from his past life - his family. Joseph stretches his arm out beyond the railing. His pendant falls from his hand and dangles with the wind as he opens his palm, still gripping it with his fingers. Ringing and ringing and ringing with the sounds that he can no longer keep, the red light floods his senses as Joseph throws his palm forward...
letting go of his grip.
CUT TO BLACK
MEET THE 75 CENTS TEAM
FEATURING AN ALL QUEER CREW!
Safi Jafri is a young, 20 year old filmmaker born in Houston, TX & raised in San Diego, California. Growing up brown, Muslim,
and gay provided him a unique insight
into the world that has always trans-
lated cinematically. Whether it be
visual art, music, or photography,
Safi has always found a marriage
between every discipline he enjoys
and film. He began truly delving into
his film passions within the latter half
of high school and has since earned
himself multiple selections and awards
for his very first short film fresh out of high school: All Too Well.
For Safi, storytelling has been
foundational in the way he thinks and
expresses himself to others. In his
mind, writing and directing is not
only a practice in self-reflection but also a practice in empathy. It is the
marriage of the two that make films
worth making. He currently is a
student at San Francisco State
University's Cinema program while
studying remotely in San Diego.
DIRECTOR | WRITER | PRODUCER | EDITOR
Em Shafer is a Director of Photography
based out of Los Angeles,CA and
graduated from Chapman University
in 2021 with a B.F.A. in Film Pro-
duction (emphasizing on cinemato-
graphy). She has a background in set
lighting and enjoys using light design
to add meaning to her shots.
She has worked in narrative,
commercial, and documentary and
is always looking to broaden her
horizons. Outside of film, she enjoys
the outdoors and social advocacy
and always looks for projects that
highlights an important issue in our
In his two years at Chapman he has worked on over fifty Chapman
films, including as the casting director
for thirty-six and producer on eight.
Gabe has also cast projects for Joji,
Mau y Ricky, Etsy, Honey and Love
Victor. He has also
PAed on Bad Bunny, Kim Petras,
Jimmy Kimmel, and Kygo projects.
Gabe has interned at two film
production companies, Halleloo
Creative in NYC and
Huffman Creative in LA. Recently he
began work as a full-time PA on
American Horror Story season ten while he takes a break from school and works on
pre-production for his next projects.
In 2018, Gabe was the most awarded high school filmmaker in the country. His film,
Jaded, was accepted into sixteen national
film festivals as well as winning the
YoungArts Merit Award in filmmaking.
His film, Due Process, was accepted to
forty-seven festivals, winning “Best
Screenplay” at The 2019 All American
HS Film Festival , “Best High School
Film” at the Top Shorts Film Festival,
and played at The Cinequest Film
Festival. In total, he has made eight
short films that have played at seventy-
six film festivals in eleven countries. He is
currently studying at Chapman University
double majoring in Film Production and Social Work.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER | CASTING DIRECTOR
Born and raised in Houston,
Texas, Watts set out for Los
Angeles, California to
pursue a career in
being trained in the
theatre and perform-
ing on stage since the
age of 12, Watts grad-
uated with a BFA in
Musical Theatre from
the American Musical and
Dramatic Academy of Los
Angeles (AMDA), along with
extensive training in Acting for the
Camera and Voice, Speech, and Dialects. Watts proceeded
to book a co star role on Nickelodeon's "The
Thundermans", making him SAG-AFTRA eligible. Watts has booked multiple featured roles on crime recreation series (Cold Case Files,Unusual Suspects). Alongside acting, Watts is a well rounded athlete and stuntman.
Bruce Clifford was born and
raised right outside of Phila-
and started acting in
college and has been
in the industry for 12
years. He got his feet
wet in PA and NYC
while learning anyway
he could by jumping
in local student films,
indie films, stand in work,
commercials, improv classes
and local Casting Director cla-
sses. Bruce has lived in LA for 5
years now and continues to grow his craft and network. He recently starred in Stay Tonight (short) and Bulge Bracket (Series) both on Amazon. When he is not acting you can find Bruce on the golf course, staying fit and active, getting outside, and playing guitar.
PRODUCTION SOUND MIXER
Tori McJunkin is in her senior
year at Chapman University
studying directing, but
her secret talent lays in
She was drawn to the
screen in the late
2000s as part of the
YouTube boom, but
migrated over to the
silver screen as high
school introduced her to
the art of cinema. Prod-
uction sound marries Tori’s
interests in storytelling and puzzle-
solving, and she also loves the access it gives her to those raw, emotional moments on set. Tori is beyond excited to be a part of 75 Cents, and especially enjoyed her opportunity to be on a fully queer crew!
Poppy Shaw is a director and
cinematographer residing in
Los Angeles. Born in
England, she has also
lived in Cyprus,
Canada. As both a
director and cinema-
tographer she heavily
focuses on the power
of visual storytelling
and what can be shown
rather than told. She has
directed and shot for num-
erous projects, from music videos
to narrative short films and documentaries. She is currently pursuing her undergrad degree at Chapman University where she will receive a BFA in Film Production, graduating May 2021.
Alex grew up in Plano, Texas where he first started getting invested in storytelling via technical theatre. Working as an employee
for his school district, he developed a
strong basis for lighting and set design,
along with experience directing actors
and crew. Alex is currently a student
at Chapman University. He’s been
enjoying strengthening his skills as a
writer, cinematographer, and editor
while he gets his BA in Television
Writing and Production. He’s currently
taking time off school to gain some work experience in the film and television indus-
try. Before he transferred to Chapman, he was a student at the UC Santa Barbara studying Film and Media.
attended UCSB for a year but
to work on a few short films during
his attendance which culminated in
the school sponsoring his first short
film 'Mother of Chernobyl' (which has
been received selections and awards
from festivals domestically and
A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT PRODUCTION
Have you ever been in an AirBnB that, according to the owners, wasn't technically an "AirBnB"? Ever told a bus driver to drive in circles all around downtown till the edge of midnight? Add a crying infant to the equation?
Welcome to the set of 75 Cents!
Pre-production was swift and time was of the essence. The transfer application deadline was approaching yet despite fears and doubts, especially in the midst of a pandemic, we had to carry on. While the script was written and developed during director Safi Jafri's time in San Francisco, it would be an entire year later till production would occur.
The casting process, spearheaded by executive producer and casting director Gabe Braden with the director, hastened as the shoot date in mid-January approached. Director Safi Jafri had always intended for the main character of Joseph to be somewhat representative of himself - a young South Asian/Middle Eastern boy - when it came to casting but due to time constraints, production was unable to thoroughly search. However, the casting process gave our production the wonderful talents of Cory Watts and Bruce Clifford that really brought the characters to life. Under our executive producer, cinematographer Em Shafer, along with production sound mixer Tori McJunkin and gaffer Poppy Shaw, signed on despite the New Year's peak in COVID-19 cases. Because of the pandemic, all cast and crew underwent Rapid PCR testing before the shoot.
We had two principal locations for the film: 1) the high-rise AirBnB and 2) the charter bus.
Because of the intimacy and intensity of the scene, director Safi Jafri worked closely to ensure the comfort of both actors. Considering the subject material, Cory Watts found himself enveloped deeply in the headspace of his character Joseph. The scene in the living room involved an intimacy that was inherently uncomfortable and wrong.
The director wanted to bring the audience in and then remind the audience that
what they are watching isn't right: a minor being exploited for his body and being gaslighted into thinking he has control. It was rooted in the same kind of experiences Safi found himself in during his thrust into adulthood while living alone in San Francisco's Castro district.
A moment while setting up that caused a LOT of laughs on set
If anything is true on a film set, it's that nothing is perfect!
It's all about rolling with the punches...
One of the original plot points of the script
was an interaction between our main character Joseph and an infant boy being held tight by his mother. The intention behind this was to outline the envy Joseph had of a child who still had his family holding onto them. Yet upon viewing it during post, the entire sequence was cut in order to help create a more compelling and well-paced end product.
This was in spite of the fact that while filming, young baby Asher had a tough time staying cooped up inside a bus as lights and cameras moved all around. For the sake of the baby and for our sake, we let Asher and his mother, Sahar, stay outside of the bus and enjoy the fresh air until we were ready to roll again. Despite these circumstances and despite the scene being cut, Asher was a champ throughout the entire time he was on set and we are still grateful.
When it came to the mix, Safi knew he didn't want to involve any music whatsoever. He wanted the sound to be as visceral and as in your face as possible when it came to the action and it's surroundings. It was a way to envelop the audience into the film - to make them a true fly on the wall throughout the entire story. Every breathe, every touch, and every whisper was intended to strike. Many of the indistinct noises and haunting whooshes of the film are actual real life voice memos run through multiple different processes to help deliver a haunting and suspenseful soundscape. A more fun fact is that the voice of the automated bus intercom is by Safi's sister, who spoke into the phone using the Voice Memo's app and was altered to help sell it. Sound design was also used as a
narrative tool to give an insight into the character's mindset and history without blatantly expository.
The music that plays during the ending credits of the film is actually a nod to the original musical composition of “75 Cents” by Julian Hornik! We wanted to incorprate a special signature of the foundational artistic inspiration by combining both the original piano chords and the instrumental of the ‘Tenor 1’ choral notes of the song. This specific recording was played by Paul Impastato.
When it came to the color correction, Safi followed through by enunciating his initial color story that evolved as the character's evolved. This was through complimentary schemes to help mark shifts in the film and help create a stylized picture. Considering his amateur skills with DaVinci, he employed Alex Shuryepov to help create a similar look that not only looked smooth but was of the utmost quality. At the end of the day, the goal was to create a look that moved the audience as far from "film set" and as close to "real life" we could achieve.
Overall, the making of 75 Cents was
a venture into wholly new territory...
It was Safi Jafri's first time working with a formal crew and it was, for many of the cast and crew, the first time working in such interesting and challenging conditions (ie. a loud and rough moving bus, a global pandemic, etc.). Yet at the end of the day, the story being told is one that we are so grateful to have the chance to make.
We hope you enjoy the film as much as we enjoyed making it.
When the view for your AirBnB overlooks the entirety of downtown and has a perfect view of the glimmering lights that garnished the historic Midway aircraft carrier and the world's oldest active sailing ship, the Star of India... you hop right on it. When the owners of the AirBnB make a note the night before your first day of shooting that technically their building "does not permit the leasing of units via AirBnb"... you run into a bit of a problem. Despite the fear that we would be shut down before we even began, our production crew somehow snuck in cases and bags of equipment through the building and 24 floors up to the top-floor apartment where our characters fates
would be forever changed.
When crafting the bedroom scene, cinematographer Em Shafer stationed herself outside with a dynamically composed shot using the reflection of
the outside window while production sound mixer Tori McJunkin stayed
inside to bring the soundscape back into the apartment. Meanwhile,
gaffer Poppy Shaw positioned herself with one of our GVM 1200d
lights on the other end of the balcony to help create a constantly
moving image with the pulsating red light. This red light served
not only as a compositional effect, but also helped paint the
color scheme that the director was aiming towards.
Framing the glass-on-the-table shot during our first night shooting.
Setting up the master shot from the outside of the bedroom scene.
was making the bedsheet "stain" that shocks our principal character. To simulate a leaking biological substance (to put it as 'discreetly' as possible), we poured a small amount of water and pumped a few pumps of hand soap in order to shape the light around it and create the visceral image. The worst part about the entire situation was the fact that Cory had to sit on the stain multiple times for different takes to make sure we got the shot the way we wanted it. The piece-de-resistance of filming this scene was the subsequent accidental "boom-in-the-shot" that occurred in one of the principal angles used to drive the story forward. In post-production, this error - while hard at times to fix - ended up becoming a story to laugh about.
Renting the charter bus with Shofur proved easy. Managing filming inside was quite the opposite. The outlets we intended to use to power our entire light scheme initially didn't even work! However, after discussing the problem with the charter bus company's technical department, our driver saved the day (for the first time) and helped bring power back to the bus outlets only 15 minutes before we planned to begin rolling. With our lighting strapped to the seats thanks to our cinematographer Em and gaffer Poppy, we welcomed the principal cast and the extras we had initially cast to be in the first 1/5 of the film (these scenes/shots unfortunately did not make it past the editing bay).
Our main setup inside the bus, featuring Em Shafer on the camera watching Cory & Bruce.
As we rode through Downtown San Diego to film the scenes where Joseph and the Man meet and interact with one another, we mapped out an ideal route that was the most well-lit and most straight-on route throughout downtown. This included traveling down Market St, turning onto Fifth Avenue and through the Gaslamp Quarter, down
J Street as it passed Petco Park, and back up to repeat. Utilizing
the natural lighting variations of the true downtown city, cinema-
tographer Em Shafer created a wonderfully realistic and
dynamic lighting scheme that made...
what was a roughly $5,000 production
in total look like it cost 10x
The drawn up map of Downtown San Diego
that director, Safi, gave the bus driver, José.
Despite a cheap camera rig that at times hurt to wear for Em, despite the constant red lights that would create an inconsistent image, and despite the variations in camera shake and background noise that would prove arduous to correct in post-production: our incredible crew preserved for 6 hours on the bus.
Post-production for the film was initially a quick and rapid road towards creating a somewhat finished product. The applications involved included Adobe Premiere/Audition, and DaVinci Resolve. Safi served as the editor as well, composing not only ever shot into a finished product but doing the sound design alongside it as well.
A deleted scene at the end of the film that was shot during the final moments.
A deleted scene at the end of the film that was shot during the final moments.
We setup a makeshift mini-studio in Safi's
home to help create the split-second
flashes that are seen
in the film.