For this circle of sin, I was inspired by an Hieronymous Bosch painting called The Conjurer, in which an unsuspecting passerby is caught up by a trivial shell-game, while his pockets are emptied by the trickster’s accomplice. A pretty simple scam to run…and to walk into.
Jean-Luc Godard said, “Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.” So, how do I gain the trust of a wise and jaded audience? And then how do I break it?
The same way it happens to us in real life, yes? Put before them a scenario they’ve seen a million times and have figured out and then pull the carpet out from under their feet.
“Fraud” features Nicole Phelps as the unsuspecting Passerby. In writing this short we talked a lot about suddenly losing trust and faith in someone; those moments when the wool is lifted from your eyes and you realize you’ve been deceived all along. And then what part revenge plays… Fraud, deceit, lying – to me – are sins that grow in nature. One feeds off another, they attract one another, and build themselves into a hive of gullibility and resentment. Your instincts scream at you to mistrust what you’re seeing or hearing, but you ignore it, and get hurt anyway. And guess what? We do it over and over and over again. I’d say something here about being a glutton for punishment, but the blog post on “Gluttony” is coming later. ;)
Our story starts with a simple act of trust. The Conjurer snips a lock of hair from the Passerby…. And the game begins. It walks straight into familiar territory and then turns around and goes in a different direction. Do you remember that movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”? A bit in that same vain…
Nicole is a wonderful actress and photographer, so I asked if she would like to tell this tale in a series of photographs. We laid out the plot and she shot the photos against the backdrop of the stunning Southwest where she lives, then sent them to me for Photoshop work. There are 36 photos in all for this short, edited together they will “move” like a disjointed film. I’ve added a bit of color to this one, to attract the eye (as Fraud does), but wanted to keep it simple.
Like the Bosch image, we have a wall and a shell game, and a painted sky. I used a photo Nicole took of the mountains and overlay a parchment texture, then discolored it in blue and green – and think I came pretty close to Bosch’s sky. In terms of composition, I wanted a feeling of being exposed and out in the open. When you’re vulnerable you have a tendency to trust who and what are in front of you – even if they are presenting you with a trick. (*Note – that is Nicole’s husband as the Conjurer, and her daughter assisted with the taking of photos. Who says Hell can’t be family fun?)
Fraud robs us most of our ability to trust. In that, I think we have a dual nature. We’ve all trusted and been hurt, we’ve all lied and hurt others. But what pushes that into fraud? What makes it the sin that is so unforgivable it changes the balance of your nature to trust a little less, or stop all together? I think, when you let your pain consume you and start to emulate it; when you put fraud out into the world on purpose, so you won’t be on the receiving end any longer – and then become numb to the consequences. It’s a sad way to live, but we see it so often.
This circle is a bit more like a story-book fable than the others, it’s pretty to look at, and get caught up in – and is probably not a scenario you’ll ever find yourself in. But I hope it speaks to the vicious circle this sin creates, one that folds back over on yourself, and though you may think you’re the trickster with the upper hand, you stand to lose a lot more than you first put on the table.
View a 10 second preview of “Fraud” HERE
OFFICIAL TRAILER FOR HELL: View Here
To read about the other Circles of Sin from HELL: Read Here