Are you ready for some movie-level faux lesbian love story and scam inception? No? Neither were we. These two moviemakers who wanted to make a posh film but barely had any money to cover the chargers for what they wanted to make decided to scam to make a movie about con-artists who scam. And it is some form of twisted tale that leaves a little unsettled.
It all began in November 2019, actress and director Karen Knox and her collaborator J Stevens decided to make a short-film that honoured the high-femme con artists Anna Delvey and Caroline Calloway. They had recently seen on their social media feed. They wanted to make a “queer couture” heist film where women donned in high-fashion outfits went around committing crimes. This as a response to late-stage capitalism.
No Money? No Problem! Still A Film
The only hurdle the two had was serious money constraint. And to show women with high fashion sense in a big fancy setup demanded money.
“The idea of doing yet another low budget indie short where people talked about their feelings while Bon Iver played in the background? That wasn’t going to cut it,” said Knox. “Our taste was expensive, our budget was low, so we looked to the tales of Anna Delvey and Caroline Calloway for inspiration.”
So the artists decided to scam their way into it. Here is how it went down.
Knox and Stevens first hired actress Gwenlyn Cumyn. The actress who had also played Knox’s romantic partner in a viral web series called the Barbelle. They sat together and began to brainstorm ideas to produce the film.
It dawned upon them to pull a scam of their own since they estimated the total expenditure to come up to $36,356. They then ended up deciding to fake a lesbian wedding!
And the idea was set in stone. Now for the set-up! They had to find a place to shoot. Finalising on a luxury hotel in downtown Toronto, they managed to receive a permit for the hotel with $20,000 plus insurance. But the ladies came up with a clever solution to counter that as well.
Knox called up the hotel concierge and told them a cooked-up story. She explained to them that she met her girlfriend five years ago at the location. And that she wants to propose to her, and stay the night at their establishment. She then slipped in the request to have a videographer tag along so that he could “film the proposal”.
And who isn’t a sucker for a good romantic showdown?
Definitely not the concierge!
They granted Knox permission to shoot in the hotel during the proposal. The hotel also went a step ahead and gave them multiple discounts. When they booked a deluxe gold room suite that was worth $1,250, they received it for $675! And there was a note on her file that assured her VIP status too.
Now that the place of shoot was set, all that remained were the costumes and makeup. The hunt for outfits luxurious enough to match the location, they decided to “rent” designer clothes.
Knox said, “Last year during TIFF I went to a dozen different parties and premieres. Each event required a new look. Since Zara is a hellscape, I got in the habit of ‘renting’ designer outfits. I’d put a Gucci splurge on credit, wear the clothes for a night, and promptly return them the next day.”
Knox and Cumyn went on a shopping spree at a high-end department store. Spending hours looking for the top-notch outfits with tags that could be hidden craftily. They rented clothes that were worth $2546.87 in total.
Finally came the makeup.
Knox explains how they saved money on this too. “What most people don’t know is that you can book a free 15-minute make up session at Sephora. It isn’t enough time to get a full look done but most stores are so big you can book two sessions back to back without anyone noticing, as long as you use two different names.”
This completely cleverly planned out a short film was now ready to roll and record. They knew they had only one shot to make this happen. And after chatting up the staff and explaining the set up to them all, the three ladies knew there was no going back.
The bartender, the staff, and everyone who worked at the hotel seemed to be overjoyed about the news. And for the actors to be acting in real life felt different but not too different. Knox spoke about the experience.
“Most of the time what’s on the line for an actor is just a bad review. But if this performance wasn’t pitch perfect best-case scenario I’m a fraud, worse case, a criminal. “It was amazing. Everything felt like a scene out of a movie, which is probably because in some ways it was a scene out of a movie.”
Celebrating The Couple
Their act was so watertight that random people who chatted with them, as well as the hotel, provided them with expensive bottles of champagne and other free drinks. They behaved like a real-life lesbian couple who were truly in love. From intense kisses to on the knee proposal, they managed to grab attention from everyone around. The crowd was clearly in awe. Their only expenditure that day was food from McDonald’s.
“We pulled off a serious cinematic sting, maybe even a whole new genre,” said Knox. “Heist cinema. Glam guerrilla filmmaking. This was just the beginning.”
Well, that was a long con, that might strike as an inspiration to many filmmakers to come. What do you have to say about this?