Operation: WordSoundVision
Code Word: Crooked

Crooked Home
About Crooked
Crooked trailer (heavy - 14 MB)
Behind the Scenes Clips
Crooked Credits
Crooked Director/Producer/Writer
Crooked Poster: download a PDF (large -10MB)
Mentol Nomad


Seven years ago, music journalist S.H. Fernando Jr. (AKA "Skiz"), frustrated with the corporate hijacking of the music scene, founded WordSound Recordings, a self-described "guerilla think-tank" dedicated to continuous creation and experimentation. The purpose of the label was to provide an arena for artists operating outside the mainstream as well as a true alternative to the formulaic and hype-driven status-quo, which at the time was being marketed as "alternative" rock, "underground" hip-hop, and "electronica." Forty full-length albums and 12 singles later, WordSound has carved out an international reputation as one of the preeminent laboratories of muscial innovation. With releases spanning such genres as dub, hip-hop, electronic, world, and just plain weird, the label has managed to elevate the game with its no-comprise D.I.Y. attitude, bucketloads of originality, and a serious commitment to upliftment through sound.

But in the music industry as a whole, not much has changed. The current trend toward prefabricated teen idols, tatooed and pierced rockers, and booty-slapping, champagne-guzzling rappers shows, more than ever before, the extent to which big money has co-opted pop culture. Many have even noted that this mass-marketing of pop-culture--bolstered by such new technologies as the internet--has lead to the "dumbing-down" of American society. As this shopping-mall mentality steamrolls across the country and across the world, the independent voice has been summarily squeezed out.

Indeed, independent film has become as much a misnomer as "independent" or "alternative" music. In fact, the impetus behind Crooked was to challenge the boundaries of this realm as well. With so-called indie film budgets reaching into the millions of dollars, and enlisting big-name talent, Fernando wanted to show that there was more to filmmaking than just money and status. "Some of the best films I've seen were made for less money than they probably spent on one day's catering on the set of Pearl Harbor," he says. "And I'm talking 35mm films like Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars." From his extensive travels along the paths of rhythm, Fernando amassed a long list of characters he describes as "natural stars," that is, people whose innate charisma and energy manifests in everything they do. Take, for example, Sensational, one of Crooked's co-stars. "Sensational already knows he's the king," Fernando says, "he's just waiting for you to recognize that fact and give him his weight in gold."

So without money or stars (and, in fact, no real actors, just real people playing themselves), Fernando set out to make a movie. As an artist and independent label head, his frustrations with promoting his music and having an impact in an industry dominated by big marketing budgets and hype was a natural launching point for "Crooked." As a journalist, the twin pillars of truth and reality, were paramount, thus, everything that transpires in the movie--except the ending--actually happened. In this unique docu-drama, the premise is simple: how does a true talent emerging from nowhere get exposed? Armed with only his personal experiences in the music industry Fernando travelled to his native land, Sri Lanka, in January 2000, where he began writing "Crooked." Staying at the Galle Face Hotel in Colombo, where Arthur C. Clarke penned 2001: A Space Odyssey, and far removed from the tough Brooklyn streets where the action takes place, Fernando gained valuable distance and perspective and was able to generate a rough draft in 2 months. This rough draft went through about 12 serious re-writes and revisions before Crooked was ready to shoot in April 2001.

By this time, Fernando had moved to Baltimore, MD to cut his living expenses in half. From here, he mobilized an army of fellow artists and friends as his cast and crew; raised money through the label and from his brother, Sid, who buys and sells race horses; and bought two Sony PD-150 digital cameras. With a budget of just under $23,000, Fernando commenced shooting on April 2nd and wrapped on the 29th (a total of 25 shooting days). Though his car was towed on the first day, his second camerman quit on the third day, and his special effects team cancelled on him the day before they were to shoot all the scenes involving guns and exploding squibs, the shoot went incredibly smoothly, and surprisingly $200 dollars under budget. Armed with 70 hours of tape, Fernando took a night off before returning to Baltimore where he started the tedious job of logging footage. During the week he jotted down time-code numbers and on the weekends, he dumped the appropriate selects to the computer at Jump, a commercial editing house on Broadway, where editor David Bryen was employed. After a month, all the footage was logged and ready to edit. After a whole summer of working on weekends, a two-hour rough cut was assembled. Second unit and reshoots were done in September and in October and November, the music and sound design was added to complete the picture.

"It's been a tremendous amount of work and an incredible journey from conception to final product," says Fernando, "but I can't imagine having spent these last 2 1/2 years in any other way. The only thing I would do different next time is to not spend any of my own money. Sometimes you gotta put your money where your mouth is though."