Oleander

Oleander is a fictional recreation of the events leading to the 2014 death of Cooper Harris, left to die in a hot car at 22 months of age.

A lobster boat captain barely making ends meet is madly in love with his wife, an up and coming artist. We follow the unraveling of their relationship, and the desperate measures they take to win back the life they once had.

  • Pete Capo
    Director
  • Pete Capo
    Writer
  • Pete Capo
    Producer
  • Karl Jacob
    Key Cast
    Pollywogs, The Dictator
  • Film Type:
    Short
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 30, 2015
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Film Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    RED
  • Aspect Ratio:
    2.39:1
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Sarasota Film Festival
    Sarasota, FL
    April 3, 2016
    World Premiere
  • Indiebo Film Festival
    Bogota
    Colombia
    July 15, 2016
    South American premiere
  • Indie Pasión Film Festival
    Miami, FL
    United States
    September 30, 2016
    South Florida Premiere
  • Orlando Film Festival
    Orlando
    United States
    Central Florida premiere
Director Biography - Pete Capo

Pete Capó is an award winning filmmaker from Miami, FL. Efficient storytelling filled with the emotional expressions that stem from his musical background have led his works to receive numerous accolades, including a Silver Telly for his work for Burger King. More importantly, his friend’s Mom thinks he’s a genius.

Pete grew up a musician playing drums and piano since the age of 6 and made it to the semi-finals of the Stravinsky International Piano Competition at age 9. He later became a blues guitarist playing 100’s of club dates and releasing 3 albums. When selecting a college career, he opted for film school instead of music. “There’s a very solid connection between music and the moods and rhythms one can achieve in filmmaking.” His studies at the University of Miami concluded with his thesis film being awarded an Answer Print by the faculty.

After working as a freelance editor for notable advertising agencies such as Zubi Ad, Creative On Demand and Young & Rubicam; he made the move to directing commercial and corporate work for national and international brands such as Intima Moda, ADT, Mandarin Oriental and Burger King.

His friend’s Mom may be a little out of her mind, but she’s a nice lady and he really loves her.

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Director Statement

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

On the news in the summer of 2014, we saw a case where a man left a child, 22-month-old Cooper Harris, in his car for an entire work day. It happens every summer. 26 that particular year. But rather than simply considering it another horrible mistake, the police found reason enough to not only convict the father of murder but suspect the mother as well. As a father of two young children myself, I thought “How can anyone intentionally do this?” What can drive a seemingly normal person to commit such a crime? I believe there is both good and evil in everyone, and given the right circumstances, evil can prevail.

I’m a fan of character driven films. Upon seeing Scorsese's Taxi Driver for the first time, I became entranced with how deep of a character study it is. We are presented with a character that makes decisions based on his own moral world. Travis Bickle kills multiple people to, in his opinion, save an underage girl from a foul life of harlotry. How we react to extreme situations is what truly defines who we are.

Finding the right project to work on can be a daunting task. It takes a perfect storm to make the right film. I was in the midst of writing a feature script when I saw the news of the little boy and immediately switched gears. There is a very solid opportunity in this story. Can we give a parent reason enough to commit this crime? Who do we blame?

Our film Oleander, which is loosely based on the Cooper case, does not answer these questions, but rather gives the audience evidence to support either case and in doing so keeps us involved in the film after the credits roll. Like Scorcese, I hope to explore these characters as deep as the short form allows.

Our story follows Mary and Robert and the downfall of their relationship. Mary wants to put her life back on track while Robert will do anything for the love of his wife. At its core, this is a love story; a very selfish love story.

Oleander will be a film of clues. Our narrator may not be trusted at times. I’m hoping to give the audience just enough for them to know what’s going on and eventually pass their own judgment onto the actions of our characters. Their actions will be concrete, but their motives won’t always be. Just like in the news, we never really know why some of these things happen and are only offered pathways to explore.

Technically, I believe in giving each moment what it needs. The visual style reflects this. The camera is always motivated by the characters’ moods and actions. The lighting is natural. We didn’t shoot for beautiful, we shot for reality. It’s a motto that my long time DP, Juan Carlos Sauczuk, and I have been living by in our work together. Oleander is a continuation of that. House of Cards and True Detective are two shows that can be used to describe the mood and tone we went for. It’s a conservative style of filmmaking that allows us to complement our story by building tension and creating an unsettling atmosphere.

In conclusion, Oleander is a character driven short film that will strike a conversation amongst viewers. Many will have a difference of opinion as to why the events occurred. In my opinion, this is where modern filmmaking lives, and these conversations can only carry our film forward.