Joshua Michael Collins (born December 8, 2000) is a self-taught American film director, screenwriter, producer and editor from San Antonio, Texas. He studied Communication at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and is currently an MBA student at Saint Mary’s University. Collins is best known for writing and directing his debut shorts, Master Sommelier (2023) and Gem Mint (2023). He often collaborates with first-time actors on his projects.
Gem Mint is a chaotic and intriguing insight into the microcosm of sports card collectors. In terms of the film’s themes and style, what do you think distinguishes ‘Gem Mint’ from other films in the genre?
Sports card collecting is an incredibly niche area to focus a film on. I take pride in knowing that there are hardly any (if any at all) films about sports card collecting, but I specifically wanted to focus on the high stakes that come with moving expensive pieces of cardboard. I wanted to shed light on the real dangers that appear when you combine passion with narcissism and gambling, and we captured this ‘controlled chaos’ with a multi-cam setup. Every actor was almost always on screen, and that was intentional. I wanted to show the good with the bad; the excitement and screaming with the gasping, sweating, and eventual collapse.
You mentioned that you love working with first-time actors in your projects, and Jackson Aden’s performance stands out in the film. How did you work to find the voice of this character, and how did their performance contribute to the authenticity of the story?
The character of Johnny is both unique and unoriginal. I understood the blueprint I wanted Jackson Aden to follow, and I provided him with ample research for him to truly dive into. Johnny’s character is a caricature of the modern sports card collector. He is proud, stubborn, greedy, and self-centered – all of which can be found on the YouTube page for the average card ‘influencer.’ I had worked with Jack before on my debut short Master Sommelier in a much smaller role, but I knew he could elevate his performance if given the opportunity, and so I did just that. The result is a short that feels wholly authentic with very real people and very real stakes.
As a director, what were some of the challenges you faced in capturing the characters’ growing sense of anxieties and frustrations within the limited timeframe of the film?
The biggest challenge I faced in capturing the characters’ frustrations was not letting said frustrations boil over in-between each take. Towards the end of the shoot, the slapping fight between Johnny and Brodie was not written in the script. Initially, their argument was supposed to only last about a minute, but when I noticed they were heading off script I decided to let the cameras keep rolling. What should have been one minute quickly turned into five, and the argument between the two soon felt very real – very authentic – and our cherry on top was when Jack actually slapped Joaquin, which prompted us to stop filming.
At this point, we had reached hour twenty-two of filming, had already sent our makeup artist home and Joaquin’s face began to swell, so rather than call it a night, I pulled Joaquin aside and let him know that not only were we going to film again, but if Jack decided to slap him, he had my permission to hit him back. What resulted was the take we used at the end of the short: A raw, explosive ending to a relationship between two business partners.
“Gem Mint” was filmed entirely in one day and at one location. Can you discuss your decision to use this approach and how it contributes to the intensity of the storytelling?
Gem Mint being filmed in one day and at one location was a financial decision. Had we had more resources or more money, I guarantee that Gem Mint would have escaped the four walls of Johnny’s office. Initially, we had even more characters appearing in Gem Mint, but we ultimately had to make sacrifices and cuts in order to satisfy our given budget. I am incredibly grateful for The Sauce Productions and their willingness to adapt to the changes that had to take place during Gem Mint’s pre-production and single day of shooting. Without them, this short does not happen.
What are you currently working on?
My next short film, Nobody’s Perfect, is currently in pre-production with The Sauce Productions. I am excited to shoot with Jackson Aden again this coming March, and I look forward to giving him a new character to mold into his own. Outside of my third short, I am working on writing my debut feature, and while I am unsure how much I can disclose, it will be a true story about the murders that took place at ‘Taco Land’ in San Antonio.