13 minutes | USA | 2021
Ashleigh, a young ex-convict, and her boyfriend Braxton get jobs at a dollar store in hopes of pulling a cash-skimming scam that quickly goes awry.
When Ashleigh, a poor young woman in rural Arizona, gets out of prison, she reconnects with her boyfriend Braxton. Lacking options thanks to her criminal record, Ashleigh concocts a plan to get them jobs at an isolated desert dollar store. As of 2021, dollar stores are the most robbed stores in America thanks to low security, female cashiers, and merchandise that preys on low-income buyers who pay in cash. When the store gets robbed, Ashleigh and Braxton pocket some cash for themselves. But it isn’t enough. Ashleigh and Braxton find themselves luring a criminal on the FBI Most Wanted List to the store. The plan goes haywire, and our heroes must face the consequences.
Dollar Store FACTS:
Dollar General stores are predominantly located in rural areas. About 75% of its stores are in towns with fewer than 20,000 people. Todd Vasos, the company's CEO, has described his core customers as struggling Americans. Dollar General's primary customers make $40,000 a year or below per household. (CNN)
There are now more than 16,000 Dollar Generals and nearly 8,000 Family Dollars in the United States, a 50% increase in the past decade. (By comparison, Walmart has about 4,700 stores in the U.S.) (ProPublica)
The Gun Violence Archive, a website that uses local news reports and law enforcement sources to tally crimes involving ﬁrearms, lists more than 200 violent incidents involving guns at Family Dollar or Dollar General stores since the start of 2017, nearly 50 of which resulted in deaths. (ProPublica)
Robbers are hitting stores like Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General often, and have been for years. We dug through two years of records and found these three companies were robbed 132 times in 2019, 122 times in 2020 and 46 times so far this year through the end of April. (FOX)
Staffing is intentionally kept at a minimum, often with just one or two low-wage employees on site at any given time, former executives said. And although store registers are often flush with cash because it's what many customers use to pay, security guards are rarely on the premises. (CNN)
Born and raised in downtown Chicago, Claire attended Tisch School of the Arts at New York University before writing on a house sketch team at Upright Citizens Brigade comedy theater. Claire has written for a variety of fiction and nonfiction projects, including Visible: Out On Television (Apple TV), Ask Dr. Ruth (Hulu), Bitter With Baggage (Hulu), EQUAL (HBO Max), and The UnXplained (The History Channel). Her original scripts have been developed with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, Forward, Technicolor VR, and Nickelodeon. She is currently in the 2020-2021 Blacklist x Women in Film Fellowship Lab, and wrote the Dreamworks/Peacock TV show, Schneck & Eck Crack the Case. Website
Brenden Gallagher is a writer and director for television and film. As a TV drama writer, he has staffed on Netflix’s Warrior Nun. He has worked as a writers’ assistant and showrunner’s assistant on numerous series including Revenge, The Bold Type, and Famous in Love. He is drawn to scripts about rural America and working-class characters. Brenden is a show captain in the Writers Guild of America - West and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Website
Tyler Miguel Mercer
Tyler thrilled to be a part of the DOLLAR GENERALS team. His other film producing credits include the short CROW GOD and over 50 episodes to date for MTV NEWS NEED TO KNOW. His directorial short film debut, WHAT DO I OWE YOU? (written by Claire Downs), is currently in post-production with an anticipated 2021 release. Most recently, he directed ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG by Mo Fry Pasic with Greta Titelman and Ross Days. Tyler began his career developing and directing critically acclaimed off-Broadway plays for Live Source Theatre Group, including world premieres by Susan Soon He Stanton (Succession), Kara Lee Corthron (You, The Flight Attendant), Jaclyn Backhaus (Men on Boats), Rehana Lew Mirza, Cori Thomas, and more. His stage work has been seen across New York City. BFA: NYU, Tisch School of the Arts. Website
Director of Photography
Aymae Sulick has been an LA-based cinematographer for nearly 20 years. She has filmed a diverse collection of projects, including award-winning films, documentaries, TV shows, and music videos. Her work has been shown on platforms including Netflix, PBS, and HBO, and has screened at numerous festivals across the globe. The latest indie feature she lensed, “Rag Doll,” is streaming on Hulu and has garnered awards and nominations on the festival circuit, including a nomination for Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature at Queens World Film Festival. Aymae was also a camera on the final season of Insecure. Aymae earned her MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and further studied her craft at the Global Institute for Cinematography. She is happiest when engaged in visual storytelling and is trying to change the world, one film at a time. Website
Will Mayo is an editor, sound designer, producer, and director living in Los Angeles, California. In 2017, Will edited two feature films and an independent series, ‘The Adulterers,’ which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2018 and was distributed by Sundance Now. In 2020, a slate of short films edited by Will were released, three of which became Vimeo Staff Picks: ‘Marcy Learns Something New,’ starring Rachel Dratch, ‘See You Soon,’ starring James Cusati Moyer, and ‘Real Talk,’ starring Sarah Steele. The former, which Will also produced, won Best Comedy of the Year at the Vimeo Festival & Awards. That same year, ‘Anita’ premiered at the Venice Film Festival. Will has edited commercials, music videos, and branded work for Champs, Chappell Roan, Kodak, and Conde Nast. He’s currently editing ‘Bridesman,’ a Grindr original series. Will is a director of Vimeo Staff Picked films and freelances for Droga5 NYC mixing national broadcast commercials. He holds a BFA in Film and Television Production from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Website
Chris Dieman is a New York-based composer and performer. His work has been seen off-Broadway, regionally and in film. This is his second time writing for a Claire Downs film, and he thrilled to join Claire and Brenden for this adventure. Chris lives in Long Island City, Queens with his 10 year old Holland Lop, Rutabaga.
Michelle C. McGhan, more commonly known as Mitchy, is a Los Angeles based Assistant Director. After moving from the frozen tundra of Chicago, Mitchy has come to work on numerous projects as an assistant director including GOD SAVE THE QUEENS (Director, Jordan Danger; Producer, Cecile Cubilo), CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSETED PEOPLE PLEASER (Producer, John Lozada; Exec. Producer, John Riggi (30 Rock)), and more recently THE TIME TRAVELLING SHERIFF (Zach King Studios). Mitchy has also written and produced a sex-positive web series, HOT SUMMER DAZE (Exec. Prod. Erika Lust) and produced HER FIRST TIME (Wild Honey Pictures). She has earned her Bachelor's of Arts from Columbia College Chicago and works to constantly evolve her craft in filmmaking. Website
The story of America in the 21st century is a story of economic inequality. While the upper classes enjoy next-day retail and app-delivered food, most Americans rely on dollar stores for the staples and little luxuries they can barely afford.
On our travels across America, we have seen first-hand that the collapse of brick-and-mortar retail in America has led to an explosion of under-staffed dollar stores like Dollar General and Dollar Tree. Many communities rely on these locations as their only retail option. In these dollar stores, we see a warped symbol of the failures of the American Dream.
Reporting in outlets like ProPublica and CNN has revealed that working in these stores is absurdly exploitative. A lack of security, inadequate staffing, and desperate customers have created a compelling environment for drama that offers a clear-eyed condemnation of the way of life in America today.
In this soul-crushing environment, we found the inspiration to create the charming, resilient, desperate characters of Ashleigh and Braxton. Like so many people in this country, they see the deck stacked against them and do whatever they can to get by.
-- Claire Downs & Brenden Gallagher