: Narrative Short
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Pre-Production


In the unforgiving night of the Bronx’s heroin epidemic, a twin seeks revenge against the street dealers he blames for his brother’s overdose.


48 hours after his twin’s overdose, Connor has convinced an NYPD detective to back his plan for revenge. Under police surveillance, he'll assume his brother's identity to buy-and-bust the street dealers who sold the fatal dope. But after crossing the front line of the Bronx’s heroin war, he loses himself in the night, in pursuit of revenge, redemption, and reconnection to the dead.


In December of 2016 my writing partner, a longtime friend and confidant, died of a heroin overdose alone in his Bronx apartment. Over the following weeks, I began photographing his neighborhood to capture what was left of him there, to feel a connection through the places where he spent his life.

Through this and other research, I discovered that his overdose coincided with a surge of fentanly-laced heroin in the borough. Parks were littered with needles. Addicts slept in the streets. Sirens scored the night. The symptoms of an epidemic were festering, and as my project expanded to other neighborhoods, characters, settings, and themes began to reveal themselves.

STING is a short film built from these experiences. It follows Connor, a twin who goes undercover to punish the dealers he blames for his brother’s fatal overdose.

I recognize in him my own desperation to mitigate feelings of uselessness and complicity in my friend’s death. His journey is toward freedom from the imprisonment of this guilt, but obstacles await ahead of him and within.

Connor wants to prove his love, and because death was the fate his negligence dealt his brother, only by risking his own death is he satisfied. By the end, he sees that his impulse for revenge obscured a need for reconnection.

With STING I plan to employ filmmaking techniques I experimented with while making shorts in Columbia University’s Directing MFA program: Shooting mostly non-actors in authentic locations with an intimate and kinetic hand-held style. The result will be a visceral and subjective film that explores a major social issue through the inner life of what feels like a real person in the real world.

Visually, I plan to use the close up to bring Connor and the audience face to face with the people on the “other side” of this story. The closeup is a technique that creates empathy, and it will give the dealers and addicts of the night a humanity that cannot be denied by the violence they fall victim to.

Narratively, I want to incorporate and subvert the conventions of noir and crime genres to add nuance to the audience’s cinema-influenced perspective on street crime.

STING is an opportunity to carry on in my friend’s memory, to push myself artistically in a way he would have respected, remaining loyal to aesthetics and principles we shared. As such, one major theme is something we spoke about frequently:

The drug war is a war. There are no sides, only victims on both fronts. While it’s tempting to look to aggressive policing for a solution, it does little but temporarily stanch the flow of drugs, and its violence only flays the psychic wounds of areas scarred by it for decades.

On the most personal level, STING is about grief. It may not be pretty, and things may not resolve how you had hoped, but in the end you keep the people you love alive through your actions after they're gone.


Frank Graziano - Writer-Director

Frank Graziano is a New York-based writer-director and an MFA candidate in directing at Columbia University. 


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