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Article by Film Shortage

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Robert dos Santos
Robert dos Santos

What inspired you to bring this story to life?

This is my first short film. I never went to film school and never had the opportunity to make my own narrative short film. I have been fortunate enough to have been nominated and have won awards for work in the commercial space and I wanted to get the necessary experience in narrative before turning my attention to my first feature film. While the obvious call would be to focus on something with strong dialogue I wanted to push it further by creating something which tells a story, or part thereof, in a unique way. In addition to this I wanted to create something that was short and exciting enough to capture people’s imaginations. To do this I imposed certain restrictions, being that the short would be limited to 60 seconds, contain only a single shot, and would not tell an entire story but tell enough of it well enough to make people want to see more. Most importantly I wanted to engage in visual storytelling and speak to the audience through camera movement and a series of strong reveals. In essence the story is told through 5 reveals to the audience. The initial reveal of the characters eyes, the reveal of his cuts and bruises which hint at something being wrong, the reveal of the gun which confirms this suspicion, the reveal of the antagonist and our character’s obstacle, and the final moment which cuts us off from this world and leaves us wanting more.

What was the preparation like this for this single take film like?

Preparation is everything in a single take film. To achieve these goals I worked hand in hand with Peter Constan-tatos, who is the primary operator of the Bolt-X in South Africa. We spent three full days together setting out the shot and plotting the movement of the rig, looking at where the camera would go and how we would achieve each one of the reveals. The Bolt-X requires patience, knowledge, and experience, which Peter has in great measures and which he brought to the table. Together we plotted out the primary flight of the camera and how we would utilise zooms, focus racks, and camera movement to achieve our reveals, whereafter we brought in the rest of the team who did everything possible to make this into something extraordinary. To make life difficult for ourselves we chose to shoot in-camera sfx with blank ammunition for the guns and live squibs for the shot wounds in order to ensure the characters were fully immersed in the world and the story. To get these to go off in tandem with the movement of the camera was the crux of the shoot and fell entirely to the team being prepared.

Can you tell us more about the Bolt-X and how it helped on the production?

The Bolt-X is essentially a large mechanical arm that can move a camera practically anywhere you want it within a +-3 meter radius. This shoot and the reveals could never have been achieved without the Bolt-X as there is nothing else which can control a camera with such precision. During just this one shot the Bolt-X is doing a multitude of tasks and calculations at any given second. It is simultaneously controlling the zoom and focus rings which are constantly being adjusted in subtle and dramatic ways from the opening shot to the last, while also adjusting for the tilt, pan, and roll of the camera head, all while flinging the camera and its lens at speeds of up to 120km as the mechanical arm takes into account movement on 3 different axis points. And most importantly, it can repeat this over and over again with precision. Once you have set up the shot, you can run take after take to perfection with the click of a button. It is an incredible piece of machinery and we are fortunate enough to have been able to make use of it.
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