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Director Tristan Barr on Single Take Filmmaking

Director Tristan Barr on Single Take Filmmaking

Where did the idea for shooting Watch The Sunset as a single-take film come from?

Tristan: I had written a scene based on two underprivileged young adults who had found hard times in a remote country town in 2014. I went deeper into the writing of these two characters and whom they were based on, and out emerged this real story, which I felt needed to be told. The real life story that I took inspiration from occurred on an event that happened on single afternoon, and we had already been discussing having long takes as we liked the intensity in which it carried the audience with the action.


Did you start off thinking about what locations were possible to shoot then built up the story, or was it the script that decided what locations were needed?

Damien: A lot of the locations were scouted long before the shoot had begun. Tristan and I went on a location scout in Kerang (my home town) and found that the Barron landscape of kerang would be very appropriate for the feel of the film. Also what drew us to Kerang was the fact that there are a number of locations in close proximity to one another which worked well in telling the story the best way.

How much planning went into production beforehand?

Tristan: It was hugely hands on and collaborative process. I think that is the only way these kind of shoots work. It took us about two months from concept/treatment through to shooting. Scripting was still happening on the days of the shooting and some bits were just improvised completely by actors. We wanted to have this looseness with dialogue, but we made clear early on the detrimental journey’s of each character. Having in depth discussion about moments, structure, plot points and themes with the actors and they didn’t only need to know that stuff but the crew too. Because they needed to find a motivation behind all the movement and the style of the shots.

And as much as you could plan, there are always unexpected variables to encounter during. At one point I screwed up the blocking of a scene and due to the quick thinking of Damien Lipp and Jesse Goheir-Fleet behind the camera they managed to salvage the shot, but it meant that Chelsea was left to improvise by herself for an entire scene. It is this kind of raw energy that I love viewing and as it brings a hyper-real essence it worked in conjunction with the single take of the story.


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Damien: We shot the film in Kerang. There were a lot of things that needed to be taken care of technically and efficiently. The film took place in 8 different locations. A motel, church, school, inside a car, inside another car to get external shots of the car, a park, a gun range, a house and in the middle of a public road. Each of these locations had very specific marks to be hit. The church and the school held 85 of the most fantastic extras that were locals from all around kerang who kindly gave their time up every day of the shoots. If it weren’t for the utmost support from the town of Kerang the film would not have been accomplished. Each of the locations mentioned were all kindly donated to our Production for the entirety of the shoot. In saying that we had to contact everyone in town via the newspaper, emails, phone calls to ask for the favours, and as a result of responses we made a film.


Tell us a bit about the cinematography.

Tristan: Damien and I came to agreement that we wanted the majority of the camera’s movement be flowing to assist the dramatic tension similar to how Gus Van Sants Elephant was shot. We had 8 different locations and followed the characters in and out of car’s and through these places, and needed Damien to hold the rig for the entirety of the 82 minutes, so with out the advances in the technology we would have in no way had a rig that was possible to do this. We used a 3-axis gimbal and a panasonic GH4 – compact sized camera that shoots 4k that allowed us to steady the movement for the entirety of the film. This sort of technology is allowing new areas of filmmaking to be ventured into, and we are excited to use the next advances to make innovative content.

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How were you able to prepare the cast and other crew members for the shoot?

Tristan: Lots of rehearsal! But also handing the responsibility onto them when the time came. It was as much a collaborative effort as anything else. It was like having team on set, and before every shoot day we would come together and give encouragement just like a footy team before a grand final. Everyone knew what they had to do and it was just a matter of getting it in the one take.


What practical things did you have to keep in mind in order to make the shoot work?

Tristan and Damien: Lighting and sound had to be designed or set for specific times, also not shooting in busy locations. Trying to minimise risk but still be inventive is the challenge. Our sound recordist Lachlan Wright managed to wrangle 11 microphones at the same time, driving between locations to reset each microphone while the camera was rolling. Keeping the Stabilising device safe, this meant that we were not able to bump it or interfere with it in anyway during the shoot as it would malfunction as we found out on the very first day of shooting. Having extras in the right place at the right time which was lead by the Production manager Ally Bjornstad who kept everyone in a firm line, and lastly having all of the actors and the crew working as a team to really pull the one take off.

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What’s the weirdest thing that happened while shooting — did you have to just run with it?

Damien: There was a section in the film where we were shooting out in the park when the police began to drive by, the scene was not at all appropriate for a police officer to witness whilst on duties, but we were on a mission and had to get the shot so the camera kept rolling.

The film definitely takes a new technology and filmmaking approach. Do you think you could this film have been made 5 years ago?

Tristan: To be honest I don’t think that the complexity of the shots in the film could have been pulled off in a single take 5 years ago. The advantages that we had on the shoot was that all of the gear we used was very compact. In saying that we did try a whole bunch of different sized rigs until we found the right fit. This meant it needed to fit through the car door, have enough memory card space (as we recorded into camera not externally) have enough battery life that would be light enough for me to carry for the entire 82 minutes.


Auteur - Tim Burton - So The Theory Goes

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