July 22, 2014

'Random Stop' is a Powerful POV-Shot Film Based on the Real-Life Shooting Death of Kyle Dinkheller

Shooting something entirely from a first person POV may not be new, but every once in a while an exceptionally well-done shot or scene (or even an entire short) makes you step back and appreciate what can be done with the technique and how difficult it is to pull off, especially when you need to cleverly hide cuts. That's the case with Random Stop, a short film based on the tragic real-life shooting of Sheriff's Deputy Kyle Dinkheller after a routine traffic stop. We've also got a behind the scenes video that is launching first on No Film School, so be sure to check that out after watching the short.

Random Stop

The film was written and directed by Ben Arfmann, produced and VFX supervised by JP Castel, and shot by Justin Perkinson DP. It premiered at the SXSW film festival back in March, after which it played at a number of film festivals before being posted online. The film is NSFW due to some strong language:

Behind the Scenes

The chase part of the film is incredible, and while it seems like everything was shot in one take, there were actually a few hidden cuts. Launching for the first time on No Film School, here is the behind the scenes video that goes over the entire process in detail, explaining the decision for shooting in a first-person POV, and how the team actually pulled off this impressive feat:

Kyle Dinkheller's Traffic Stop

While difficult, I think it's important to watch the real event it was based on, especially since the crew made very conscious decisions about what would be changed in the dramatized version. Here is the footage from the dash cam that shows the entire traffic stop with Andrew Howard Brannan:

Technical Details

The film was shot on the SI-2K in Cineform RAW, and the camera was provided by Radiant Images. We've written about that rental house before on this site, as they have done a number of different custom housing for cameras, even one for the GoPro which allows manual exposure adjustment. Here is some more information about how the film was shot from an American Cinematographer magazine article:

Footage was recorded in 12-bit raw 2K to a Cinedeck Extreme HD, which was most often bolted into a heavy-duty plastic backpack frame Perkinson wore. For shots featuring a nearly 360- degree field-of-view, the Cinedeck was tethered to the Nano with a long cable wrangled by 2nd AC Shamsi Luna. Images were monitored via a Teradek Bolt wireless system. “Everything was monitored in 720p 24 fps out of the Blackmagic Design SDI card from the Cinedeck,” says Perkinson.

In order to pull focus, Perkinson and 1st AC Michael Pyrz mounted a Cmotion Cvolution C3 wireless follow-focus system to the Kowa lens, which was rigged to the customized helmet cam. Pyrz often had to be far from the subjects in order to stay out of shot, so he typically gauged focus by relying on a monitor at video village and the approximate distances planned during rehearsals.

Budget

I asked JP about the budget, and he offered these details about where the money was spent and how it was raised:

The project was funded through a combination of the Edie and Lew Wasserman Film Production Fellowship, UCLA MFA post graduate funding associated with both Ben & Justin's areas of study, and a variety of private and personal funding.

As far as the budget for the film, it is interesting to note that we spent over 25% of the total production budget on the various city permits, ordinance, and precautions necessary to perform the stunt and pyrotechnics sequence in the film. My number one concern with shooting the film practically was safety, and it is definitely something I will always pay for. We worked very closely with Film LA to insure that all of the city requirements were abided and that the appropriate safety precautions were followed, including an onsite water truck.

Producer's note. Make sure and budget for your various festival submissions. I can't stress this enough as the submission fees can definitely start adding. We used the shotgun approach with our submissions, but there is a lot of debate on the matter and it is very film dependent. Also, once you get into your select festival don't forget your airfare, hotels, posters, and deliverable fees.

Director's Statement

Here is what writer/director Ben Arfmann had to say about the incident and his film:

Kyle Dinkheller’s story is one that I discovered completely by accident. In December of 2012, I was reading an article on gun control and found, in the comments section, a link titled: “This is What a Semi-Automatic Rifle Can Do.” The link led to a grainy YouTube video of footage from a traffic stop in 1998. A young police officer pulled over an older man, they got into an argument, it turned violent, and - without much warning - the older man shot the younger one to death. All in the space of a few minutes. This was the police car dashcam footage of Kyle’s murder. It was the most disturbing thing I had ever seen. I was in shock - the cruelty and the speed of the violence were completely beyond anything my life had trained me to expect from such a mundane scenario. The experience of watching that footage stuck with me. For a long time. It felt important, and raw. When it came time to direct my thesis film at UCLA, I knew instinctively that this would be the story I should tackle. Kyle’s story showed me a side of law enforcement that I had never seen before – a vulnerable and profoundly human side – and I’ve spent the better part of the last year doing my best to bring that story to the widest audience possible.

For more on the film, head on over to the website, or check out the ASC article from the link below.

Links:

Your Comment

60 Comments

Ever since "strange days" and video games I'm very intrigued by POV cinema. I think this short pull it off very well, with the camera movement, hand acting, and the great grading work. Never thought it would have been done in a few shots!

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply

This just makes me glad the son of a bitch is about to fry. I guess that means they did a good job and people don't know how dangerous that job is. No remorse either... That's where I think justice needs to be delivered. Give people like that a new perspective on the value of life. Sorry. I know this a site about filmmaking and cinematography, but I have an 18 month old myself & can't imagine what he and his mom would go through. On a side note, this was done very well.

July 22, 2014

1
Reply
XML

Thanks for the side note.

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply
Marco

"This just makes me glad the son of a bitch is about to fry."

It's comments like this that really make me question my faith in humanity.

Very well made film, I'm glad attention is being brought to this.

July 22, 2014

2
Reply
Alex King

+ 1
he added the side note though...

July 22, 2014

-2
Reply
Marco

My apologies. Perhaps we should send him flowers and have a hug-a-thon in the killer's honor. Justice would be rightly served and your faith in humanity could be restored. Care Bears unite.

....on a side note.

July 23, 2014

0
Reply
XML

The comments on YouTube for the original video are sickening.

As for this short, its very well made, although I felt like the beginning was a little too...forced, maybe is the word I'm looking for.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Kristofor

Does anyone know if the filmmakers had contacted Kyle Dinkheller's family to get their permission/blessing to make this movie? Seems like it would be quite heartless not to do so.

July 22, 2014

2
Reply

Very good question. While very well made, I can't help feel this short had a very sadistic tone to it ... especially the shot of the final, killing gunshot.

Once again, a very well made film on the technical front, but I don't know if I would ever recommend this to anyone. I am struggling to identify the purpose of this short beyond the technical achievements.

July 22, 2014

1
Reply
CoolHandLuque

Totally agree.

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply
Kris Widger

I get the impression that this was a story he wanted to tell because it moved him. Great art is conceived from deep emotional reactions to tragic tales. Just look at how many works of art were created because of the wrongful incarceration of Hurricane Carter. Whether we are a film makers or illustrators or song writers/composers we have creative minds and we create to express ourselves. I totally respect that he chose to tell this story in the best way he knew how - whether he did a good job or not is subjective but not really relevant. I personally thought it was a great short and I hope the family of Kyle Dinkheller will one day find peace.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply

Ps. I meant to right "a lot of great art is conceived...".

I don't think that ALL works of art are created through tragedy, I just think it makes a rich catalyst for the creative mind.

July 22, 2014

1
Reply

Of course there's a difference between "great art" and masterful technique. Recreating some insane crime that actually happened to a real person isn't necessarily art. I'm not saying we shouldn't make films about awful things, just that we should think about what we're contributing by doing so. Does this short do anything that the actual dashboard cam left out?

July 22, 2014

2
Reply
Kris Widger

Great art? There's nothing artistic about recreating a tragedy. What's the point? What message is being conveyed? If I was to make a POV short about the raping of Kitty Genovese and nothing more, is that art? It's just sadism masquerading as art.

July 22, 2014

-2
Reply
Sean

Well by that rhetoric we shouldn't be making films about the Holocaust, Apartheid or any war.

July 23, 2014

1
Reply
Robert

Sorry I meant reasoning not rhetoric

July 23, 2014

-1
Reply
Robert

There is no comparison between stories told within the context of an atrocity (Holocaust/Apartheid) and the above short film. There is no context to 'Random Stop' ... it is simply an exercise in brutality.

July 23, 2014

1
Reply
CoolHandLuque

Well you could argue that, Random Stop is an attempt to give us the first hand experience of the brutal savagery that ended Kyle's life. To put us in his shoes.

July 23, 2014

0
Reply
Robert

But WHAT does that accomplish? Now that I am in possession of that knowledge, what good does it do me? It's not like there is social change that will result from anyone seeing this short film.

From what I understand, the original footage from the dashboard cam is used by police officers to teach them how to better handle similar situations. However, I am still struggling to see the reason for this short existing beyond to get those who made it exposure.

Another good question: If this short film is meant to be a reverent retelling of the events that happened (why else go to the lengths they did to so accurately recreate details such as the dance the killer does), why is there a behind the scenes "making of"? I understand there are those who wish to know how they pulled off some of the sequences that they did while maintaining the illusion of First Person POV; however, given the subject matter this short is based off of, I find the existence of the behind the scenes to be in poor taste.

July 23, 2014

-1
Reply
CoolHandLuque

It's there (the short that is) to give the viewer that perspective. To have the viewer go through the same emotions the character is. That's it.

Why would someone want to go through that, well ask yourself this, why do people watch horror films ? Why would someone read "120 days of Sodom" ?

Now I'm not necessarily defending it. The fact that this really happened and is recent enough open up wounds is a bit tasteless but I don't think that is the filmmaker's intention here (or atleast I hope it isn't). It probably would've been better to fictionalize the event.

July 23, 2014

-2
Reply
Robert

Aristotle is quoted saying, "The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." That's the problem as I see it. The filmmaker did not create any significance or meaning. He provided no context. He claims that he is bringing the humanity of law enforcement to the social consciousness, but how does his film do that beyond what the actual, real film already did? What meaning is there in a POV of an officer pleading for his life and dying?

July 23, 2014

-1
Reply
Sean

That life is fragile and cruel.

It's a rough piece without a doubt but I do agree with you about the lack of any real context. The idea is brave but the handling is a bit clumsy. The fact that it's based on a real event makes all the more worse.

July 23, 2014

3
Reply
Robert

Hey Luke, let's make a POV video of Khmer Rouge swinging a Cambodian baby by the ankles and beating him against a tree until he dies. ART!

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Sean

I was appalled at this. Sad in so many ways. I can't believe the victim's family would/could possibly agree to this, given the existence of the original horrifying video. Why would they?

Bravura sociopathic film making at its best - but the film makers will probably do great in Hollywood...

July 22, 2014

1
Reply

Yep - that was my first thought after watching this - Well done - but - what exactly does this do but give the family an even worse perspective of their loved one dying.

I don't know. dramatization?
It seems like a detailed reenactment. All they left out was the title "This is how your daddy died"

No I don't like this film - I don't think a detailed copy of a death had to be reenacted shot for shot.

But hey look - it got posted it here - and maybe people will get upset about it and you know like it will hit the news and the filmmaker can get popular off it. Guess it's good for something...

July 23, 2014

-1
Reply
Jer

So what are you saying? The POV should be censored? Banned? Shunned? Panned? Kocked? Laughed at?

If you don't like it, fine, say so. But don't say it isn't art or isn't a worthwhile effort. You don't like it, fine. Others may think it has value.

August 21, 2014

0
Reply
Doug

I'd say this qualifies as NSFW not due to the harsh language but to the violence as well.

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply
Nils C

This totally threw me into the rabbit hole of police/civilian violence.

On one hand we have crazies like this guy shooting a 22 year old cop... and 2 days ago we have cops choking out an asthmatic who was caught for something incredibly minor, dead moments later on an NYC sidewalk.

Glad these films exist to bring attention to both sides. People are people, we have to start respecting each other.

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply

Pretty sure you just single-handedly summed up the purpose of this film. Everyone can stop arguing now!

July 23, 2014

-1
Reply
Taylor Russ

Initial Thoughts. Great Film, would have preferred if it was fiction. A bit bazaar that someone would make an action movie out of this police officers death. Could have changed the story a bit and made it fiction. You definitely hit a sentimental note with the audience if it's true, which equals more publicity and could technically launch your film career a lot quicker.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Gerard

I'm curious...why would you rather it be fiction?

July 22, 2014

1
Reply
Pat

As we all know a lot of fictional stories are based on non-fiction and in a lot of cases the stories are doctored to hind the identity of individuals for various reason. In the case of this short, the film makers decided to obviously let the audience know it was non-fiction which brings up a lot of questions....... for example did the officers family agree to let them make the film? did they know it would be an action short ? So to answer your question. If it's fictional we presume there is no skullduggery or hidden agenda from the story teller but at the same time understand that fictional story may have been based on non-fiction at one stage.

July 22, 2014

-3
Reply
Gerard

First off, this short film sure deserves the praise it reaped. Big achievement.
What works against the suspension of disbelief for me are:
- the long-extended arms when looking at the family photos etc.
- the rather slow head-movements.
- the near miss of the rear-view mirror with his right hand, betraying the fact that he's wearing a camera in front of his face.

I assume that the long arms and slow movements were done deliberately, but I'm wondering if the viewer's brain couldn't handle the extra camera shake resulting from more natural movements to the advantage of higher realism. After all, this is shot with wide FOV. Compare this to scenes like the action sequences in Children Of Men which I find quite effective in giving the viewer POV-immersion, and those have some rather excessive shaking at times.

Anyways, this is a small quibble. I'm still recovering from how this film affected me, so obviously it was plenty immersive. I also can't help but feel terrible for the portrayed officer's family. I kind of wish the filmmakers had created a fictional story, the graphic nature makes the experience voyeuristic and therefore controversial.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Max Oepen

Most of these comments are baffling.

Extraordinarily good piece of filmmaking - the filmmaker's efforts and craft really shone in this piece.

Thank you for highlighting an important issue.

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply
Wayne

How exactly is he "highlighting an important issue?" What issue is he "highlighting"?

July 23, 2014

1
Reply
Sean

Gun control. The director speaks further about it in the BTS.

July 25, 2014

1
Reply
Richard

Before reading these comments my initial reaction was to reflect on the gun control issue and guns, when in the hands of the wrong person, can be so devastating.
Pretty sure that was exactly what the director had in mind.
So I would say the director has achieved what he was going for. Well done.

July 25, 2014

-1
Reply
Richard

I'm not a huge fan of POV cinema, but this was pretty well done. There were however a few things that were distracting me as a viewer:
The audio sounds really ADR. I feel that they should have re-recorded the actual voice actor on location in order to have a more realistic audio sound.
Lastly, the camera filter edge vignetting in the top left, as well as the dirt on the sensor that was causing black dust spots in the final film. 1st AC forgot to check the gate apparently...

But overall, the execution was very good.

July 22, 2014

1
Reply
Dan

To be sincere, the real footage from the dash cam, made an impact 100x more than the short. And this made me think. Because the short is very well made, and the cinematography is astonishing. I don't think it's the fact that that was reality. Maybe it's because sometimes not showing everything makes your imagination to fulfill with even scarier things. And to be honest the actor-officer did't performed so well. That desperate voice of the officer, and that screams, I could felt how scared he was, and how he was not ready to die.

Anyway, it is a good short. And the most important thing, it brings the message.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Mike

+ 1 on the audio, could've made it much more immersive with better audio.
To me that just felt like a dramatisation (like on a current affairs show). If we actually came to identify with this young officer, it might've made watching his story unfold more real, it just felt like watching a game or well done crime re-creation. I guess it works, but I don't think it's amazingly well done or anything - probably better than I could do though!

July 22, 2014

-1
Reply
Marcus

While I think that I understand the filmmakers intent (it is a tragic event, and deserves attention for many reasons) I'm not sure how I feel about this dramatization. As with other posters, I wonder if the families of both were notified, especially the slain officer. I'm also not sure if the POV style contributed or just made something tragically complicated into a video game for consumption.

Personally, I would have preferred a different approach - a documentary even - if the end result was gaining awareness around this even. As is, this comes across more as a show piece for the filmmaker. And it doesn't come across very tastefully done.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
max

I enjoyed the short's technical abilities but I do have a problem with the director taking this story on to himself without any consent. I mean its a horrific event in a families life and just cause you saw a clip of it on youtube doesn't mean you should rip it entirely. He could of made it his own, changed it up a bit. Im not one to be touchy about things but its simply disrespectful. I feel like the director had no right to claim such a story and on top of that add the real names of people involved as if to say, "hey look at the way this guy brutally died but its okay because heres some notes at the end to tell you the murderer is waiting trial." It's damn right cruel. If I were part of the family involved I would take legal action. Yea sure, tons of people can watch this and think its well made and great but on the sole basis that the family would somehow hear that such a short film is out is painful to me. The people who made this had no right to reenact this officers last minutes. It's enough the real footage is on there for people to say.

July 22, 2014

1
Reply
mike

I entirely agree. The film was truly ghoulish.

July 22, 2014

-3
Reply

My comment was deleted. But I agree.

Sickening film.

July 23, 2014

-2
Reply
Tom

Not to jump on a bandwagon or anything (we humans are notorious for trying to fit in with communities), but I too thought that this was an unnecessary and disheartening piece of work. The money, time and talent that went into the reenactment of a brutal killing could have gone into a documentary about the event/similar events, better calling attention to the dangers police forces face when making blind stops, if that was indeed the intention. That would serve an actual purpose.

Sometimes I feel like we're too objective with our observations of technical achievement on this site. We're not entirely aware of the power that is being wielded.

July 24, 2014

0
Reply
Mike

Although an incredible approach to such a seemingly simple idea, I didn't completely vibe with the idea of the "good cop" with the caring wife being picked off by the psycho veteran. There are so many more incidents of the reverse where cops have used excessive force and hurt/killed people for no reason at all.

July 22, 2014

0
Reply
Mezzy

It's interesting that this film causes such strong reactions. Then I wonder how the masses could swarm into a movie like titanic, for example, which turned the death of thousands into a mere side note or exotic backdrop. When glossed up and side tracked by a stupid main plot the average viewer buys everything, it seems...

July 23, 2014

2
Reply
mariano

But that's not what is here. To take your titanic analogy, this is as if he made a 6 minute video of a specific passenger drowning. The end. Because ART!

July 23, 2014

1
Reply
Sean

This film is a nightmare. Well executed reenactment, but never should have been made as I believe all guns should disappear. Someone remake this now with the element of no guns and see how it plays out.

July 23, 2014

1
Reply
nynex

This short was unnecessary, yeah well made from a technical point of view, but the dead guy's son must be now 16 years old? imagine finding this ultra violent short based on his dad's death, with the main character screaming in agonizing pain before that psycho executed him. It's just sensationalism to expose the filmmakers, shame on them actually.

July 23, 2014

0
Reply
Harry

Pages