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.
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:
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.
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.
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.