Long Shot – Written by Connor Harvey:
When you’ve spent the last three years of your life on a media degree at university, you’d want to hope you got something out of it. Everything I have worked on has led to this final project. I believe that my short film, Long Shot, is a good summation of those goals I set out to achieve when I finished high school.
On the outside, Canberra may not look like a booming industry. But when you delve down into the student films and theatre productions, there’s lots of great stuff to be seen and to work on. I challenged myself to create a film with literally no budget which could sustain itself not just technically, but also on the writing level. My original story played with the tropes and clichés of the movies, which consisted of three characters stuck in an elevator. The young man in it would realise that everything playing out in front of him was incredibly unbelievable whilst the two others continued to play out over-the-top action. The comedy derived from the nonsense of the resurrected Satanist Doctor’s plot to bring the Antichrist into the world via the pregnant super-spy who just fell deeply in love with the normal character. Eventually, I realised that this was too complicated and silly a story to bring to life with my timeframe and money.
So then I stripped it back, with only two characters having a conversation that still played with filmic traditions. The dialogue was a bit semi-autobiographical; I find talking serious is difficult, but have no trouble in picking apart what’s at the cinema. I still wanted to challenge myself so I decided to make it all play out in real time, with no cuts, and constantly on the move. I’ve been watching a lot of The West Wing recently and I wanted to emulate their famous walk-and-talk technique all in one shot and under five minutes. The first job was to get a location that was long enough and didn’t have that much foot traffic. I found that on the University of Canberra’s student residents, which then influenced the backgrounds of the characters. Their romantic relationship didn’t play out well with their new teacher-student roles and so that was also incorporated into the script. My writer’s role was completed with all the parts coming together in the finale, which also was susceptible to the clichés of the happy ending rom com film.
Cast and Crew
I announced auditions on local Facebook groups and got more interest than I expected for a student film. Of the twelve try-outs, I settled on a couple both in the right age group with an interest in theatre. I figured their pre-existing relationship would play out well on screen and their background on the stage would help with repeating their many long lines over and over. Will Huang and Eliza Shephard did a fantastic job at bringing the words to life.
In order to have this large location would mean having a very small crew. I’m the kind of guy who likes to do everything myself (hence why I’m producer, writer, director etc), but I know that you have to work well with people to make the best film possible. There was no way huge lighting and sound equipment would be able to be used without being on screen. Natural lighting and lapel mics was the route I took. I did look into hiring a proper Steadicam setup, but that meant getting the operator too, which I definitely didn’t have the money for. Instead I went to a recent graduate who I had worked with previously for being my cinematographer. I did numerous tests with Justin Yip to make it look good on his DSLR, to keep with the storyboard and to get the right walking pace through the corridors. With a friend filling in as production assistant and schedules eventually timed together, we were ready to go into production with a scaled back crew.
So the day came later than I hoped, but it went off without any major hiccups. With most productions, an actor only has to do a few lines at a time for less than a minute. The trouble with doing a long take is that if there’s a mess-up with the lines halfway through, you have to go back all the way to the beginning to start it over again. But the challenge was good fun and we set about for six hours trying to get the perfect take. Multiple mic tests, a lunch break and thirteen attempts later, we called it a day. I decided on take number seven in the end and settled down into post-production. Whilst there was no editing per say, it did consist of figuring out a way to colour grade a seamless shot, creating titles and getting a decent sound mix from three sources (the camera audio and actor lapel mikes).
In trying to scale back my production with this single take approach and small crew, it made things a lot more complicated with planning out a course to walk how the dialogue would be affected where they were. I think of myself more of a creator than a producer so at the moment I’m not aiming too far festival wise. I’m instead trying for more internet promotion to get as many people as I can to watch it on YouTube. Working on this short was a great experience thanks to the people that helped out with it. The plan for me now is that next year will be a break from real life. I’m going to try to work on small local projects, then travel the globe before starting to look for more permanent work in larger cities. I’ve just completed fifteen years of continual schooling and only now really about to embark on my career.
Long Shot has been featured on the monthly Canberra Film Files newsletter, had an impromptu screening in Curtin with Art Underground and also alongside my university peers with “Stellar”, at the National Film and Sound Archive’s Arc cinema. Expect a behind-the-scenes video soon. There’s also an IMDb page to try and keep it professional.