There are some truly amazing examples of how to make a great film, and Joe Penna and his writing partner Ryan Morrison (of MysteryGuitarMan) are absolutely killing it with his latest short film “Turning Point,” which is a gut wrenching short that follows a woman infected with a deadly disease who must survive a night alone. The inspiration of the shoot came from the cinematography in “Birdman” which uses the “one shot” look (even though neither this nor Birdman was actually shot in one take). Joe and Ryan just released their behind the scenes video and gave us some great stills from their set while he explained a few things about how and why they chose to shoot this like they did.
The music, timing, pacing, acting and camera movements all play a huge role in how we as the viewer feel when watching this film. These were all done on purpose, and with great care. Specifically, there is one scene that is most vivid in my memory, and one that was Joe’s favorite to shoot. “Definitely the scene where she’s coughing up blood,” he told us. “We start off very far away from her… then slowly move closer to see that her condition is deteriorating. When we’re as close as we can get to her, she coughs up the blood, solidifying our fears (and hers).” The way they pace this and shoot is was perfection, so if you’re planning on building tension like this, pay close attention to how they shot it, where the camera is in tandem with her actions, and the sounds you hear when the scene climaxes.
When you watch the film, you’ll notice that Joe and his team use jump cuts a lot, and that was on purpose. “Regardless of motion control, we wanted to use jump cuts to illustrate moments of panic. The motion control helps the viewer maintain a single perspective while still giving us that frenetic feel,” Joe told us. The way they were able to achieve some of these effects was to place the camera on a motion control arm that would do repeated camera moves so that anything the team wanted to add or remove later via editing would be easier. “The camera moves the same exact multiple times, so we can get different takes of the same action,” Joe explained.
One such scene where the arm’s movements were incredibly important is when we see her inspecting the kitchen. She appears multiple times in the frame, and each of those were captured individually and separately before being combined in post.
To shoot this, Joe and his team used a RED Epic Dragon. “We borrowed a technique that David Fincher has made popular – finishing in 4K, but shooting in 6K to give us more options to change composition in post.”
So why make this film at all? “We genuinely just made this because we wanted to. Every brand deal that we make for the channel, we put aside some money to do passion projects like this. For this specific idea, we used the smallest crew possible. We didn’t have any PAs on set… everyone pitched in to move stuff. Some people worked for free. Every single crew member worked for a discounted rate. We only had one character on screen.
“However, we could not have pulled this off if we didn’t shoot it at the YouTube Space in LA. They provided the entire set, much of our gear, and a bunch of other resources.”
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