THAT shot in 'The Vast of Night'
Last week, I watched new indie sci-fi thriller, The Vast of Night, which recently released on Amazon Prime. Set in a small New Mexico town, the two leads are working the high school radio one night and start hearing unusual white noise over the airwaves. After a report of strange sightings, they find themselves doing their own investigations into where these sounds are coming from and discover it's not the first time they have been heard.
Now, I'll say upfront, I didn't really enjoy the film. It had some great things about it: the script is on fire; the sets and costumes are great and the way the threat goes unseen is pretty clever. But on the whole, I found it quite self-indulgent; simply slow and not very gripping.
However, there was one shot that really caught my attention that deserves to be celebrated - especially when this is a low budget indie and debut feature for its director.
Chilean DP M.I. Littin-Menz chooses to move the camera at high-speed in real time, at a low level across the town. It's particularly impressive, as it crosses different ground surfaces and through tight gaps and lasts a good few minutes. An interview on IndieWire with the film's director, Andrew Patterson, helps explain how they achieved the shot.
"Patterson’s production team built three locations for the camera to traverse. “It’s a long shot, a practical run-the-camera-down-a-fucking-street, around the back of houses, through backyards,” he said. “We had to literally drive down on a Go Kart with a 3-1/2-foot-wide piece of gear. I walked out of the switchboard running down the road with the camera for at a 7-or-8 mph fast sprint for 40 to 50 feet. I’m in good shape. I was okay. The camera is mounted on a gimbal with a motion-isolating piece of gear that makes it not look shaky and unwatchable. It hooks up with another pair of individuals who dovetail into the shot and cut away using bungee cords. The driver is an 18-year-old with a Go Kart deputized as a dolly grip. He then takes that short first eighth of a mile, and crashes into a green screen. We then blend two more shots from the Go Kart.”
Patterson was inspired by a nifty shot from 2009 Argentinian movie “The Secret in Their Eyes,” he said, “which starts as a helicopter approaches a stadium, and then the shot drops into the stadium where we find the lead character in a melee of fans and follow him as he’s looking for the killer.”
Patterson created four practical shots for a visual effects house to blend and stitch together, much like “1917.” “You can’t see a cut,” he said. “The effects change the geography, tighten up how our four shots played out in the real world when we filmed them. It was lot of work.”
It's really cool to read that such an ambitious shot can be achieved through a clear vision and determination, and can claim to do something big Hollywood blockbusters like '1917' also do, but at a fraction of the budget. And unlike 1917, which is known for it's seamless one-shot approach, I totally missed that this shot was created by stitching four separate shots together. Bravo to the VFX team involved here.
Take a look at the video below to see a Q&A with the cast and crew talking about the shot and where you can also see a clip of the shot itself.