NASHVILLE — Film aficionados and people who love behind-the-scenes production lore are likely to get absorbed in a new independent film by Robert Lynn called Adrenaline. It's a suspense-thriller — like Phone Booth, but set in an SUV with an OnStar service gone mad. In Adrenaline, an evil genius controls the SUV and its driver, whose daughter he has kidnapped. The evil genius is an unseen, all-knowing psycho with Reed Diamond voicing the character so well you forget Kiefer Sutherland's Phone Booth performance.
You also forget that the film's entire 89 minutes — every single changing scene on location — was captured in one take.
And that will really help keep film buffs glued to the screen. How did the camera crew make it from the SUV to the pawn shop without a cut? Or to the sporting goods store? Or the bank? A big thing DP David Trenkle had going for him is actually quite small — a new 24p HDV camera from JVC, the GY-HD100U. It's a very portable 720p camera that will record to portable hard drives (or to mini-DV tape) and will accept very sophisticated lenses for film work.
Writer/director/producer Robert Lynn challenged the JVC folk to convince him that he could make his one-take movie with the HD100 and they succeeded. So did he.
Lynn is partnered with writer/actor David Alford, who stars in Adrenaline, which they shot last December in the streets of downtown Nashville, not far from Lynn's home. And he's not kidding about the one take. "One camera," he says. "You turn it on and, around 90 minutes later, you turn it off.
That's it — we either got it or we didn't." Lynn admits to not being a "camera expert" and the HD100 had only been available for three months at the time. Still, he knows enough about cameras and enough camera people to be able to direct his films and has many under his belt, like the soon-to-be-released prison film, Prisoner.
"First," he points out, "tape for mini-DV is 63 minutes. If you have a 90-minute movie, what are you going to do?" Lynn and company strapped — using Velcro — two ultra-light hard drives directly to the JVC camera.
A LONG WEEKEND
Lynn and company shot the entire movie five times but no takes were intercut to make a final Adrenaline. The final take, 90 minutes shot non-stop on the Sunday of a long weekend, became the keeper.
"Every move in this movie has been rehearsed and choreographed for a couple of months," he says. There are no reverse angle shots or other coverage to cover one's butt. However, DP Trenkle had plenty of opportunity to rehearse silently, gracefully entering and exiting either the SUV's backseat or the front passenger seat, camera always running, as he followed Alford's movements, including long shots as he makes his way to various preordained destinations. "To get the camera in the car and out of the car there are 16 steps that the viewer can't tell," Lynn says. Lynn worked alongside the DP on the shoot, as did an audio man with a wireless boom. They, along with the actor, had to move as one. "If we do a 360-degree turn and blow it at 72 minutes, it's really going to hurt."
Lynn had good experiences with Sony's F-900 HDCAM, but it would be too big for this tight job. However, he liked the new JVC HD100's specs, including three CCDs with 1280x720 square pixels, 24p HDV format, optional tape or disk recording and interchangeable lenses. Lynn also appreciates that he could turn the camera on, record into a hard drive and leave it on indefinitely without it automatically shutting down. For Adrenaline, "That's a huge thing!" JVC's Atlanta-based Mike Jackson convinced Lynn that he had the perfect camera for Adrenaline and he traveled up to Nashville to demo the unit.
Lynn wound up using two: one fitted out for the shoot (and only one) and one as a back-up. "We never had to replace our main camera," he says, "it worked flawlessly." Besides the wide-angle lens and the double-decker hard drives, the HD100 also had a second LCD view finder attached to allow both Lynn and Trenkle to follow all the action. It also had a "steering wheel" attached so the men could smoothly hand the camera off to one another for seamless transitions.
"Why would somebody make this movie in one shot? To help sell the film or get noticed?" Lynn asks rhetorically. "Honestly, I believed it was the best way to get the audience into the mind of our lead character." And when the protagonist is driving his SUV, there are plenty of tense close-ups. The HD100 allowed Lynn to use a wide-angle Fujinon lens that helped capture the star's facial reactions as well as action outside the car. After three "takes" Lynn decided to go for the cinematic effect of close-ups and wide shots by keeping the wide lens on the camera but literally pushing in on the actor's face to increase dramatic tension such as when he is driving and responding to the villain. The HD100's stabilizer helped smooth out the fact that it was entirely hand-held for the entire film.
AUDIO BUILDS TENSION
"The shotgun mic on this camera was brilliant and we actually used a large portion of our sound just from the [JVC] camera mic!" Lynn enthuses. But our hero hears the villain through a Bluetooth device on his ear as well as through the car's speakers when he plugs in his cell phone. The audience needs to hear this, too, and that's where some audio post tricks come in, including actually re-recording the villain's voice through actual car audio speakers.
Audio post really made the movie come alive for Lynn and he credits Heartdance Music in Nashville (www.heartdancemusic.com) - a Digidesign Pro Tools house where Eddie Bedford mixed and Chris Cowley performed audio editing, ADR and Foley. Sound effects, ambience and a tense score by Paul Carrol Binkley build tension as our hero is put through his paces.
POST, BUT NO EDIT
Adrenaline was post supervised by Calgary, Canada-based Final Cut Pro editor Bridget Durnford. But she did no editing. She did audio layback and oversaw opening and end credits. Durnford did use FCP to create a kind of raw flashback in the climax in which every frame of the movie runs backwards at top speed to a particular line of earlier dialogue that just might hold the key for our hero. Durnford also bumped up the 720p imagery to 1080p using a Teranex converter. Color correction was done at Chicago's S2 Post.
You can find out more about Adrenaline by visiting www.Arclightfilms.com.