Whether it’s Goodfellas, Atonement, Hunger or even Russian Ark, there’s something special about a single long shot in cinema. There’s a few reasons why- the technical artistry, the invention derived from creative constraints, but mostly it’s just the sheer mesmerising draw of unbroken action. And now, thanks to digital cameras, it’s easier than ever. That’s why the One Shot Movie Competition was set up in 2012- or so they told me. The founders are all editors, so it might just be that they’re lazy.
This year, I went along to the awards screening of the final 10 shortlist single shot films at the Prince Charles Cinema. The evening was hosted by Scroobius Pip– no stranger himself to one-take shooting, as a few of his music videos take that approach. Pip runs his own film club at the Prince Charles, so he was a natural fit for the evening, and soon we were watching the finalists. I was blown away by the variety on display. Some of the films were very purposeful and artful- like Rearranged, which simply shows a long table covered in formal dinner arrangements that get destroyed by an approaching storm. More compelling than it sounds! And some were on the opposite end of the spectrum, showing that simplicity can sometimes triumph- like I’m Sorry to Tell You, which plays out a doctor’s rehearsal of telling someone they have cancer as an extreme close-up over 10 minutes.
Scroobius Pip at the One Shot Movie Competition.
The winner was the cathartic, kinetic He and She. It’s about a young man who is driving to move in with a long distance girlfriend, only to receive the news that she isn’t coming. Distraught, he pulls over at a motorway service station and gets drunk, joined by a mischevious old woman with an irreverent take on the events. The technical prowess on display here is staggering, especially for a short- the film opens at high speed on a motorway, before switching to a quiet conversation at a petrol station, without any cuts. The effort involved in pulling that off without cuts, without even visible jolts to the camera as it moved, is nothing short of staggering- but to make it a great film as well is pretty much a magic trick. And the best thing by far about this film wasn’t the ingenuity behind its craft, but the story and the characterisation, which was very deep for a 15 minute short.
This third edition of the One Shot Movie competition was a great success, and the competition is growing every year. With plans to expand to screenings throughout the year, and international shows in New York and Croatia, things show no sign of slowing down- so here’s to the fourth!