The Cape Town-based director and producer Robert dos Santos is making waves with a 90-second short film, that was shot in one long continuous take. Robert dos Santos' 90-second film that was shot in one long continuous take, 'A Moment', was recently accepted into the Los Angeles Film Awards.
The short film, A Moment, stars South African-born, Hollywood-based actor Sean Cameron Michael as well as Jonathan Boynton-Lee and tells the story of the moment that happens just before you die when your life flashes before your eyes.
Making international waves
Earlier this year, Robert received the news that the film was accepted into the Los Angeles Film Awards, the Hollywood International Golden Age Festival (an IMDB-affiliated festival run out of LA and New York which promotes films for their artistic quality) as well as the Berlin Short Film Festival (a four-day festival which will play host to over 100 different films from around the world).
Robert says his hopes was initially to create something of international quality and he believes they’ve achieved that.
“I strongly believe that while we need to be telling our own stories, we need to be aiming to make sure that those stories can stand on their own on an international level,” Robert told The South African. “We are in a small pond and we need big pond mentality. We need to be looking internationally and thinking internationally and asking ourselves how we can become world leaders. By taking this mentality and applying it locally we can ensure to uplift ourselves and those around us. We did not create cinema but if we carry on the way we are, who knows, maybe we can perfect it.”
One long continuous take
The film, which is described as a “oner” – because it was shot with no cuts or edits between the footage – was made possible by a Bolt-X. This technology is said to be very rare, with only four of these in the world.
“This is essentially a robotic arm similar to the ones in car manufacturing plants which can move a camera in almost any way you can dream of. Peter Constan-Tatos, who operates the Bolt-X at Reflex Motion Control has years of experience and was pivotal in bringing this vision to life.”
What’s more, in order to get it perfect, Robert and the team spent days talking it through. “We spent days in the studio looking at how we could achieve this. Then more days setting up the movements in a computer. We needed to calculate, with actual maths, how to get the robotic arm to move the camera in many different directions to achieve a single continuous shot that is both dynamic and entertaining.
“At the end of this preparation, we spent hours making micro-adjustments to get things just right. After everything was set up, however, we could recreate the flight path a thousand times over with the push of a button and never be off by even a millimetre.”
Robert says that he hopes to do more of these projects in the future. “My kinds of projects are ones that are big in spectacle and entertainment but which also balance a strong narrative and character arc. Films should suck you in and take you to another world while also changing or touching something inside of you. Striking the balance between entertainment and art is incredibly important to me.”
He also says that if you want to do a “oner”, it is important that it serves the story. Robert mentions the film, 1917, which was shot to look like one continuous take.
“With 1917, Sam Mendes’ idea was to always be moving and always be moving forward. The oner in 1917 serves the story because the two soldiers have a mission to accomplish and they can stop at nothing to achieve it. They need to keep moving, the story needs to keep moving, so essentially the camera needs to keep moving. The story and the camera movement worked hand in hand.”
The cinematographer for the film, Roger Deakins, is said to be a “massive influence” on him. “With that being said, each shot, each scene, and each story stands on its own and needs to be viewed in isolation of influences.”A Moment had, therefore, a very specific intention, and that was to tell a story through a series of short reveals.
“We wanted to drop in on the middle of an event and allow our audience to get answers to the questions of what was going on in small bites. Had this same shoot been done in a series of cuts it would be infinitely less interesting or effective. Had we been able to achieve the same impact with a camera on a stand and no movement we would have stuck to that and not overcomplicated it. The use of a oner, however, made the telling of this story possible, the fact that it looks rock and roll is a bonus.”