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The complexities of making a simple movie

Posted at 9:09 PM on February 5, 2007 by Euan Kerr

James Vculek says after the schlepping for making "Two Harbors," where he and a cast moved themselves and a lot of equipment up and down Lake Superior's north shore, he wanted to make a simpler film for his second feature.

As a result "The Quietest Sound" has just three main actors, two of whose faces the audience never sees. It also only has one shot during its entire 75 minute running time.

The camera stares at Elizabeth (Catherine E. Johnson,) a young mother whose four-year-old daughter has apparently disappeared during a trip with her mom to the local big-box retail store. She's being questioned by two detectives, who clearly don't buy her story.

It's an amazing performance from Johnson as Elizabeth, as she swings from hope to desperation and back.

Vculek (pronounced veh-CHOO-lek) wrote, produced, directed and edited the film, (although that last task may seem to be moot in a single shot film.) He says he had to work carefully with videographer Aaron Gelperin to make sure all the bits of business which happen in the film actually worked. The camera doesn't move for most of the film, and it's in a tight shot on Johnson, so everything had to be carefully placed and run with incredible accuracy, while making it look as casual as possible.

Amazingly it all did come together and they got the film made on the second take. (It should be pointed out that the cast and crew rehearsed for 10 weeks before they felt they were ready for the cameras to roll.)

It's a different tale from the long take Vculek attempted at the opening of "Two Harbors." He says after attempting to follow Alex Cole around an antique market with a camera on a dolly, they were defeated by an uneven floor.

Thus they decided to have Gelperin hand-hold the camera for the shot which lasts about 8 minutes. Unfortunately, perhaps because the shot involved a lot of people and a lot of movement, it required a large number of takes and it left Gelperin exhausted and unable to hold the camera any longer.

After a confab about what to do, they decided to tape the camera to Gelperin's hands, and then taped his arms to his body so he could keep going.

And that's how they got the shot.

"The Quietest Sound" gets its Minnesota premier tomorrow night at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis. You can hear James Vculek talking about the film tomorrow on Morning Edition.

February 2007
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