Filmmaking is a long and arduous process, sometimes requiring days of shooting just to get a single shot. Even a nine-minute short film can usually take weeks to film—and that’s the easy way. Director Paul Trillo, however, wanted to do something else, so he filmed his latest short film, At The End Of The Cul-de-Sac, in just a single take, using only a drone.
To be clear, Trillo didn’t use multiple drones capturing the action from different angles to ensure nothing was missed. At The End Of The Cul-de-Sac was filmed using just a single camera-equipped drone, which meant that not only did framing have to be perfect during the entire shoot, but the actors’ performances had to happen in very specific spots on location in a real-life cul-de-sac.
To ensure everything happened exactly when and where it needed to, Trill and his filmmaking team first created a low-res CG version of the entire short film, known as animatics, that replicated everything from houses, to passing cars, to the entire cast digitally. This allowed them to plan out the long single shot well before they arrived on set, and it gave the cast and camera crew something to study ahead of the shoot.
Even with animatics, on-set rehearsals and camera tests were still required to ensure the cast and crew were all properly hitting their marks and timing, because when you’re filming a nine-minute short film in one take, every mistake means you have to reset and restart from the very beginning. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the crew and equipment have to be hidden from the flying camera at all times.
There’s a reason long shots like this aren’t often attempted in Hollywood: they’re a giant pain to get right. But for At The End Of The Cul-de-Sac, the engaging approach helps the audience feel like they’re one of the neighbors watching this man have a meltdown right in front of them.