Last Call (2019)

photo imdb.com

Written by Gavin Michael Booth and Daved Wilkins and directed by Gavin Michael Booth. Last Call focuses on an accidental phone conversation between a night janitor and a man feeling down about himself. This film is shot in one take at two locations in real time which means following the characters as they move about in between dialogue interactions. It’s a cool premise and it works. An ambitious task for the crew, the actors, and those involved in the film. The whole exchange takes place over the course of an hour and 17 minutes (minus a few minutes for opening and closing credits) which makes the urgency of call and the efforts involved all the more interesting.

What I Liked

I liked the premise of the story. Scott, played by Daved Wilkins, feeling depressed reaches out to a suicide hotline, only to miss-dial and get connected to night janitor at the community college Beth, played by Sarah Booth. They end up staying on the phone and talking things through until a pivotal moment near the end. Beth is a fully drawn character with complex issues ( a bit cliche but…) full of empathy, and adapts well after being thrown into Scott’s mess. Sarah Booth nails the over-worked, worried, single mom trying to do her custodial job while navigating this phone conversation with someone. She seems emotionally invested and has some strong moments throughout. The style of shooting, the split screen view, is intriguing as you see the call unfold in real time. The film work is super strong and knows when to come in close and when to shoot from a distance staying relevant the whole time. This is important. Just because you can follow and do a one shot, doesn’t translate to circling the actor or literally following them. With this film, it chooses when to sit and wait and when to follow.

What I Wish Was Better

Scott’s apartment was too tidy for a guy who’s given up. His appearance also was a bit too tidy for me. Otherwise, the visual aspect for the film was realistic and intriguing to watch. As far as script and story…well, as a writer I’m gonna nit-pick a bit. The opening conversation on the phone had too much personal information from Beth. Plus, her kids are mentioned early and yes that element comes full circle at the end; but…they weren’t necessary. Beth is written as an empathetic character quite nicely so the kids were unnecessary for me. Scott miss-dials and gets Beth instead of the suicide hotline. I may have missed something but after his phone gets disconnected, he calls BACK. How does he remember the miss-dialed number if he’s been drinking for X amount of days? Also, Beth manages to look up Amanda’s number but can’t figure out how to look up Scott’s? She has his last name from the article. Lastly, I didn’t feel sorry or empathetic toward Scott at all. He was more narcissistic and martyr-ish than depressed and remorseful for his actions and he didn’t really seem that intoxicated. Beth, on the other hand, gets a full emotional arc which Sarah delivered quite well. Finally (I know…), I would’ve liked the team to come through the door and start working on him with a fade out on their voices while Beth comes to terms with possibly never knowing what happened to Scott while being relieved about her kids.

I got an opportunity to ask some questions – here’s what they said:

About production time: “It was a micro-budget film so we were limited to what we could afford which was ten days of rehearsals/technical set-up and four days of production. Our goal was to attempt filming the single-take movie twice per night for the four nights. We managed to get five full takes and then had to choose which one of those would live as the film forever.”

Positive takeaways shooting a movie like this: ” Gavin has been obsessed with single-take films for a long time and has a history of real-time short films, the world’s first live film ever and several single-take music videos. The biggest positive takeaway is that Last Call is more than a gimmick. We were excited to use the idea of real-time so that the viewer is never given a reprieve and must live through ever moment of that call as Beth does but definitely didn’t want the technical feat to overshadow the story. Another takeaway is that it as inspired a larger, more complicated project to tackle using the same format. For the actors, both Daved and Sarah have proven without a doubt they have serious range as actors. As an actor, it is important to not always wait for the industry to call on you but to show the industry what you can do and gain traction and casting notice through your own efforts.”

Anything you would’ve done differently? ” Honestly nothing. We talk about how more money and more time would have been a great benefit but then we might not have the film we created. Seeing how it connects with audiences at festivals and premiere screenings has been wonderful as filmmakers and if we changed any element of how we made the film, it might not be the same film at all. Even the music was recorded live in a single take and there are small errors or additional noise here and there in the film’s score but that’s part of it. It is organic and the “flaws” become a texture in the realism of the story being told.”

Final Thoughts

Overall, Last Call was fascinating to watch for many reasons. It calls the viewer to stay engaged during mundane moments. It asks you to care about an unlikeable character (Scott). It shows you in real time both perspectives of the call, the exchange, the stakes, and the resolution. The editing is superb and is a testament to why this style works. What I mean by editing: How Gavin Michael Booth edited the side by side shots of the material. It’s continuous for both; but sometimes it’s top/bottom or side by side and it changes depending on the scene and how he wants you to experience it. That was perfection for me.

If you’re a fan of single shot film-making or interested in Last Call, I encourage you to follow Gavin’s team on Twitter @lastcallonetake as well as on Vimeo under Gavin Michael Booth. You can see a super cool behind the scenes video on Vimeo on the making of Last Call as well as trailers for the film. (Posted below for those who don’t have Vimeo.) This film does not have a release date…YET. But I hear from the team one is coming soon. They just finished a successful festival run and won some awards! Congratulations to them!!

HUGE thank you to LAST CALL and the team for providing me with a screener for this film. I am super honored to have watched this great effort by some talented people! (I hope I didn’t hurt with my nit-picking…)

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