As someone who loves one location films, I was very excited to have the opportunity to watch Louis Chan’s short film Stationary, which is filmed almost entirely in a parked car.
The film follows former drug dealer Jimmy (Aaron Ward Thomas), who confronts his drug dealing childhood best friend Che (Rebekah Murrell) about the dangerous path she’s leading her younger brother Gino (Xavien Russell) down.
Stationary follows these characters closely, setting the scene for the complicated relationships and difficult pasts that are explored in its 12 minute runtime. What this film does very well is ensure that the audience is gripped from the very beginning.
I asked writer and director Louis Chan about the challenges of navigating a largely one location short film, and how he felt about writing such a dialogue heavy film.
Louis: “It was very much a test for me as a writer to see if I could keep an audience’s attention for the duration of the film. To rely so heavily on the dialogue meant that we went through many drafts before being satisfied that we were hitting the emotional beats we wanted.
“A mixture of drama and tension was key as we slowly unlayer Jimmy and Che’s past and present. The actors all did a fantastic job and really brought the piece to life, but it was also important to give them flexibility and the freedom to change lines to be more suited to their natural manner of speaking. You can plan and plan as much as you want but that only gets you so far, if you’re too rigid, you might miss something incredible. If you find it, run with it.”
A big part of keeping the audience interested relies on the strength of the performances, and the three actors featured in Stationary are truly incredible. Watching them feels real, like it’s their own story to tell, and it’s a very raw and intense viewing experience.
The characters are well rounded and as a viewer I truly wanted the best for them, and found it difficult knowing that they had gotten themselves into dark places. They’re flawed, making them realistic and perhaps relatable for some viewers.
Louis: “Hammond and Cox were excellent and really supported us with the casting process. I had seen Aaron is a short film called His Wake in which he played the lead character. Much of the film is just visuals of Aaron played with his voiceover so it was really interesting to see all the little things he was doing on camera just with his facial expressions. There is an intensity but also vulnerability to Aaron which was evident from our audition, and he really blew us away.
“Rebekah had been recommended to me by the wonderful casting director Jane Frisby and when Hammond and Cox managed to get her in the room, we understood why. Rebekah has incredible range and the wonderful ability to switch from the joker, to the antagonist, to the wounded very quickly. It’s something very hard to do in such a short span of time whilst making it believable.
“I had seen Xavien in Top Boy seasons 1-2 and thought if he was available, he would be the key to balancing our trio. Xavien is a real pro and had such great energy on set that it became infectious. There is an innocence and joy to the Gino character that Jimmy and Che no longer possess, Gino is representative of the possibility and hope for better things. Xavien is so expressive with his eyes you can’t help but feel for the character and hope he makes it out ok.”
As mentioned above, I love one location films such as Locke, Buried and 127 Hours (technically not entirely one location but the scenes in the canyon are cinematic perfection, let me have this).
So I was curious whether or not Louis had been inspired by similar films when he was creating Stationary. It’s such an interesting concept so I wanted to know where the idea had come from, or if other films had influenced the final product.
Louis: “I did watch Locke to see what they did with the camera and lighting to create different feelings and move the story forward. I love the “bench scenes” in The Wire and Good Will Hunting, the way in which they could almost be stand alone short films themselves. Everything is just there and feels so natural and visceral. Another scene I love is the conversation in Heat when Hanna and McCauley finally meet and have their 5mins on screen together.
“The whole film has been building up to this standoff and it’s brilliantly acted by Pacino and De Niro. The camera work in that scene is very simple, so I suppose I took inspiration from that to trust the script and the actors and let them do their thing. If you do it right, people will remember these moments.”
In fact, Stationary was inspired by one of Louis’ close childhood friends, who explained the events surrounding the day his flat was raided by the Police and he was subsequently arrested on suspicion of drug dealing.
Knowing this makes the film even more special, because you really do feel like you’re sitting in the car with them. You want to reach out and give your own two cents on the situation, even though it’s not any of your business.
Thematically, there’s a lot to unpack, and I was impressed with just how much complexity this 12 minute short had. Not one minute is wasted, and every line is important to the overall story.
It deals with friendship, masculinity, as well as vulnerability and power, and I firmly believe this is a film that could ignite some great conversations among viewers.
Finally, I asked Louis what message he’d want viewers to take away from Stationary. Here’s what he had to say.
Louis: “I read a quote recently when someone said “once you finish a film, it no longer belongs to you” and I like that idea, there’s something quite infinite and romantic about it. Hopefully there is enough in there for people to relate to that resonates with them and makes them feel something.”
Stationary is currently available online via MYM Media’s YouTube channel, where it’s received over 125K views in under three weeks. It has also played at several UK festivals and hopes to be screened at more in future.
If you’d like to watch the film, you can do so below.
Thank you to Louis Chan and producer Jonathan Caicedo-Galindo for reaching out to me, and allowing me to conduct this interview!
Got a short film you want me to review? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org with any relevant details.