Short of the Week

Random Stop

A first person POV of the true story of a Sheriff’s deputy who encounters an aggressive driver on a lonely stretch of highway.

I thought I was smarter than this film, I really did. I’d seen first person POV shorts before, and based on that experience I wasn’t expecting much as the film began. Then it kicked into gear and ripped my skeptical heart right out.

Random Stop, which premiered at SXSW 2014, tells the true story of a Sheriff’s deputy who encounters an aggressive driver on a lonely highway. It does so entirely through the POV of the Sheriff, whose face we see only briefly through a reflection in a car window.

At a little under seven minutes, the film’s sense of economy is astounding. Equally remarkable are its performances. Geoffrey Kennedy, in a largely offscreen performance, perfectly captures the Deputy, blinded by terror as he moves through a series of tragic blunders. As an unhinged veteran, Brian Krause is chaos personified; he never allows the Deputy, or audience, a moment to get their bearings. This is what survivors of tragedy mean when they describe events as “like a movie;” the logic of what’s happened comes only after the deed is already done.

This stunning, kinetic quality is rooted in the expert choreography of the action sequences. The production ran over three days, all in a 105 degree heat wave. The director writes:

“We approached the whole project like a theater piece and would rehearse the s@!# out of things in the morning for 4 – 6 hours while waiting for the lighting to get where we wanted it, then shoot as fast as possible during the few hours of usable sun we had available to us.”

The camera itself was a whole other story:

“… a one of a kind solution from Radiant Images. It’s an SI-2K Nano which is about the size of a gopro but with a beautiful 2K sensor and real glass. This was mounted on a skydiving helmet that Justin our DoP wore, and had an Ethernet spigot running to a backpack that held the “guts” of the camera (basically a battle computer), wireless follow focus and wireless video tap. We arrived at this solution after months of research and testing – we started w a 5D bolted to a motorcycle helmet, and at one point even did tests with a RED Epic. Radiant were awesomely supportive of our crazy ideas, and helped tailor a custom solution for our needs.”

These technical innovations only serve to enhance the strong fundamentals of performance and storytelling at play. Note that a normal person would likely behave the same way as the Deputy, which creates tremendous empathy for him. The tragedy is that, as a trained police officer, the Deputy shouldn’t be handling this situation like a layman.

Our hero stumbles into tragedy so quickly and realistically that his story is now used to train future police officers. With the gift that is Random Stop, his story can also serve for the rest of us as a stunning reminder of both the frailty of human judgment, and our radical insecurity in the world.

~
Jason B. Kohl is an Austrian/American filmmaker from Lansing, Michigan. His short films have played SXSW, Los Angeles, Locarno and been finalists for the Student Academy Awards. His first nonfiction book, a practical guide to film school, will be published by the Focal Press in 2015. jasonbkohl.com
  • Philip Kidd

    Absolutely nerve shattering.

  • Mike van der Lee

    Very nice engaging and moving work. Thanks for portraying this tragedy, giving us this opportunity for empathy.

    May Kyle, despite his brutal death, rest in peace..

    “perfectly captures the Deputy, blinded by terror as he moves through a series of tragic blunders.”

    “his story can also serve for the rest of us as a stunning reminder of both the frailty of human judgment, and our radical insecurity in the world.”

    In my opinion focus should be on how Andrew Brannan became like this, because that’s the cause and the key.
    One personal thought would be that we tend to find it logical to put people in situations where we as “outsiders” rationalize killing other human beings, but as “insiders” is chaos for them being there and traumatizes them to the point that everything is a threat to kill them. It’s either you or them getting killed (“he let me”).

    I hope I was able to express my feelings in a way that I’m not trying to rationalize killing someone in any way but quite the opposite.

  • Benjamin Arfmann

    Thanks for watching, Philip!

  • Benjamin Arfmann

    Hi Mike! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There were a lot of ideas that went into the making of the film, but a big big part of it was the desire to inspire discussion. There are no easy answers to be found in Kyle’s story. Andrew’s actions were – to me – absolutely cruel. But as you say, we share a social responsibility to understand how someone, especially a vet of the armed services, could be marginalized and pushed to the point he reached.

  • kung_fuelvis

    Glad you went down the route to inspire discussion, instead of trying to provide answers. I don’t think we’ll ever truly understand what goes through someone’s mind in this situation, but by presenting the events in the way you have, it’s such an immersive experience it really forces you to think about things you might not have been comfortable with if presented in an alternative approach.

  • Person

    It’s a reality check on what really happens when someone is getting shot. Not like the Hollywood movies who portray people who don’t feel any pain and just fall to the ground. It’s painful, grueling, and scary. And that’s the truth about gun fights. It’s not “cool” like the movies portray it.