4 Stops Director’s Notes

January 4, 2010 at 7:56 pm

4 Stops Short Film 17 West Productions


A month before shooting SURFACE, Jay handed me a tiny script called ‘4 Stops’.

I had just come back from a casting session in North Bay.  I read it standing in the middle of the living room with my bag still slung over my shoulder.  I laughed out loud and immediately told Jay I was going to shoot it next.

A few months later, with Surface locked, I moved my attention to the little subway story. I spent an entire day ridding the subway, blocking the actions and shot listing the film. This is when I decided that we were going to shoot 4 Stops guerrilla style.  While the cost of shooting on the subway wasn’t ridiculously expensive, it was too much for our non-budget film. This run and gun approach also informed the style of the film. There would be no room for mistakes and very few opportunities for multiple takes. Technically speaking, we shot the film on a consumer MiniDV camcorder my parents bought me during college.  This also allowed me to pretend to be a tourist on the subway, should we have been caught. There was no way we could get a tripod on the train without standing out. We also couldn’t have any type of sound recording equipment. This meant we had to ADR the few lines of dialogue later.  I would also have to shoot without a crew.  This is what excited me the most about making this movie.  It would just be me, the actors and a camera.

When it came to casting the film, I immediately thought of Alyssa LaPlume. We had just worked together on Surface and I knew she would be great in the film.  As for her creepy counterpart, I was stuck. I was looking over headshots and resumes when I checked out a show by Rep 21 (Canadore College’s Theatre troupe). Jamie Mitchell was great on stage, funny and endearing, an every man.  It just so happened he was also Alyssa’s boyfriend. What luck!

For me, rehearsal is an important part of Pre-Production. The actors and I go through the entire film and iron out the details, blocking, etc.  When it came to 4 Stops, the process was vital. Things that are typically left to be worked out while shooting had to be decided before in the comfort of my living room. Using kitchen chairs as benches, we ran through the entire film several times. I even shot the rehearsals, testing camera angles.

Finally, it was time to shoot. After working a 14hr day on The Incredible Hulk as a VFX P.A., we all met at my place. We ordered a large pizza and our amazing makeup artist Alex Rotundo got to work.

Afterwards, we made our way to the subway.  We had a little less than 2 hours to shoot the 4 page script.  This would be pretty tight on a normal shoot but we had no control over anything. We needed an empty car and we needed it to stay empty for 5 or 6 consecutive stops.  For anyone who’s even been on the subway, you know how rare that is.

Ding. The subway doors open and the car is EMPTY!  Alyssa and I had gone a station behind Jamie, who was waiting on the platform of the following stop.  Alyssa got into position and I got the camera ready. The train moved along.  We approached the platform where Jamie was waiting to board.  Would the platform be full of intoxicated partygoers coming home from a night on the town? Would there be subway employees waiting to board the train to get to another station? Finally the train pulled into the station. The platform is EMPTY!  It’s a go.  We only have one shot getting this shot (really?). Ding. The subway doors open.  Enter Jamie, in character. The camera is running and Jamie plays it perfectly, just like we rehearsed. With a little luck we got the first shot in the can!  It was as good as I had hoped. However, there was no time to celebrate.  We only had an hour before the subway shut down for the night and a lot of stuff to cover.  What a night.


4 Stops is officially in the can. Things could not have gone any better. In fact, I’m confident we could not duplicate those circumstances. We captured something interesting and exciting during our “in-the-moment” filmmaking.

Later that morning Jay watched the footage and confirms my suspicions, it looks good.

We cut the film that night and concluded the 48 hours of work it took to complete the film.

Click here to watch the film.

Click here to for Jay’s take on the movie.