Written by: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
Together, director Qasim Basir and his writing partner Samantha Tanner have created a fresh and original take on a LA love story. A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. is the first film to be marketed by the Facebook’s ‘Seen’ initiative, which aims to bring more attention to films by minority filmmakers. As the film premieres in theaters, there is plenty for audiences to dive into and support in this fascinating and innovative romance.
Set on election night in November 2016, Cass (Omari Hardwick) and Free (Meagan Good) experience a chance encounter leading to them spending the night together – first at a club, later a house party and a diner. Free is a lawyer who wants to be a DJ while Cass is a club promoter who wants to be a filmmaker. Over the course of the night, they challenge one another to pursue their dreams.
One of the most impressive aspects of the movie is that it was shot in one take, in real-time, in some busy LA locations. Basir revealed that the excellent 2015 German feature Victoria inspired him to use this technical and story-telling device. Of course, this wouldn’t matter if the performances and writing didn’t also back up the filming style, but it is an involving story which leads the audience to become invested in these two people and to care about what the outcome of the night will be.
CC2K attended the premiere of A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. in Hollywood and chatted with some of the people involved in making the movie:
Director – Qasim Basir:
Why did you choose to make a love story set on election night?
Because I think that there is something about telling a story of two people coming together on the night our country was divided. I think maybe sub-consciously we can say it doesn’t all have to be that way, we can still find love, we can still love each other and care about each other. After all we are literally called the United States. So, yeah, that was why.
You wanted to make a hopeful story, about dreams ultimately?
Yeah – on a night that was potentially traumatic for some people. That was traumatic for me. A thing happens and then your memory makes it happen again a thousand times in your life and the emotional trauma from that thing might replay in your body physiologically a thousand times so if we can offer another memory for that night, I think it could be could be potentially kind of cool. Just say to people, here’s another thing that happened that night, that’s in your consciousness.
What made you decide on the one take throughout?
Because I thought it’s easy to look away right now, with all the stuff that’s happening, but I felt like no, we want you to stay, we want to keep you here with them as they go through it as they experienced it, here. Feel it, go through it with them, don’t look away, let’s do it.
Cinematographer – Steven Holleran:
I want to ask you about the challenges of filming all in one take, on one night in LA:
Obviously shooting a movie in a single night puts you in a box as a cinematographer. It requires you to bring all your production there for those specific 12 hours and to be able to power, operate and move the camera through multiple spaces without cutting without swapping batteries or lenses or anything like that. It’s about as extreme as you can get when it comes to making a movie. So that created a lot of challenges for us, between trying to get all the crew and the rig through different locations and to stay on top of your game the entire time while you’re operating it was very tough.
I was particularly fascinated by the two long takes in the car and I’m wondering how you achieved those?
So I’m actually wearing a Cinema Devices anti-gravity rig which holds the camera and a gimble system, which stabilizes the whole image. So, we had to uncouple that rig from the backpack that I was wearing and hold it off to another operator who then could move it seamlessly into the taxi and mount it to a little hook we had in the ceiling. The same process had to be repeated getting it out and then re-coupling it back to the rig that I was wearing. So it took a lot of practice – we were like a football team for weeks, running plays in the parking lot outside Panavision Camera House. We eventually got to a point where we felt comfortable enough and also a point where we knew the movie was going to happen, so we had to go for it.
Actor – Dijon Talton (Naqeeb):
Can you tell me about your character in the film?
I play a half-black, half-Muslim Lyft driver that kind of ushers Meagan and Omari… on the night when possibly Trump would be elected and we know he was elected and what that means for this man, his culture and his family in an America that already doesn’t accept him.
How did you cope with the way it was shot, the fact that it was all in one take?
Preparation. Learning and trusting each other and planning a lot… it has to be organic and truthful. It took a couple of weeks to prepare and we had to just kind of rock it and trust that whatever God wanted it to be, it was going to be. It was like doing a play.
Of course, the film hinges on the phenomenal performances of Hardwick and Good. Both are mesmerizing and draw you in, until viewers find themselves completely invested in these two, not simply as separate people, but also potentially as a couple. The chemistry between the two leads is electric and the tension is palpable as they push and pull against one another. The characters both have haircuts with dark sides and blonde tops, which is perhaps a deliberate attempt to mirror them. They are two halves of a whole.
Thanks to the use of real-time, you can track the characters’ emotions and see the build-up of atmosphere leading to one of them getting upset or angry. It is completely authentic and the reactions of each character seems entirely real. Free finds herself struggling with with the idea of leaving LA to return home, giving everything a sense of urgency and immediacy. Furthermore, the use of election night as the backdrop means that emotions are further heightened.
The technical achievement involved in making this movie cannot be overstated. The fact that the whole thing looks so beautiful – the use of lighting (there is a scene where a rooftop fire naturally lights the two leads beautifully) and the use of focus (in a stunning view of LA from the hills above) is astonishing when considering the long take required the cinematographer to adjust for light and focus as he shot.
There are two long sequences that take place in a Lyft (it’s LA – so of course, you have to spend a long time in a car to get anywhere) and these are delicately balanced, utilizing silence to add to the already immersive and realistic experience. One scene takes place in a busy club, which posed filmmakers with a different challenge – men were trying to approach Good for photos (and probably less savory reasons), requiring shots to be reset multiple times. Interestingly, the people at the house for the election night party really waited for the time it took Hardwick and Good to arrive and some of the actors even gave up and went home! The climatic scene takes place in Mel’s Drive-In on Hollywood Boulevard, and thinking about the requirements involved in shutting the iconic location down boggles the mind.
As well as being visually stunning, the score taken from The Heart of Man by Tony Anderson is absolutely beautiful and edited in at key moments, working well over the course of the movie. The balance between silence and the moments using the score is so well done. As Free shares one of her tracks with Cass and in turn, Cass shares his short film with her – the use of music will break even the most hardened viewer.
Probably the only negative aspect of this movie is the title, which might put certain viewers off – audiences may expect something clichéd or cheesy. However, once you look past the tile, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream. is nuanced, heartfelt and authentic. You will surely fall in love with these two characters. If there is a big screen near you playing this film this weekend, please check it out. You won’t regret it.
Author: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer
Brit living in Southern California.
Former teacher of Media and Film Studies.
Current film writer for jumpcutonline.com, moviejawn.com and others.