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Shortlist 2020: How a Real-Life Bike Theft Inspired ‘White Eye’ (Video)

Short film centers on a man who finds his stolen bike on a street and sets in motion a sequence of events that profoundly impacts the lives of a group of Middle Eastern immigrants

Israeli filmmaker Tomer Shushan was en route to see a mentor on another short film script he was working on when he had an encounter that led to creating another short, “White Eye,” a finalist in TheWrap’s 2020 ShortList Film Festival.

“The story of the film actually happened to me,” Shushan told TheWrap, explaining that he was rushing to meet a mentor on the deadline day for him to submit a script to an Israeli film foundation. “On the way, in the middle of the street, I saw my stolen bicycle, some aggressive instinct came out of me, and I couldn’t go away without the bicycle,” he said. “Then the whole story like it’s presented in the film happened but with a better ending.”

Indeed, Shushan’s film centers on a man who finds his stolen bike on the street and sets in motion a sequence of events that profoundly impacts the lives of a group of Middle Eastern immigrants. “While I was overwhelmed by the recent experience, my mentor told me to write it down as a script. So I did. After 40 minutes, the script for ‘White Eye’ was born and came out as a short film a year later.”

“White Eye” also represents a technical achievement — shot in a single continuous take over an evening with no hidden cuts. Shoshan said it took just a few takes to get the entire film in the can. “Since we had money to make this film in one night only, I was aiming for four to five full takes because I knew that If I will do more then the cast and the crew could lose passion and energy,” he said. “The energy that night was like a fire that gets bigger, and we finished with eight full takes. Choosing which take was going to be the film was very hard because every take is special in another way.”

He said his crew was prepared for the hurdles of the compressed production. “In order to make the one-shot take work in one night, we had a lot of rehearsals,” he said. “Each department knew exactly what to do and when. We became a very accurate machine that worked together. The fact that you can’t see materials and accordingly prepare for the next shooting day is something that you give up.”

The approach also had its advantages. “The whole team is experiencing the film from the beginning to the end, and you actually watch the movie live so you can see at one take what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “While we were filming, I still changed the script and took out parts of it because I saw that they were slowing down the rhythm.”

“White Eye” won the Best Short Film Award at Haifa International Film Festival in 2019 and recently won the 2020 Narrative Short Jury Award at SXSW Film Festival.