If like us you rooted for the samurai sword welding uncle in dance-fight comedy Pop Music or appreciated having your consciousness expanded by the cosmic realisations of The Katy Universe, then you’ll be just as excited as we are that Writer/Director Patrick Muhlberger is back with a new short – which coincidentally also marks his third appearance on DN. His latest film Hot Dog is a delightfully frenetic comedy of idiots in which co-workers squabbling about the best course of action to free a dog from a warming car, rapidly escalate into property damage, shirtless brawls and bruised self-esteem. Enjoy it below after which Muhlberger explains why he wanted to abandon his usual stylish tricks in favour of an energetic, roving single-shot motivated by performance.

So this film is actually inspired by real events. I was on a branded shoot and stopped for coffee with the clients when we discovered a dog locked in a car. Everyone looked for me for answers and I had no clue what to do! I tried Googling, but that just brought up Pinterest boards. Ultimately the police were involved and everything worked out, but the pressure to make the right decision was intense!

As I was trying to write it, I wanted to throw out my usual stylish tricks and focus on performance and blocking. So from the beginning I wanted it to be a single shot. I thought that the act of not cutting might trap the audience in the same tension the characters were feeling. I also thought it might be easier to shoot (it wasn’t, but oh well!).

I thought that the act of not cutting might trap the audience in the same tension the characters were feeling.

When researching I noticed that most long single takes use an objective camera, following people through long distances in serious dramas. I wanted the camera to be subjective and to heighten the anxiety of the entire experience. I ended up pulling a lot of inspiration from these La Blogotheque music videos where the camera spins a lot.

We had two rehearsals, one in my apartment to focus on character and rhythm, and one on location to figure out the blocking. We shot a previz that I could send to everyone so they could practice at home since we really only had a half day to shoot it. One of our leads and our Steadicam op didn’t get to rehearse until the day of, so thank goodness we had that previz.

I don’t remember much from the actual shoot. When you’re doing a oner you kind of just watch the monitor, hold your breath and hope it goes well. There isn’t much more for the director to do other than be anxious (which I’m quite talented at!). We captured three usable takes in about seven attempts. I didn’t even see the winner until later that night because of some monitor issues, but I ended up really loving the performances in it.

The first 3 minutes of this take were cloudy, so we did a sky replacement in the opening to make it seem hot from the get go.

Me, the AD, and the iris puller are all sitting in this car while the DP and focus puller are standing outside. It was hot.

Our prop maker did the blood makeup at the end, so he lay behind this bush for most of the take, then popped out, ran with the camera, and dabbed in the blood in the 3 seconds the frame is off Elisha.

This car was parked in the spot we needed so (with police permission) we put it up on jacks and slid it over. One of the jacks got stuck and you can kind of see it in this frame.

We built a rubber rock that Elisha threw into an open window (of my car). The glass and break were CG. Thank god he didn’t miss!

It’s funny when you write these behind the scenes articles… they always sound so serious. But ultimately this is a comedy about a bunch of idiots! Hopefully it makes people laugh.

Also, for the record, there are no secret edits in this. It’s genuinely one take, so suck it, 1917!

Hot Dog is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.

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