Story by Jeremy Kohn
Under the current pandemic of COVID-19 , many artists have found they have to curb their creative process. Michael McCallum of Rebel Pictures did this by entering a quarantine film contest and winning best film for”Choices”.
McCallum shot “Choices” on a shoestring budget in Charlotte, Michigan in one day with the help of Rebel Pictures collaborator Eric Shalayko– who also edited the film. The film stars McCallum and and Lansing actor Rico Bruce Wade.
Wade talks about why he wanted to be apart of the project and work with McCallum.
“Michael is such an intriguing artist and I was anxious to work with him,” Wade said.” In the past, Michael and I had not been able to find time for an opportunity to work together. This was a moment when there were not conflicting projects. The challenge of this material made that experience much more rewarding.”
McCallum said knowing the right people and networking has opened many doors to him in the industry.
“There was a fellow filmmaker named Nic White, he’s got a film organization called cinema slice,” McCallum said. “I met him many years ago. He asked me if I wanted to be apart of the quarantine contest.”
The Rebel Pictures founder said the only criteria for the film was using the prop of a hair comb in a scene.
“I had a basic idea of two characters kind of in a sort of shelter and a gun between them … it kind of gets found out that there is only one bullet there and the two of them struggle over it,” McCallum said.
Seeking a writer for the project, McCallum sought out Lauren Ferebee from Dallas, who helped in crafting the tense dialogue for the film.
Being a student of film, McCallum knew stylistically what he was looking for including shooting the film in black and white.
“I said from the get-go minimal natural lighting, just a candle … we had one little light outside the window,” he said. “Kristian Bringedahl created this world outside of the space which you hear this wind that blows outside.”
The film eludes to a looming threat from outside. which McCallum left ambiguous.
“Its not important what it is –its more important that we are fearful of it,” he said.
McCallum, who directed and acted in the film, talked about how to maintain the balance between the two.
“It’s hard to explain, but it is kind of a split brain,” McCallum said. “I can be in the moment and then once its over with, I know what I need to do to fix the scene.”
McCallum lists Greg Tolland a famous director of photography known for his use of natural lighting as an influence on the short film.
“As actors we are leaning in and finding our light, but it also creates this intimacy between these two characters in this locked space . There’s this horrible threat outside and now inside the two of them become a threat to one another.” McCallum said.
McCallum and Wade talked about the precautions the crew took while on location because of COVID-19.
“We were all apprehensive of being around each other, but we were all super excited to be able to do something creative.” McCallum said.
” We were operating with the best information available at the time. There were many questions about the virus, but it was becoming clearer. We had a shared understanding of how the virus was being transmitted and we were extremely careful. I think this was our first contact with other people after weeks of isolation,” Wade said.
“Choices” and other films in the Rebel Pictures library can be rented here.