Shot in two true single takes filmed simultaneously in two different parts of a city, Last Call is a real-time feature presented in split screen showcasing both ends of a wrong number phone call that has the potential to save a life.
In production, this unique approach presented many challenges to all departments, and was the filmmaking equivalent of walking a tightrope - if something went wrong in act 3, you had no choice but to start over from the beginning.
Scoring this film came with its own set of challenges. To match the approach, aesthetic, and intensity of the film, director Gavin Michael Booth and I decided that we would capture the score in a true single take. Not only that, but the string quartet would be recorded in front of an audience.
Photo by: Vy Nguyen
Before that could happen, we need to solve some other artistic and technical challenges. One essential function of the score was to help focus the audience's attention. Lacking the convention of cuts, and with two sides of the same phone call always on-screen, strong musical themes would help to connect the viewer to each character, tie together the themes of the film, and lend energy, pace, and heightened emotion to the on-screen action. The characters would also be given different instrumental “voices” - viola for Beth and cello for Scott.
In this piece, we hear the viola and cello in “conversation”, as they trade the main theme back and forth. At 2 minutes, we get a variation on Scott’s theme:
Beth’s theme opens the film, and relays her caring and empathetic nature as we are carried through the streets as she makes her way to work, while Scott stumbles home from the bar:
The tensions and stakes of the penultimate scenes reach searing levels, and the music pushes the action forward with a ticking-clock motif, and an urgency that is almost unbearable:
To record the score, we went to hell and back. Getting the musicians from Toronto to the Chrysler Stage in Windsor ended up being a death defying journey as we battled some of the worst winter weather in memory. Hit by hail, sleet, freezing rain, and white-out conditions, we saw jack-knifed semis in the ditch, and a few scary pile-ups.
Thankfully all personnel and their priceless instruments arrived unharmed, and after rehearsals the next day, the score was recorded with the conductor and musicians running through the film from top to tail four times.
At the end of the day, exhausted but happy, we hit the icy roads facing another 5 hours of equally terrifying conditions on the return journey.
Thankfully, it seems to have all been worth it. The film received a 2 minute standing ovation during its West Coast premiere at Dances With Films in L.A. It went on to be a festival hit, winning numerous awards worldwide, with Harper's Bazaar calling it one of the best films of 2021. The score was lauded by critics and viewers alike, and won Silver for Best Music – Feature Film at the Queen Palm International Film Festival, among other honors.
"...The full house was moved by a score which soared… the feeling in the room was electric"
~ Curt Wiser, OC Movie Reviews. Review of Last Call.