Imagine a story realized from your imagination. How you can turn that story into a feature film using a smartphone for a camera is impressive. Now edit the story in an app on your phone. Sounds unreal, right? That’s the real story behind the film “Charon” by Jennifer Zhang. Episode 94 of the SBP Podcast Mobile Filmmaking is a discussion about her journey.
Jennifer is a passionate creator and storyteller. I was honored to talk with one of the contestants in the feature film competition at San Diego’s International Mobile Film Festival. The festival takes place in April this year. All the films are shot with smartphone cameras. “Charon” is one of three feature films competing for the 2021 Best Feature Film Award.
The story took place, literally, during lockdown in Los Angeles. Jennifer Zhang had just about completed a deal for her next feature film, when the lockdown was announced in California. It was as devastating as you can imagine as investors began to pull out. However, this superhero named Jennifer, decided to make another feature film using the situation to her advantage.
“Charon” is a story about a woman under house arrest who has a boyfriend turning up the pressure on her to do things that are scary, to say the least. Her character, Charon, discovers an intriguing mystery behind his requests and she brings viewers to discover his motives to a shocking surprise.
Jennifer Zhang shares her experience making her film from the concept, and screenwriting, all the way through to post production. Jennifer shares how she struggled to film her performance as her character, Charon, on her own using her iPhone 8 Plus. The seamless result is astonishing. You would not realize how many struggles she had and persisted through. She was alone in her apartment during production for most of the film.
Actor Eric Radic played her boyfriend, Jerry. Jennifer cleverly used Skype as a medium to bring his performance in her film through the screen of her computer, and it worked very well.
One of the challenges was a fight scene that takes place in her apartment, choreographed and performed by Marc Morisseau.
The fight scene was one of the hardest parts of making her film, according to her account. When she explains the details of what it entailed you will realize the challenges and fears endured during production.
Jennifer’s entire story in her film keeps the viewer engulfed and absorbed in the story. Cameras and self-isolation during the pandemic magically disappear and the mystery and suspense of the story stand out.
It’s not by chance that happens, and it has not much to do with her iPhone camera. Even though it would have been almost impossible to pull off with any other camera, that was unavailable to her during the pandemic anyway.
Jennifer Zhang married her screenwriting and storytelling skills with the tools at her disposal to produce a feature film during lockdown. When you watch this 73 minute film, you will become entrenched with the story pretty soon after it begins and you won’t want to pause and miss a thing until the end.
It’s been quite difficult to make films during the pandemic, especially during the early weeks after the lockdown in California. Even during normal situations, it’s not easy to make a feature film that can capture your attention for a longer period of time. But when it revolves around the protagonist as the center of the story alone during confinement, it’s quite impressive. One movie that comes to mind at the time of writing this, is “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart.
Jennifer Zhang’s performance as a victim is realistic and intriguing. In one word, I would say the film as a whole is riveting.
Be sure to watch the film during the festival on last weekend in April.
After you listen to this episode, go to our Patreon Page and subscribe to listen to the exclusive bonus episode in which I ask Jennifer a secret question and she shares a secret answer and a unique valuable tip for anyone writing a screenplay. It’s a very inspiring, and in-depth special episode for our Patreon subscribers.