Mark Christmas is a filmmaker based in Orlando, Florida. He has written and directed five short films, including “Calls,” and is currently writing the screenplay for his next project. In this piece, he explains how he and his team gave themselves a challenge: one camera, one actor, one room. And, okay — also a very photogenic parking lot and skyline.
“Calls” began with a simple premise: make a movie with one actor, one location, and one scene. My
screenwriting partner, Cameron Settles, and I landed on the concept of a young man (Jorge Valentin) making difficult phone calls to past sexual partners, informing them of his recent positive HIV diagnosis. The idea fit perfectly, so we began writing.
But the story would make its demands. It became clear that the stakes needed to be raised to
properly serve the subject matter. We asked ourselves, “What if he came inches away from not making
these phone calls?”
Having the audience aware of that alternative would make the protagonist’s decision to make the calls that much more impactful. With this in mind, we wrote a new opening scene and added more characters to further flesh out the story world.
Our simple production doubled in scope, but that growth felt right for the story, even if it no longer fit within our initial premise. This willingness to listen to the story that begged telling gave us a final product with even more power and resonance.
Breaking our own rules was the right call.
You can watch “Calls,” directed by Mark Christmas, above.