Double Nickels on the Dime, a short film by filmmaker Callen Diederichs, is technically interesting and impressive in its execution, though perhaps there is just too much of it. Utilizing one continuous shot for the entire 30+ minutes of the short, the film tackles a number of normal filmmaking situations, such as flashbacks and even more conventional edits, via extremely creative use of the cinematography to create a narrative that never stops in its loop (even the DVD I watched re-started the entire short if you didn’t stop it, perpetuating said loop).
The story at play mostly centers around two criminals, who owe another, Mikey, money. These guys want to hand over the cash directly to Mikey, but he’s not at the drop-point, which causes friction between the two men and one of Mikey’s lieutenants. The film mostly follows the two men as they drive around in their van, talking. A subject shift does eventually occur in the film, however, and the camera begins to follow the lieutenant instead, which is about when the film also starts establishing or re-establishing certain faces (most of the camerawork prior to this switch in narrative focus is from behind characters, as opposed to face-on), and introduces the looping nature of the entire piece.
The filmmaking isn’t always the smoothest, which is par for the course for a handheld camera that is always working without cutting, and in more than a few instances you can see shadows or hear movement of the actors off-camera preparing or moving into place for the next scene, which would normally be established with a cut of some sort. In other words, it’s not like the single-shot idea is unobtrusive in its execution; you never get that feeling you sometimes get in other films that have utilized this method, where you don’t necessarily notice that there’s never been an edit.
And, like I said, there may be too much of a creatively good thing going on here. While there is a story in the piece, no matter how experimental or challenging the filmmaking, it can’t help but be somewhat hindered by those spots where little happens, or dialogue is simply uninteresting because it feels like it’s just filling time. While I like the idea that two of our main characters are seldom seen face-on, but usually from behind as the camera either follows them or sits in the backseat of their van, the time it takes for all this to happen in real-time belabors the entire short to the point that it becomes tedious over the entire running time. I will say that I’m very happy that the film didn’t stick to keeping things in the backseat of the van for the entire short, though, as at one point early on it felt like that might be the case.
Overall, Double Nickels on the Dime gets points for such an audacious and ambitious undertaking, and for reminding me, in title and backseat visual aesthetic, of one of my favorite Minutemen records. The narrative, small town criminals quarreling seemingly in perpetuity in their ever-shrinking world, is interesting enough to follow, but not enough to stave off the tedium that sets in as a result of the length of the film. Still, having now seen two short films by filmmaker Callen Diederichs, I can say that there are some truly great ideas at work, and, given a few more years of filming experience and perfecting of one’s craft, that Diederichs is a filmmaker to look out for.
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