MINNEAPOLIS — It's not every day that a camera-equipped drone swoops into Minneapolis' historic Bryant Lake Bowl, sneaking into the nooks and crannies of the bowling alley machines and darting gracefully around (and through the legs of) masked bowlers.
More than 2.8 million people have viewed the stunning 1½-minute video by 25-year-old cinematographer Jay Christensen, produced by Minneapolis-based Rally Studio and directed by Anthony Jaska.
"Guardians of the Galaxy" filmmaker James Gunn fell in love with the single shot clip, which feels like a rollercoaster ride. He tweeted it to his 800,000-plus followers, calling it "stupendous" and saying he wanted the filmmakers "to come with us to London later this year when we shoot" the sequel.
For the filmmakers, all this attention comes as a complete surprise. When reached by phone, they said they were just having fun staging the short film at the bowling alley March 2.
Christensen, who lives near Bryant Lake Bowl, felt struck by the destruction and rebuilding taking place on Lake Street following the uprisings sparked last spring when George Floyd died while in custody of Minneapolis police.
"It made me think what's the future of Lake Street gonna look like?" he asked. "Bryant Lake Bowl is a staple in the community, and not having it be that way didn't sit well with me."
He approached the BLB's owner, Erica Gilbert, and explained his idea to show the uniqueness of her venue. She agreed to let them film after hours, which helped maintain COVID safety. Audio was dubbed later, including music by Jay Keller.
"If you think about all the small businesses and COVID, their business has been hit obviously," Christensen said. "I would go in there and notice that it was pretty empty."
Jaska said Christensen had been getting "prolific" with the FPV drone (it stands for "first-person view") since last spring, Jaska said, including another popular video showing the empty streets of downtown Minneapolis amid the pandemic. But he had not shot anything indoors. The vintage bowling alley felt like the perfect place to test his skills.
"From the get-go, Jay was like, 'I gotta go behind the machine,'" Jaska said.
Christensen chimed in: "Erica had taken me back there and showed me the bowling machines. watching these machines mechanically, going on the conveyor belt, was the most magnificent thing I'd ever seen."
That shot didn't quite work, unfortunately, but they did get to zoom in on how the pin machines worked.
The most difficult maneuver wasn't on the bowling lanes, though. "It was coming through the front door in the beginning," Christensen said. "It was windy and there was a parking meter right where I wanted it to be, so I had to evade that, and also quickly react to the wind and make sure there weren't any pedestrians around."
The viral sensation took the guys by surprise. They said a lot of different directors are reaching out, and future projects are brewing.
More than anything, they want to "tell a story in a time piece or some sort of historical re-enactment where you could fly through a whole different time period," Christensen said.
As for the possibility of working on "Guardians of the Galaxy" Vol. 3" Jaska said that it all "seems crazy, but who knows?"
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