Last Stop in Yuma County

Last Stop in Yuma County, the riveting debut feature of writer-director Francis Galluppi, is an unpredictable, intense, audacious story of a knife salesman (Jim Cummings, outstanding as always) who wanders into an Arizona diner, meets a kindly waitress (House of the Devil star Jocelin Donahue), and soon finds himself trapped with out stranded motorists, including a pair of seedy bank robbers (Nicholas Logan and Richard Brake). The simple setup soon tests loyalties and morality. In this piece, Galluppi explains how he took full advantage of the diner location — where almost the entire film takes place.—M.M.

The Last Stop in Yuma County was actually written specifically for this location.

With my short films, I was writing scripts based on locations that I had free access to, so when it came time to write the feature, I took the same approach. I was looking around the Los Angeles area and stumbled upon Four Aces Movie Ranch and thought it would be a cool place to shoot a movie. I was really inspired by movies like Rope, Dial M for Murder, and 12 Angry Men, and thought I’d try to write a feature that mainly took place in one location.

Also Read: Jim Cummings on How to Make DIY Films and Put ‘Hollywood’ Out of Business

This obviously helped with the budget because it eliminated the need for company moves, and we were able to pretty much shoot everything in order without too many resets, which allowed us to move quicker. You obviously go a little stir-crazy being in the same room 12 hours every day for that long, but by the end, I was sort of sad to leave that place.

I think the biggest challenge of shooting a single-location movie is really trying to utilize every corner of that room. Making the audience feel like they completely understand the geography of the location was very important to me. My cinematographer and I would drive out to the location during pre-production and photo board as much as we could.

We were constantly looking for new places to put the camera so that the movie continued to feel interesting, and we weren’t just doing the same shots over and over again. There was a world where block-shooting the entire film would have made our lives a lot easier, but there’s no fun in that.

I think, for the most part, shooting the movie in chronological order really helped guide the actors’ emotional trajectory. We might have shaved off a couple of days if we chose to block shoot the movie, but ultimately, I think it would have hurt the film.

Last Stop in Yuma County Director Francis Galluppi: When All Else Fails, Add a Bear

For any filmmakers out there who choose to write a movie based on an existing location, my advice would be to really try to utilize every aspect of that room. Something that you may hate at first and wish wasn’t there, try and incorporate it into your story.

For example, at first, I wished there wasn’t a back door in the diner, but eventually, I figured out how to utilize it and ended up with a sequence that I’m really happy with.

With that said, there was a stage in the diner that we didn’t know what to do with. It was really getting in the way of our blocking, and we were unable to lay dolly track down in that area. We ultimately decided to remove the stage and put a taxidermy bear there, naming it Duke.

So even though you’re writing to a specific location, do what you can to make it your own. There have been tons of other movies and television shows that have shot at this location, but I feel like we were really able to make it our own in the end.

Last Stop in Yuma County is now in theaters and available on video on demand, from Well Go USA.

Main image: Jim Cummings in Last Stop in Yuma County, courtesy of Well Go USA.