"Fruitvale Station": How a 27-Year-Old Rookie Filmmaker Humanized an American Tragedy

Shooting at the BART

There's a feeling of dread, paired with inevitability, permeating throughout Fruitvale Station. The first image seen is the actual video footage from January 1, 2009, reminding the viewer of exactly where this story is heading, which lends every tender family moment and scene of levity an underlying sadness. And once Jordan's Grant, Diaz's Sophina, and their friends hop onto the BART train, near the film's end, you know what's about to happen.

Coogler and his cast shot the BART incident on the actual Fruitvale Station's platform, within the four-hour downtime during which all trains ceased running for the evening. The unnerving sense of location wasn't lost on the actors.

Jordan: "We only had four hours to shoot that night, and we only had one camera, so we had very few takes in order to get that scene and do it right. It was a vast array of emotions. With all those elements combined, from the amount of people that were there, to the limited time we had to shoot, to the lack of resources at our disposal, and then the emotional situation that I was in, that all added up to make the hardest scene to shoot in the entire movie."

"The energy that was in the air while we were shooting that scene helped me get through it. Everyone there was focused. There were no egos. Honestly, if I did get distracted, or didn't feel like I was emotionally there, I would talk to Oscar, man. I was standing in the place where he got shot and lost his life. His presence was there. I just asked him to be around me. I prayed to him. I talked to him. That really helped me stay on track if I lost my focus."

Diaz: "We were actually supposed to shoot that BART sequence at the beginning of production, so I was kind of ready for it. But I'm so lucky that it didn't happen that way. I got to know Mike so well, and we got to shoot all of our heavy, weighty scenes together. My affection for Mike grew everyday, which made it that much easier to imagine how I would feel if that happened to my loved one. And also, Ryan was really supportive."

"Before we shot that scene, I wrote Ryan this really long email talking about how I was scared, and he wrote me back this great email where he talked about the many reasons why I shouldn't be so scared. I got to that place knowing that I had the cast and crew who were really supportive of me and where I had to bring myself for that moment."

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