After having filmed a long take last week I was intrigued to see more of these shots since I find them so fascinating. I decided to see a few select films that have celebrated long takes in them. These chosen films include Goodfellas, directed by Martin Scorsese with Michael Ballhaus as director of photography, Children of Men, directed by Alfonso Cuaron with Emmanuel Lubezki as director of photography and finally Gravity directed by once again Alfonso Cuaron with Emmanuel Lubezki as director of photography. There is no particular order to the list as all these sequences are brilliant in their own way.
The Goodfellas long take is a very influential shot to me, particularly the movement of the camera as it feels very organic and fluid. This shot takes take the audience through a world where the mood, characters and their relationships are established in that three minutes. The obvious rigorous rehearsals were on full display as it was as close to flawless that a long take can ever be. As the characters interact with each other the audience can see what to expect from them as the film progresses as more and more characters get established in this sequence. Another aspect to this long take is that it can allow the audience to be transported to this world as the way the camera follows the actors, is reminiscent having the point of view of someone that is in the film.
Children of Men is a film that has on display many long takes that are as complex and intricate that one would expect from a Cuaron film, since his films are known for having these types of sequences. The one I am focusing on is the famous building long take sequence which required days to shoot and new rigs to be built due to the complexity of the scene. This scene in particular took away a great deal of control as there were many variables to be considered such as vehicles, actors, performance and timing. This long take gave the scene a heightened sense of realism and almost felt like a documentary, especially when blood was splattered on the camera lens, which Cuaron initially wanted to cut out of the film. Another noteworthy quality of this long take is that at first viewing it doesn’t quite register as a long take since it works on the audience in a subconscious manner.
Gravity is another Cuaron-Lubezki collaboration is one of the longest takes I have seen as it spans around seventeen minutes. The sequence was used as an establishing shot of the world and the characters in it and it has to be one of the most complex and elaborate establishing shots that I can remember viewing, since it evoked a sense of geography where there was none. What is most impressive about this shot was the shift in movement of the camera as the weightless safety was shown by the slow hovering of the camera. This comfort in shattered with quick changes in direction, capturing the frantic and erratic movements of the actors and special effects.
Last Tutorial on Thursday, the class was instructed to choose a script that was written before hand and film it in two methods; the Long Take and Film to Edit. At the time I wondered why we had to shoot the same scene twice but as I am writing this now I can see how different the two types of shoots where from each other. We first decided to shoot the long take first and after a few runs of the lines, actor placement and camera movement; we started to shoot the scene. This was quite time consuming as a single mistake can ruin the entire take but in the end we got the footage we where after. Next came to shoot to edit and after we had a few test shots we commenced with the shoot. We first recorded a master shot and when that was done we recorded the scene from different shots and angles.
I came to realize how dissimilar the two types of shooting methods are from each other. The long take allowed the scene to be captured in real time and it makes for a deeply immersive experience for the viewer but that being said it takes away much of the control from the filmmaker. Being limited to real time, the filmmaker has no control over the pacing of the scene and the actual shooting of the scene is quite troublesome. On the other had the shoot to edit shoot, in my opinion resulted in the best footage being captured as this way there can be a wider variety of shots as well as different showing the same location and characters from different perspectives. Having little control over a scene is quite troublesome for a filmmaker as typically a scene is thoroughly planned and structured so relinquishing that control can make them uneasy. Personally I like watching a well directed long take but actually shooting one is quite stressful but it was a good learning experience nonetheless.
I enrolled in this course because I enjoy writing and I wish to learn and further improve my overall writing skills. I hope that in this course I will get to discover new ways to convey a story as the quote by Linda Aronson in the studio guide perfectly encapsulates what writing is to me. “…scriptwriting, like all art forms, is always changing and reinventing itself” and because writing is constantly evolving as writers we have to adapt to changes in the craft. By being in the same class as the Creative Writing students, it will give a unique opportunity to interact and learn from people that focus almost exclusively to writing. I can also impart knowledge of the many area of film production with them as one of the aims of the class seems to be to share the knowledge of the various people that specialize in an array of different aspects of film production.
The conventional relationship between screenwriting and film making is typically that the script is done beforehand in order for the production crew to meticulously plan and shoot the desired scenes that will make up the film. But when this is turned on its head the result can be that a story that is conceived of spontaneity and impulse after the film is shot. This allows for more unconventional stories as the audience can then make their own story based on their own interpretation. However, this can also take away the voice of the author since there wouldn’t be a definitive narrative occurring on screen. I think that in this course we will be experimenting and twisting these conventions to get firsthand look at the results of telling a story in this unorthodox manner. I am personally excited to embark on this unconventional approach to narrative as there can be many possibilities that would have remained unexplored.