Challenge Accepted: Comedy In One Take

Hitchcock did it with "The Rope" so I'm thinking of this as my comedic homage to Hitchcock.

Longest take ever? Hitchcock’s “The Rope” a film with no cuts.

We were discussing the concept of the “long take”- a scene in a movie in which the action plays out in a scene without any cuts. The effect of this is one of realism: the scene has to take place in real time and the camera follows the character through an emotional arc without interruption.

The examples that we looked at were all from dramas: “Children of Men”, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, etc. The camera followed characters in revealing, personal moments and gave the audience a chance to walk alongside them in their onscreen lives.

“This is mostly used in drama.” The professor said. “I’d love to see someone try to do it in a comedy.”

Challenge accepted.

The long take is an interesting idea that I’ve always had in the back of my mind. To use it is clearly a style choice- and it’s a choice you have to commit to early in order to block out the scene effectively: even without cutting you want different camera angles and shot sizes (which is to say, sometimes you want to be close to the actor’s face to see their emotions and sometimes you want to be far away to see what they’re doing in the space). You have to figure out the pacing of the scene because you won’t be able to correct it in editing. Comedy makes this doubly difficult because reactions are the heart and soul of what makes comedy tick: reactions reveal the characters and characters drive the comedy.

The first step is finding the right scene: it has to take place all in one place, all at one time. Or, at least, in continuous spaces and times. The premise of the scene needs to be comedic enough that it won’t get lost in the blocking and camera movement. The actors need to be able to reproduce the whole scene multiple times while hitting multiple marks while being aware of a moving camera without looking at it. The space needs to be bright enough that the actors won’t disappear in shadow when they move through different portions of it. The shot needs to be tight enough that a boom mic can pick up the lines without a lot of background noise.

A long take is a machine with a lot of moving parts. I’m excited about it as a Bold Choice, but there are a lot of places where it might not translate to film. Stay tuned.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on October 31, 2013.

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