The Art of the Long-Take: Part I

By Shea Lord | Tags: , , ,
December 26th, 2011

The Art of the Long-Take: Part I

By Shea Lord | Tags: , , ,
December 26th, 2011

At the Savannah Film Festival in 2010, Sir Ian McKellen received a Lifetime Achievement award and gave an exclusive masterclass to SCAD students. He spoke of the difference between acting for a camera versus in front of a theatrical audience. Every shot in a movie is a very highly produced moment captured on a recording medium. Thanks to modern non-linear editing systems, scenes can be (and just about always are) filmed out of sequence and over a period of days. Actors are often expected to perform a fierce action stunt from the end of a movie then turn around and give an emotional monologue from the beginning of the script in a day of shooting. While a good producer or 1st A.D. will do their best to schedule in sequence, it’s near impossible. From the actor’s point of view: there are multiple takes, long hours under hot lights, frequent touch-ups to makeup, people on crew constantly running around, et cetera. All forcing the breaking of character to exist in real life.

Acting on stage— whole other level. It’s one performance. One audience. One stream-of-conscious moment in which the actors tell a story. The theater is the best environment for actors to perform at their best. Only the actor can esImagetablish the connection between the audience and the character; thus, when they are given the opportunity to act, the connection is given the chance to grow. Take a Woody Allen movie, for example. There are many simply-shot scenes: one or two angles, very little cutting, if any, between a lot of dialogue. Is it any wonder that the actors in his films win so many awards? (Though, you can’t exclude the fact that anyone in a Woody Allen film feels the intense pressure to live up to the director’s reputation, and thus works very hard to do their best) The fact is, the long-take design gives the performance the spotlight. It reinforces the audience-character connection that is crucial to Woody Allen films especially.

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