Creating a scene in a single take



Working to create a film that tells a story constructed from continuous takes.

I've always been impressed with extended scenes created in one single take, with no cuts. The first film I saw with an outstanding extended cut was Orson Wells 1958 “A Touch of Evil”, which opens with a 3:20 continuous shot that plays out a car bombing. The narrative is clear, with the shot opening on a close of the bomber arming the device. We then embark on a journey that takes us from Mexico over the boarder into America before the device detonates, a point which denotes the first cut. The continuous shot is arguably the antithesis of both Kuleshov’s theory of montage and continuity editing in building narrative. It still forms a compelling way to build a narrative through the moving camera and is becoming a very contemporary way to approach film fuelled as much by technology and the rise of the drone and gimbal as by a post montage approach to film making. 

The short clip above is a teaser for a larger project I'm working on, and this took around 5 hours to get right from planning the space, movements and rehearsing them, and then of course shooting the scene. The thing about a single take is that it only takes one mistake from anyone involved to need reshooting, and the choreography is complex, so it can be challenging to get right. I've included the shooting plan from my moleskin storyboard notebook, (which I love and find invaluable), Green represents the camera movements and blue is actor movements. Seventeen takes may seem a lot, but with this type of shoot, it's about rehearsal , both for me in operating the camera and the cast's choreography.

###pCame-TV Single), but no room for follow focus on my little Black Magic. And even if there were, once we start, we're just moving too quickly to alter focus. So it's back to meticulous planning and practice.


Ten rehearsals and seventeen takes later we got there! A special thanks to the CDC and Jewellery students who helped me with this production. Thanks also to Troglodyte for the composition of the music, amazing to work with you! If you want to be notified when the full film is released you can follow my twitter feed.

Below is embeded the introductory shot for Orson Wells 1958 “A Touch of Evil”. Enjoy.