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are multiple takes really necessary?


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#1 william everett

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 01:01 PM

I just saw "Paths of Glory," in which Kubrick went through 30 or 40 takes for a last meal scene - using freshly cooked chicken for each take - and Warren Beatty had dozens of takes for Maureen Stapleton giving a speech in the rain, for "Reds".

On the other hand, Frank Sinatra apparently wanted one take for every scene he was in. Multiple takes bored him.

Under what circumstances are more than a few takes necessary? Why can't I just shoot a scene once, turn the camera 90 degrees for a different backround, shoot another scene once, and turn the camera another 90 degrees for a third backround, and thus shoot three scenes in one take each? Change the clothes a bit, shave off a mustache, and it will appear that days or weeks have gone by in the twenty minutes it has taken to complete three scenes.
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#2 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 01:28 PM

I believe Kubrick wanted multiple takes if an actor's performance wasn't just so, or if a camera move wasn't executed to his liking.

I just read Matthew Modine's diary of the film of Full Metal Jacket and he documents how problems with sound, dolly movement and other issues resulted in multiple takes. However in one instance, it was a case of Modine coming to set without knowing his lines, which echoed an earlier conversation where Kubrick told Modine that one of reasons he did so many takes on a certain film was that the actors didn't know their lines. I also think he was hoping the actors would discover something about their character and bring that interpretation into their performance.

As for Sinatra, I think his "one take only" demands were in later films like "Ocean's 11" and not in his more noteworthy films like "From Here To Eternity" or The Man With the Golden Arm".


This article also sheds some light on the subject.

Netribution: Stanley Kubrick: Shooting the Magic

One of the party-pieces of Harlan?s documentary is the story of Sydney Pollack?s arrival on the set of Eyes Wide Shut. Pollack, an old friend, was well aware of Kubrick?s reputation for exhausting shoots. When he was able to wrap his first scene within a couple of hours, however, Pollack cockily predicted he would be able to return to the US within the week.

For his next scene, Pollack made the mistake of asking how Kubrick wanted him to walk across the room and answer the door. "I don?t know," the director replied, "you decide". So Pollack tried, and kept trying different ways for the next two days, waiting for Kubrick to give him the nod. Eventually, exhausted, Pollack declared himself satisfied, only to be told, "I wondered how much longer it would take you".

The point of the anecdote is not the casual cruelty of the insatiable director. Instead, it illustrates Kubrick?s astonishing patience and openness when it came to the one aspect of the process he knew he couldn?t control ? the performances. His favourite metaphors for directing a film were the game of chess and the general in battle. The latter especially gives a sense of the chaos and unpredictability that Kubrick was trying to indicate as his experience on set.

Just as the general has to constantly adapt his strategy to meet the changing circumstances on the field, not least the uncertain behaviour of his own troops, so the director is always monitoring the performances being delivered, forever leading off in unexpected directions. And there is no question that Kubrick always gave his actors the space to head in whatever direction they felt best.

The process, as indicated by Pollack?s experience, could be both testing and exhausting. Shelley Duvall, who seemed to find the process particularly traumatic, confirms that during the filming of The Shining there would be between 30 and 50 videotaped rehearsals of each scene before it was shot on film.

Tom Cruise was another who found the limitless experimentation gruelling. Nicole Kidman told Rolling Stone magazine in 1999 that, while Kubrick often told her to ad-lib her scenes, he would work with Cruise on dozens of takes before reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Cruise, in frustration, finally asked "What are you looking for, Stanley?" Kubrick replied simply, "I want the magic".

It?s comments like these that betray the origins of Kubrick?s special attitude towards actors. In every set-up, in every shot, he awaited the never-predictable arrival of that special moment.

**************************************************************
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#3 Dan Goulder

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 01:55 PM

Why can't I just shoot a scene once, turn the camera 90 degrees for a different backround, shoot another scene once, and turn the camera another 90 degrees for a third backround, and thus shoot three scenes in one take each?

What's stopping you?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 02:42 PM

What's stopping you?


The need to make a decent movie?

There are dozens of little things that have to happen all at once for a take to be perfect, and sometimes it happens but often it doesn't. A plane flies overhead and ruins the audio, one of the actors flubs a line or doesn't deliver the right performance (and this gets compounded as the scene has more actors with lines), the focus puller misses at a key moment, the mic doesn't get over to position at the right moment, or maybe accidentally casts a shadow over the scene as it moves, the dolly hits someone's foot as it moves during the take (even the dolly grip who is pushing it), a piece of equipment breaks down (light goes out, film jams, battery dies, etc.) The scene in "Living in Oblivion" is not too exaggerated actually.

But, hey, sometimes you get lucky.

As for shooting out angles rather than scenes in a room, it takes a lot of rehearsal for everyone to memorize multiple scenes and blockings for that to work, and sometimes it's not efficient for lighting, which is usually the most time-consuming aspect of production. Continuity issues get compounded when you don't finish out the coverage of a scene before moving on to the next scene.

If you were talking about shooting each scene as one shot from one angle and in only one take, that's partially a stylistic question, plus the matter of getting everything to go right as I mentioned. Coverage does allow you the luxury of editing together the good moments from different takes rather than having to get takes that are entirely perfect from top to bottom.

As far as some directors needing a lot of takes and some needing fewer, whatever works for them. Kubrick, George Stevens, David Fincher, William Wyler liked a lot and Ford, Kurosawa hardly any. Richard Thorpe was known in Hollywood as a one-take director and James Mason once said that it showed.

And it's hard not to think of the scenes in "Ed Wood" where Wood wants to move on after the first take no matter what went wrong in it.

I think most of us start out the day thinking of doing as few takes as necessary and moving on, but you almost always end up thinking that the take could have been better once you see it, for either technical reasons or acting reasons.
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#5 Arni Heimir

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 04:18 PM

That's a good question. I think it ultimately depends on the actors and the director. Some directors believe many takes looses the essence of the scene. In other words, the performance becomes self concious and flat. Anthony Hopkins believe it is impossible to get a good take with him after take three.

Ridley Scott rarely does more the two or three takes.
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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 25 June 2006 - 06:00 PM

If you're shooting on film with minimal amounts of stock you move on after two takes no matter what :)

There's a lot to be said for on set rehersal before actually pulling film through the camera and wasting it on obvious problems that could have been avoided via rehersal. But *blank* happens no matter how hard you try.

R,
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#7 shootist

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 01:45 PM

Had a client ask, with all seriousness, why don't we just shoot the good takes?
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#8 Michael Collier

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 03:46 PM

Had a client ask, with all seriousness, why don't we just shoot the good takes?


well......why don't you? Client is always right, right??

My opinion on multiple takes, from the few times I have directed, I sort of side with hopkins, after 3 or 4 it seems as though the takes start to resemble previous ones. Its like saying 'railroad' over and over. But I still have shot upwards of 8 takes for one scene, just because like mullen said, you didnt feel it or a techical error ruined the take. It is lame to do lots of takes, but much MUCH lamer if you get to post and find that you are working around not having any good takes. On the 8th take, maybe thats the one where you get the 15 frame reaction you needed.

I say shoot until you get that warm fuzzy feeling that you got one or two good takes. make sure the focus puller and camera op agree. (they see little errors in operation you may not see on playback)
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