The “succession” part 3: Filming the boat scene in 1 shot

Director Mark Mylod talks about turning a sadistic camera on the Roy brothers as they struggle with complex emotions on a ship in New York harbor.

It feels weird to spoiler alert something that “Succession” has been building up and hinting at since the pilot. But spoilers abound!

Death comes for us all, even Logan Roy (Brian Cox). The inevitability of that truth, like the tears, denial, guilt and/or panic, is what makes Episode 3, “Connor’s Wedding,” so moving. The rhythm of the editing and, as director Mark Mylod put it, the “sadism” of the camera reinforces this reality, preventing the Roys from begging, knocking, or walking away from the one force that even Logan couldn’t handle: time. .

Mylod and cinematographer Patrick Capone hammer home the helplessness of this moment and the illogical weight of grief by delivering the fullest version of the visual and dramatic approach that made “Succession” so remarkable. They, the veteran camera operators Gregor Tavenner and Ethan Borsuk, as well as the actors of the shows tested with a stress test that the series chooses the freshest and longest possible recording mode. The “succession” footage is usually limited to about 10 minutes, as the show uses film that needs to be reloaded when the roll wears out. But for the sequence in which the brothers learn that Logan died on the way to Sweden (the family kept the business in the family until the very end), Mylod and the actors wanted to cover about 30 pages of material at a time.

“I felt like there was a need for a really unbroken, unwavering take,” Mylod told IndieWire. “Usually if there’s a (dramatic) moment, we’re going to fully explore it and even go beyond it, so when we have to artificially say, ‘Okay, we’re going to cut it because we’re out of camera,'” he was just a little less satisfied. even though the work done by the actors and everyone was fantastic. Patrick Capone, my brilliant friend and DP, was the key. The camera crew basically devised a way for the two camera operators to hide a bunch of film magazines all around the set. Perhaps even a third camera body should be added at some point. And (now we went) for it (and) I’m so glad we did. I am very proud of this step.”

Roy's siblings embrace each other in Season 4 Episode 3 "Succession"


Macall B. Polay / HBO

The show’s two cameras dance around the actors, showing how small Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Roman (Kieran Culkin) are, moving through the scene with them and reacting like an invisible person in the room who turns around. to us, and whispering oh so softly, “What the hell?” A third camera was added to this massive 30-minute shoot, so when one camera quickly reloaded, at least one operator was always following the brothers wherever they went and however they navigated the ship’s multiple decks to find a less exposed spot. to process the shock of losing their father.

But one of the great joys of “succession” has always been that the trappings of wealth don’t necessarily mean any dignity to Roy. Setting Connor’s (Alan Ruck) wedding on a yacht in New York Harbor under a bright and beautiful blue sky played a key role in how Mylod and Capone use composition to create a sense of sudden, isolated grief. “It was a nice visual contradiction for me to have the stern of the ship facing New York Harbor,” Mylod said.

“On the one hand, you have the freedom of the water and the harbor and the great adventure of New York City beyond. At the same time, these characters are trapped in this little glass cage, this VIP room, trapped in their grief and frustration at not being able to get the knowledge or comfort they seek. For me, it was the perfect visual juxtaposition. And so when Kendall finally comes on board, it’s the first time you can breathe properly,” Mylod said.

Succession Season 4 Episode 3 Jeremy Strong Sarah Snook


Courtesy of Macall B. Polay/HBO

But one of the brilliant things about the episode is that the visuals don’t call attention to themselves as technical feats. In fact, the show deliberately intersperses the bravura camera moves with quick cuts so that nothing is “Oner” with a capital O, and so the camera perspective never distracts from the emotion of the series.

“One of the things I’m most proud of in developing this way of filming is the dance that has developed over the years between the camera operators and the actors,” Mylod said. “We tried to develop this idea of ​​the camera, and thus the viewer and sometimes the characters themselves, barely following the action. The whole way we try to manifest (this approach) is that we rarely rehearse and we never rehearse on camera. We throw actors and cinematographers into a space together, sometimes with very little direction. They’ve just learned to anticipate each other — I don’t know of any other show that does that quite the same way — and I’m really proud of that.”

The excitement of the actor and the camera jostling for perspective and control is beautifully, heartbreakingly counterbalanced by Logan’s death scene by cutting back to the scene aboard the plane. The episode uses each new shot of Tom (Matthew MacFadyen) on the plane as a kind of punctuation that only feeds the despair and denial on the ship.

Roman, Shiv and Kendall Roy in a private room on a yacht in Season 4 Episode 3 "Succession"


Macall B. Polay / HBO

“Initially, the biggest dilemma for me was the airplane side (of Logan’s death sequence). Especially in that 30-page stretch, most of the stuff should have been played out, obviously hearing Tom on the phone, and that was Matthew live (on the call) every time. But it wouldn’t necessarily hit the plane much, if at all, at that stage. But we thought we’d shoot it anyway, and Matthew and the rest of the cast were so damn convincing. It was very difficult to find the balance between the ship and the aircraft at this point in the story,” said Mylod. “We ended up getting a lot more into Matthew’s side than we originally planned because he was so good.”

Another planned and surprising moment in the episode was the final shot: Kendall alone on the tarmac after her father’s body was taken off the plane. It was always the last moment of the script, but Mylod didn’t cut it. “We let the moment play out. And actually, you know, in some cases, Jeremy’s character was completely broken emotionally. One, one of my favorites, was a continuation of what we actually used. The moon happened to rise very nicely behind him.

In this unused shot, Mylod let the camera roll past Kendall getting into her car, the ambulance driving away, the police cars leaving and the press trudging over the fence. Mylod lasted a long time “lonely and flat sand” composition only the airplane sits on the runway. “You know, there was that nice emptying on the stage.” The game is over and all players exit. It was very beautiful and very emotional for me,” Mylod said. “It would have been beautiful and Nicholas Britell would have scored from hell. But the right moment was (in the episode). This zenith, all the complications and contradictions are in Kendall’s mind, seeing her father’s dead body there.

Nothing expresses the visual sensibility of “Succession” more than looking for landscapes that betray the ambitions of the characters, make them seem small, show them at the peak of their emotions seeping through, and then cut them away. Like Logan himself, the show’s cameras have always put business before pleasure.

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