Features and Columns · Movies

David Lowery’s Guide to Interesting Long Takes

Sustained shots are best when they’re done for a specific reason. And yes, that includes confronting the inescapable march of time.
A Ghost Story David Lowery Long Take
A24
By  · Published on October 22nd, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the pros and cons of long takes according to filmmaker David Lowery.


What is the difference between an exciting long take and simply an engaging one? Not all protracted, unbroken shots are created equal in the adrenaline department, but that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that they’re boring. The pulse-pounding, feature-length oner in  1917 is up to something entirely different than the scene in A Ghost Story where Rooney Mara eats an entire pie.

Long takes can be technical feats, jam-packed with impressive choreography (think: the James Bond cold open of the Day of the Dead sequence in Spectre). But they can also force us to confront one of the key impositions in the cinematic medium. And forcing audiences to confront and sit with the weighty, real-time unraveling of time is a big directorial choice.

A choice that A Ghost Story and The Green Knight director David Lowery doesn’t make lightly.

The video essay below includes insight into the filmmaker‘s creative attraction to long takes as well as his musings on what separates interesting sustained shots from annoying tedium. The secret? Having a good, story-related reason for avoiding a cut.

Intention matters. And if you’re going to put the agonizing, meditative passage of time front and center, you better have a solid reason for doing so, lest you waste your audience’s, well, time.

Watch “Long-Takes: Boring or Exciting? (feat. David Lowery)”:


Who made this?

CinemaTyler is the man behind this video essay on David Lowery’s take on, uh, long takes. The Brooklyn-based creator has been providing some of the most in-depth analyses of auteur-driven cinema on YouTube for some time now. You can check out their YouTube channel here. CinemaTyler’s scholarship on Stanley Kubrick, particularly 2001: A Space Odyssey, is noteworthy, and absolutely worth seeking out.

Today’s video essay is a taste of what the website H8urs has to offer. In addition to curating video essays, they also go out of their way to track down cinema studies scholars and filmmakers to create their own content, like the Lowery interview above.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).