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

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: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.