Art of the Long Take: Episode 2, The Car Chase

Quarry — Episode 2, “Figure Four”

Following each episode of Quarry director Greg Yaitanes breaks down elements of a key scene.

My goal with doing these posts is to create a mini film school. Fourteen-year-old me was fascinated by how things were done in movies and I was thirsty for more. The car chase in “Figure Four” was inspired by a shot in Place Beyond The Pines where we were inside Bradley Cooper’s police car during the motorcycle chase. Quarry’s grounded shooting style and realistic approach to action sequences meant this approach of filming from inside a car would work well. Traditionally, car chases use frenetic cutting and frenetic camera work to dress them up. Staying away from that meant highlighting a concept we went into production with: everything has to be “earned,” by both the characters and the audience. It’s not just being handed to them. The audience has to work for it a little bit, just as the character is trying to work for it. For example in the pilot, Mac is disposing of the body in the river and it gets stuck in the trees. That moment was designed to set our “earned” tone. Quarry would be a show where real things happen and no one is a traditional action hero. For the car chase I wanted the audience to capture what it’s like for a normal guy to be in a medium speed car chase.

The “One-er” car chase is deceptively simple to watch but was incredibly complex to execute. We have videos of how we shot it from different vantage points. The sequence involved what’s called a “pod car,” which means that our Special Effects team built a car with a steering wheel and a driving cage on top of the car. Logan Marshall-Green (Mac) is actually not physically driving or maneuvering the car. It’s being driven by a stunt man on the roof of the car while Logan acts it.

In the case of this sequence, the shot is broken up into two shots, then “stitched” together by our Visual Effects team. The car chase is one continuous shot from when Mac gets in the car and drives to when the other semi-truck comes out to block the way. Across the grill of the semi-truck is where the stitch is made. The reason why is because the stunt of the roof getting ripped off (while being driven by a stunt driver) was too dangerous and required to much precision to try to piggyback it on to a single shot. For safety considerations and the complexity of the stunt, we chose to break that shot into two pieces and then reconnect them. So the scene is two complex pieces stitched together with movie magic as we wipe the grill. It’s one of the few times that we break up the takes, but we did it for safety.

If anyone reading this is curious about the process of making a TV series, Cinemax and I designed the commentary tracks of Banshee Seasons 1–3 to be archives of the process from all departments.

Watch the entire season of Quarry with your Cinemax subscription on MAX GO.

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