Anatomy of a Scene: The Trip to the Tombs

The Night Of : Episode 2, Scenes 70–92

Following each episode of The Night Of co-writer/director Steven Zaillian breaks down elements of a key scene.

Steven Zaillian: This is the first of about 20 scenes that make up this sequence. The idea of it was to juxtapose the main characters involved in Naz’s case heading home — in cars, on the subway, on the street — as he’s taken downtown to Central Booking in an NYPD van, to contrast their mundane journeys with his more dramatic one that will change his life.

The various scenes were shot over several nights by Director of Photography Igor Martinovic, A-Camera Ben Semanoff, B-Camera Predrag Dubravcic, and 2nd Unit Director Ellen Kuras. A group effort.

With something like this, there are a lot of options in terms of the order of the scenes and how they fit and transition from one to another. Editor Nick Houy and I spent a great deal of time working and reworking it in the editing room.

I had felt from the beginning that it should be accompanied by a blending of score and the music Det. Box would be listening to on his car radio. I thought about how the themes and songs were combined in the West Side Story sequence on the night of the rumble.

This proved difficult, and it wasn’t until much later I realized the whole thing could be “scored” with just source music. I found doing it this way more interesting, and we ended up interweaving several source music tracks and styles — rap, opera, Muzak, Italian pop — transitioning to sound-effects alone when the NYPD van arrives at the Tombs.

This arrival was shot at the actual Tombs. I’d wanted rain for it, and we were prepared to make it, but on the night we shot, it happened to rain for real — to rain hard. Though it’s difficult to shoot in heavy rain, it added to the feel of what I’d hoped for the scene.

From creators Steven Zaillian and Richard Price, ‘The Night Of’ is an eight-part limited series that delves into the intricate story of a fictitious murder case in New York City.

New episodes of The Night Of air Sundays at 9 PM on HBO and are available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.