HUGO: Behind the Scenes

By Filip Terlecki

If you’re a fan of legendary film director Martin Scorsese (Gangs of New York, Casino, Shutter Island) you know that he has a particular affinity for long tracking shots.

In fact, they’re sort of a Scorsese trademark.

As writer Alan Bacchus explains in the Daily Film Dose, “in a director’s cinematic bag of tricks the long tracking shot is the boldest way of making a statement. It’s the flashiest and most attention-grabbing egotistical way of flexing one’s muscle… (but) the best ones, serve to reflect and further the story in a way that can’t be reflected with traditional editing.”

Scorsese’s most famous tracking shot to date is the 3 minute shot in Goodfellas in which actors Ray Liotta and Lorraine Bracco walk through the Copacabana nightclub.  You can see it here.

3 minutes is an eternity when you consider that the average length of a shot in a film like The Bourne Supremacy was 2.4 seconds.

For his latest Oscar nominated film Hugo Martin Scorsese utilized the long tracking shot again.

Executed by Steadicam operator Larry McConkey (who mounted a small GoPro camera to the actual camera) this is really a fascinating look at the precision, skill, and teamwork required to make such a shot happen; people seamlessly move in and out of the shot, entire studio walls are retracted and at the end of it all you can hear Larry McConkey panting from exhaustion.

It’s interesting to consider that behind the movies we all love to watch  (the small independent ones and the mega blockbusters) is an army of skilled and creative professionals that turn ideas into reality.

If you’re an aficionado of classic cinema than you know that Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini was a master of  long shots.

Here’s Martin Scorsese…

By the way – have you seen Hugo? What did you think?

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