With each passing episode, “True Detective” surpasses the levels of quality expected on television. The HBO anthology series debuted its most impressive shot yet in episode 4, “Who Goes There,” when director Cary Fukunaga helmed a six-minute long take that followed Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) into a heist, through shootouts and eventually into Hart’s (Woody Harrelson) car.
The long take is something that Fukunaga is familiar with. The director/cinematographer employed the technique in two of his films, “Jane Eyre” and “Sin Nombre,” but the striking piece of camera work is rarely seen on the small screen. He tells MTV News he knew from the get-go that he wanted to have a long shot in “True Detective” (he directed all eight episodes), and decided upon reading Nic Pizzolatto‘s script for episode 4 that the heist was the right moment to execute it.
“The best ones, you don’t even realize that they’re oners [long takes],” Fukunaga tells MTV. “They’re the most first-person experience you can get in a film.”
To film the sequence, Fukunaga shot in an actual housing complex. He plotted out “the most interesting path, but also the most logical path,” which eventually took Cohle and Ginger over a chain-link fence. Having the camera pass over the fence along with them was one of the trickiest shots to film.
“At one point, we were going to build a ramp, and the operator was going to walk up it,” Fukunaga says. “But that wasn’t very safe.” Having a Steadicam operator ride a weighted crane over the fence and back down to ground level again was how the final version was filmed.
Fukunaga shot seven versions of the scene. The version of the take seen in “True Detective” was truly shot all in one attempt.
“We had ADs [assistant directors] all over the neighborhood because we had to release extras, crowd running background, police cars, stunt drivers. There were actual gun shots and stones being thrown through windows. There were a lot of things to put together,” Fukunaga tells MTV.
He continues, “Even the action, the stunt sequences were complicated. We’re working on a television schedule. It isn’t like a film where you can spend a lot of time working the stunts out with the actors. We only had a day and a half to get Matthew and everyone else on the same page.”
“True Detective” airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. ET/PT.