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The Single Take Process of Children of Men:
Owen’s recently been a part of a couple of films involving special technical processes, and the actor says he’s always aware of what’s going on behind the camera while he’s performing. “It’s one of the elements of making movies that I actually really enjoy. I love the collaboration of doing shots like those in Children of Men because there’s something about filmmaking that, you know, if it was just about putting great directors, great scripts, and great actors together and you’re guaranteed a great film, that’s one thing, but that isn’t the case. There aren’t any rules. There’s something sort of elusive that’s out of any individual’s control that makes a film work or not work, and when you’re doing one of those hugely ambitious long sequences of one shot, it’s a genuine collaboration. It’s everybody pulling together to try and make something happen. The responsibility is a collective one.
The strongest memory from the movie was how much, how closely I had to work with the [camera] operator on those sequences. We would rehearse for a very, very long time and it was very painstaking and specific. But then when we come to shoot it, it has to feel like we’re catching it on the run. You’ve got to feel like you’re in the thick of it and it’s all about pacing. If you hold a beat a bit too long, it will suddenly feel a bit manipulative. Like, ‘He’s held there so we see the tank just over his right shoulder.’ We work very, very specifically about what we want to see and what we want to catch. Then when we go for it, we’ve got to shape that up and keep an energy that is much looser than that.
They’re very adrenalized, those sequences, because there’s huge resets. It’s like some of those big ones are four, five-hour resets to try and go again for a take like that. So everybody is very adrenalized, gearing up to go in for one of those takes, and there’s something just a bit magical. I think that technically some of this film is pretty staggering. The operator…most of the film is hand-held and the operator did a really incredible job, I think.”