Before I even started working on True Detective, I made a point of telling Nic Pizzolatto, the creator, that one of my priorities as director was to defend craft despite the constraints on my time and budget. In every episode I wanted to at least try to find specific moments in which you could treat the visual side of the medium with the same importance as we were treating the dialogue.
The section in episode four where Cohle goes into the projects in 1995 is one of the first times in the story that we had 10 minutes of unbroken action on screen. I don't mean action in terms of an action movie, but action in terms of present-tense storytelling; we're not flipping back to 2012 and the other strand of the narrative, we're not going anywhere else, we're not constructing anything other than what's happening with Hart and Cohle at that particular time.
I had wanted to do something along these lines for a while. I had hoped that somewhere in the show there would be a tracking shot, a "oner". I also obviously wanted the audience to feel the tension of being with Cohle in that place, of being in danger. One of the most difficult things about the 1995 storyline in terms of danger is that we see Hart and Cohle in 2012 so we know that neither of them die. The question was: how do you create a feeling of dread and suspense? I needed to think it through.
Of course, one of the things you can do is stick with them through every single moment of potential danger. The idea of potential danger is always more scintillating than the punch or the missed bullet, and the idea of sticking with Cohle through that whole section, as things start to fall apart, was particularly exciting. Perhaps most exciting was that it could be done through soundwork; not being able to clearly see what was going on outside but being able to hear it, and hearing the people outside beginning to build up. It became clear quite suddenly that we could do it in a oner. We could create this gauntlet that Cohle had to run in order to survive and it would be awesome. I just didn't know it was going to last that long – it turned out to be an eight-minute sequence when we were walking through it. It took a lot of planning; there was a lot of talking with my grips, the gaffer, the cinematographer, the operators, just to lay down the things I wanted to do. I wanted to see a helicopter. I wanted to go through houses, I wanted to go over fences, and I wanted it to be unbroken. To achieve that, we required the involvement of every single department, like a live theatre show. We had make-up artists hiding in houses so they could dash out and put make-up on [Cohle's hostage] Ginger's head. We panned away for a second to do that – when Cohle calls Marty. We also had ADs peppered around the neighbourhood with extras who had specific things to yell and specific places to run. We had stunt guys coordinating with stunt drivers to pull up at the right time, special-effects guys outside throwing foam bricks and firing live rounds. And then obviously we had to have Woody in the right place and at the right time so that he could pull up just as Cohle and Ginger came to him.
If the whole thing wasn't working I knew I had to abort it really quickly, and so we only got through seven takes. The first three takes were aborted and that was disheartening but finally, on the fourth, we went all the way through and pretty much almost everything landed. The euphoria from the hundreds of people who were around the blocks was pretty amazing. But it was exhausting, at least for everyone but Woody. He was just stuck in his car most of the night, waiting to pull up and screech.
Crash thanks you for your time.
So is Cary an ONTD bf yet?