The newest episode of “You’re the Worst” pulls off its most ambitious experiment yet: The entire episode is made up of one-shot long takes, the longest one lasting 11 minutes.
The camera moves from room to room at a wedding reception, catching up with Jimmy (Chris Geere), Gretchen (Aya Cash), Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges) as all their romantic relationship drama came to a head. And there was no piecing together shorter scenes to make it look seamless here.
“There was no editing magic,” Wendey Stanzler, who directed the episode, told TheWrap. “All the takes were complete takes.”
This exclusive clip (above) shot by showrunner Stephen Falk on his cellphone — contrasted with the final shots from the episode — can attest to the logistics of that.
“I was like, alright, ‘one-ers,’ fine, but when it finally came time to prepping the block, it all of a sudden dawned on me exactly what that meant,” Stanzler said. “After I freaked out a little bit it was like, ‘this is greatest challenge of my life.'”
Stanzler credited director of photography Mike Berlucchi and steadicam operator Thom Valko with being instrumental in pulling off the truly impressive feat, and revealed that the entire episode was rehearsed and shot over three days. Day 1 was a table read, unusual for the show, and getting everyone used to the location, and shooting began on the second day, with rehearsals taking up the entire morning.
They did no more than six to eight takes of each long scene.
“Stephen and I recorded a message to all the actors, saying, ‘for you and everyone you’re working with, this is the ultimate … There’s no going again. If you mess up, keep going, but really, be prepared,'” Stanzler shared.
Falk revealed it’s just his nature to say yes to risky, experimental takes on a show that’s becoming increasingly unpredictable.
“My temperament in general as it’s played out on this show, when faced with a difficult but interesting challenge, I have to take it, usually,” Falk said. “I compare it to whenever I’m hiking and I come to a trailhead, one way is 1 mile, the other is 4.5 miles, I have to do the harder one. I don’t know why, my brain is wired that way. It’s the same way when the idea of Gretchen having depression came up in Season 2. I had to do it, even though it would be very difficult.”
The long takes also became a lesson in letting go for the showrunner who’s used to having more control.
“When you’re editing, I’m crafting performances in the editing room, to a major degree,” Falk said of his normal post-production process. “I’m splitting takes, I’m doing a lot of split screens, I’m replacing words in the actors’ mouths. The show really exists in my mind very specifically. So I know exactly how I want the performances to come off. Often actors surprise me, directors surprise me and that’s great, then I run with that, but I’m changing things so often.
“So dealing with one-ers was really an exercise in letting go of things, it’s very very difficult,” he continued. “When you’re constantly shooting, when you’re doing nine-minute takes, you can’t change anything. I had to be happy with the takes we got, the blocking, I had to live with it … I was terrified but creatively excited. That I find results in, typically, some of our best episodes.”
“You’re the Worst” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FXX.