For its penultimate episode, “Succession” assembled pretty much every major cast member – past and present – for the funeral of Logan Roy, and that posed a unique challenge for director Mark Mylod when it came to covering all the actors in a limited window of availability. His solution? Shoot it like a multi-cam comedy with lots of cameras and a long, extended take.
“With those hyper-emotional scenes, there’s just a trust that’s involved,” Mylod said in the behind-the-scenes video for the episode. “The challenge was getting the right combination in the church of the epic and the intimate, and a very real logistical challenge of just getting it all shot. We had a huge page count in the church and a very, very limited availability. But it meant that we had to shoot, even by our standards – and we can shoot quite fast sometimes – but with our normal two-camera way of shooting, there was just no way we could get through this vast page count with so many incredibly important beats unless we did something extreme.”
Mylod then pulled from his early work as a director to come up with a way to cover everyone and everything properly.
“The solution was for me to return to my early directing days. I would do multi-camera sketch shows and even a big live variety show with eight cameras and lots of outside broadcast feeds, and the training for that for me was being able to shoot with a lot of cameras to cover a lot of ground very quickly,” he said.
The filmmaker revealed that from the moment Logan’s casket is brought into the church up through all the eulogies is all one take, which they ran multiple times. And since “Succession” shoots on film, they had to use the “rolling reload” system to get more film into the cameras, which was used in Episode 3 in the long take that followed the Roy siblings finding out their father had collapsed on the plane.
“We devised a four-film camera system so that the cameras wouldn’t be shooting into each other so that one camera could be on whoever was eulogizing, one camera could be on the siblings, one camera could be picking up reactions, and again we did that rolling reload system that I spoke about earlier in Episode 3 so that I could effectively run, as we did with Logan’s death and the siblings finding out, we ran a continuous take multiple times,” he explained. “From the moment the casket is brought into the church right through its procession through all the eulogies, we ran that all as one big chunk. That was an attempt to give the cast as much emotional flow as possible, which in my opinion they always benefit from.”
Mylod previously explained that since the film cameras can only shoot for 10 minutes at a time without reloading, for Episode 3 they hid rolls of film around the set and would hide an additional camera body so that one camera would always be running while the other was being reloaded. The same system was utilized for the series’ penultimate episode to capture eulogies given by Ewan (James Cromwell), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Kendall (Jeremy Strong) and Shiv (Sarah Snook), all in one massive take.
The ”Succession” series finale airs Sunday, May 28 on HBO and will be streaming on Max.