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How Many Takes Does It Take?

video camera

When filming a scene, it's not uncommon for it to take several attempts to get it just right. The filming of each scene is called a "take." While some scenes can be shot in one or two takes, some scenes are more difficult to get just right, and may take up to several hundred takes. In this article, we will take a look at some well-known directors and movies, and why multiple takes are often a necessity.

Why do some scenes take multiple takes?

The reasons for multiple takes vary. Sometimes, actors and actresses have a hard time getting their lines or actions to a point that is satisfactory to the director. Sometimes lighting or special effects are not properly placed or activated. Props may not be properly aligned, and other malfunctions may also force additional takes.

Some directors prefer to film multiple takes, as this tends to loosen up the actor or actress, and may help them perform the scene more naturally. One such director is renowned filmmaker David Fincher, who is well-known for his propensity to film multiple takes. On the set of Zodiac, many scenes took over 70 takes, while on the set of The Social Network, Rooney Mara was forced to redo a scene 99 times. On the set of Fincher's newer release, Gone Girl, each scene averaged approximately 50 takes.

Speaking to the New York Times, Fincher explained: "I hate earnestness in performance...usually by Take 17 the earnestness is gone."

However, while Fincher's methods do result in near-perfect scenes, his films are often known for going over-budget and past the deadline. Conversely, directors such as Clint Eastwood attempt to film each scene in one or two takes, and Eastwood's movies are consistently under-budget and are completed early.

Movies that Took a Lot of Takes

English filmmaker David Yates became well-known for directing the last films of the Harry Potter series. On the set of Order of the Phoenix, Yates required about 30 takes per scene in order to get them just right, and this caused some tension on the set between him and actress Emma Watson.

It's not always a director pushing for perfection. In many instances, the actor or actress may be the problem. For instance, while filming Midnight in Paris, actress Carla Bruni had some difficulty getting a scene down, and director Woody Allen had to utilize 35 takes before she could get it right.

The film Frances Ha is another movie that averaged a high number of takes, 35 per scene. One 28-second scene took 42 takes … that’s over 2 long hours of shooting in a bathroom!

A unique twist on shooting scenes is filming a Vine video. Videos for Vine must be short; six seconds long. It seems like it shouldn't take long to film, but one Vine video took over two hours of filming and editing to get it just right.

Whether it's director preference, malfunctions, acting issues, or other problems, some scenes will have to be reshot multiple times. Multiple takes have been used as long as movies have been made, and the truth is—to make a perfect movie – it is likely that multiple takes will be required for some, if not all, scenes.

It takes as many as it takes!

For even more movies that took a high number of takes, please check out these 10 movies that took forever to film.