Over in a flash: Epic movies that took no time to shoot
Some films take an age to make – just look at Apocalypse Now, which literally only just wrapped up last week after 43 years of filming. (It didn’t really, although it did take three years, which is a long old stretch in movie years.) On the other side of the coin, some movies only take months or even just weeks to make. We’re focusing on the latter camp today by looking at cinema’s most epic movies that were shot in barely any time at all.
Moonlight was shot over a period of 25 days in South Florida, with some actors even filming all their scenes in just three days. The short shooting schedule clearly didn’t affect the quality of the filmmaking either, as it went on to win the Oscar for Best Film in 2017.
According to Variety, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman was shot in just 23 days (excluding all the rehearsals and editing time). Since the movie was carefully rehearsed and shot in sequence, the editing process only took two weeks. Many other sources say that the movie was filmed within two months, which is still pretty impressive for such a beautifully made film.
Casablanca – widely considered to be one of the greatest films ever made – was completed in about two months. And for a film that has been screened millions of times around the world since it was made, it was clearly two months well spent.
Roger Corman was famous for being able to “turn up and churn them out,” with Little Shop of Horrors taking only three days to make. (It was also the first time an audience had a proper look at a young actor called Jack Nicholson.) Corman’s film Bucket of Blood only took five days and his movie with Boris Karloff – The Terror – took only three days. It’s no wonder he earned the aforementioned reputation.
Victoria is the shortest on the list, as it was shot in real time in 138 minutes with no cuts or edits. Cameraman Sturla Brandth Grøvlen rightfully won a handful of awards for his work on the film and as he got it on the third take, Victoria technically only took around four hours to shoot.
Alexander Sokurov’s ode to the history of Russia was also shot in real time, managing to cram in 300 years of Russian history into around 90 minutes of footage. The film was shot in 33 rooms of a museum using over 2,000 actors, with the team nailing it on the fourth take (which was lucky considering both batteries and the sunlight started to run out by the time they hit the fourth round).
The Blair Witch Project
The film that began the trend for found footage horror films only took eight days to film. The actors were set loose in the woods and told to find various crates containing acting instructions. To build the tension, the directors gradually lowered the amount of food they supplied at each crate.
This style of shooting meant there was always a chance to capture solid and realistic dramatics on screen, thus reducing film time. The filming wrapped up so quickly, it is rumored that the directors were able to return one of the cameras for a refund as it was still under warranty.
John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece was shot in just 20 days and it’s these tight shooting restrictions that helped make the film so iconic. For example, Carpenter told his costume designers to just go and get the cheapest mask possible (a $2 William Shatner mask) that was then sprayed with white paint, thus making one of the most iconic images in horror movie history.