If you're like me, you've gotten completely absorbed in the new FX show, The Bear. It follows a classically trained chef who returns home to Chicago to run his deceased brother's sandwich shop. There, he decides to change the way things are run, making it more like a 5-star restaurant kitchen. Doing this ruffles some feathers, but ultimately, bonds him and his staff. The series was created by Christopher Storer and stars Jeremy Allen White, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ayo Edebiri, Lionel Boyce, Liza Colón-Zayas, and Abby Elliott.
The oner in The Bear
Every episode is frenetically paced and contains an adrenaline rush of excitement and drama. Episode seven is the one that got everyone talking. It's called "Review" and it is shot in a long take, meaning without cuts, all in one continuous shot. So how did this come to be?
It turns out, it was all in the writing.
The episode was written traditionally, but Storer and executive producer Joanna Calo got it in their heads they wanted to do it as a oner, so they sat and rewrote it to fit the bill.
White told Indiewire, “We were able to start at the beginning, which I think helped. They still managed to keep all of the important story points in place for [Episode 7], but they wrote it as a blueprint to allow us to shoot it in one shot. That was very important, obviously, for it to start with the words.”
Those words became the way they rehearsed. They made sure it flowed and then worried about action.
“We read it out loud a couple times, just kind of all sitting, making sure it all sounded correct. Trying to time it out a little bit, just for words, without anything else,” White said. “And then we put it up on its feet with our scripts in hand like you would on stage.”
That sort of floor rehearsal was watched closely by the camera team. It felt like improv, and they were working out the steps and pathways, so the cameras could work around them. Gary Malouf is the camera-op on the show, and he walked through with the actors to get his footwork right and to see the movement in the kitchen. It was a hugely collaborative effort.
White said he thought the end result was cool and added, “But I’ll say from my perspective in film and television, oftentimes, I don’t know how much a single shot actually lends itself to the story. It’s kind of like, We’ve got a lot of money, we’ve got a lot of time, we can do this, it will be really impressive. And it is impressive. But I think in our case, it really lends itself to the story and where the characters are at because the tension is building so quickly we don’t give the audience a break from it. There’s no reprieve—it’s consistent.”
That's what stood out to me the most as well. They didn't do this to be cool, they did it because it felt like you were being steeped in the madness of the show. It made you so excited and so worried about them opening the restaurant on time. There's raw chaos here that comes to the forefront without cutting. We feel part of the spine of the restaurant and invested. It was an amazing use of cinematography to support the story.
Let me know what you think in the comments.