There was a moment in watching the first episode of the third season of True Detective when I knew we were in good hands. The lead actor is looking into a closet and the camera moves left to right. He stands up a little too tall and we lose his eyes in the top of the door frame. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking, " Boom down, boom down," and then as if by magic, the camera gracefully lowers in a diagonal until the actor's eyes are fully visible. Now it's entirely possible that the operator was frantically reaching back and signalling a vigorous thumbs down, but I don't think so. I think it was a dolly grip putting the camera where it should be to make the shot work (which is our job. Welcome to Dollygrippery).
The first season of True Detective was the ultimate slow burn. As I watched it I was constantly filled with a sense of dread. Camera movement was a huge part of this. The thing was filled with slow pushes and unmotivated wraparounds that heightened the intensity the way good camera movement should. And who can forget that spectacular endless Steadicam shot by my friend (and current camera operator) Chris McGuire. Then came the second season. Bleahh.
That's all I have to say about that.
The third season reintroduces the sense of dread that made the first season so watchable. Everyone is a suspect. You get the feeling that things are happening under the surface. The story moves along slowly, propelled with beautiful unmotivated pushes and lateral moves. The photography and compositions are gorgeous and add to the feeling that something really awful is about to happen. The camera rarely stops and, under the skilled hand of dolly grips Tommy Ruffner and Dustin VonLossberg, brings back that slow burn I've been waiting for since season one.
Time for a refill!