‘The Haunting of Hill House’ Showrunner Mike Flanagan Shares Series Secrets
Since The Haunting of Hill House was released on Netflix October 12, the show’s rabid fan base hasn’t stopped talking about Episode 6, “Two Storms.” Of course, it has everything to do with the jaw-dropping tracking shots that seamlessly transport viewers from Hill House to Shirley’s (Elizabeth Reaser) funeral home with minimal cuts.
Since the show’s release, Netflix did appease some fans’ curiosity by sharing a featurette for the episode and how it was made, but showrunner Mike Flanagan took to Twitter recently to reveal even more about pivotal moment in the show.
In a series of over 20 tweets, Flanagan details the process of what went into the making of “Two Storms,” as well as some details about Hill House that wouldn’t have been revealed otherwise.
Initially, Flanagan shares that part of the show’s pitch to Netflix was the promise of an episode like “Two Storms,” that looks as if there’s one shot, and that included writing it into the scripts. “Most of the camera choreography was actually included in the script itself,” he tweeted, “which meant that the draft for ep 6 was a really tough read.”
For those wondering how Hugh Crain (Timothy Hutton) walked from Shirley’ funeral home into Hill House, the writer explains that the sets were designed with Episode 6 in mind. “They were built on adjacent stages, and had to accommodate a hallway that would physically connect them,” he spilled.
He also shared that special hiding places for crew and equipment had to be created along with “specific lighting rigs, and even a handmade elevator that would lower into place from the ceiling to bring a cameraman to the first floor for shot 4.”
Though he hoped to shoot Episode 6 last, Flanagan detailed that, due to the budgets and scheduling, shooting happened much sooner than anticipated. He wrote that daily rehearsals for the episode began March 6th, 2018, using “our second team stand-ins,” who performed the entire episode as the actors so they could plan the camera, lighting, and acting choreography. “They were HEROES and made the whole thing possible,” he wrote.
The actors arrived on March 26 to begin rehearsals. On their first day, we sat them down and showed them the entire episode, shot on a DSLR, with second team performing. They could see each shot executed successfully, and see the goal they were trying to achieve.
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) November 4, 2018
Twenty days later, the actors showed up for rehearsals and were shown a cut of the episode with the stand-ins to help them prepare. Flanagan also tweeted that the episode was cut into five long takes, with three taking place at the funeral home and two in Hill House.
According to the EP, a mere month later, shooting began. “We shot in episode order, so the first shot was 14 pages in Shirley’s funeral home. We did tech rehearsals in the morning, and finally just started shooting, in case we got lucky. We only had to get it right once,” he detailed.
The scene entailed the swapping of the older Crains for the younger Crains, which included Nell’s (Victoria Pedretti) corpse. “We also had to swap a dummy of Victoria Pedretti from the casket, and help young Violet McGraw climb inside and be still,” Flanagan wrote about the intense first take.
Take three was the most daunting, though, as Flanagan shared the 18-page scene collided with technical difficulties — the camera’s dolly wasn’t working to full capacity. After learning that it might break, Flanagan gave it one final try. “We didn’t tell the cast, I didn’t want it to get in their heads. We came back from lunch, I said ‘I’ve got a good feeling about this one’ and we held our breath. Believe it or not we got it. We got the take. They took the dolly, turned the wheel and the chain broke,” he explained.
We didn’t tell the cast, I didn’t want it to get in their heads. We came back from lunch, I said “I’ve got a good feeling about this one” and we held our breath. Believe it or not we got it. We got the take. They took the dolly, turned the wheel and the chain broke. Length: 17:19
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) November 4, 2018
Talk about luck! The scene clocked in at 17 minutes and 19 seconds — the longest of all five shots. The fourth take was one of the most difficult for technical reasons Flanagan revealed saying that they got through most of the scene until the camera had to take the elevator. “Time and again we’d make it all the way to the elevator and mess up,” he wrote.
But it all worked out in the end, as he gushed, “It was the hardest thing most of us have ever done, and the result of the combined efforts of hundreds of people. Mad respect for the cast & crew.”
A breakdown of the numbers shows that the first take (14:19), second take (7:25), third take (17:19), fourth take (6:13) and fifth take (5:31) add up to roughly 51 minutes of pure TV magic.
In one of his final remarks, Flanagan revealed that he and wife Kate Siegel, who plays Theodora Crain, discovered they were expecting their second child together during the filming. To see Flanagan’s full list of reveals click here.
And if you have yet to binge Netflix’s latest hit then maybe this is enough to convince you!
The Haunting of Hill House, Streaming now, Netflix