How Below-the-Line Workers Brought a Crucial ‘Girls’ Scene to Surreal Life

Anatomy of a Scene Girls HBO
Courtesy of HBO

Artisans break down the anatomy of a crucial scene of season five of “Girls.”

“Girls” Season 5, Episode 6, “The Panic in Central Park” (HBO)

Inspired by Jerry Schatzberg’s 1971 heroin-junkie drama “The Panic in Needle Park,” Lena Dunham penned a script that helmer Richard Shepard brings to life in a surreal way that precisely conveys the angst and confusion of twentysomething New Yorkers. With her new marriage on the verge of collapse, Marnie (Allison Williams) runs into ex-boyfriend Charlie (Christopher Abbott). They embark on a romantic adventure that, per Shepard, “captures the gritty and the lush, the rich of Fifth Avenue to the grime of Brooklyn.” Shepard highlights five crew members who created this “mini-movie.”

Suk Yi Mar, location manager
“Locations are such a central part of storytelling and this episode was such a New York story. Suk Yi, who has been with ‘Girls’ since the beginning, always brings the best ideas to the table. I wanted to shoot the whole episode hand-held and give it a real ’70s feeling. Central Park itself turned into a really difficult thing because we couldn’t film there and we couldn’t film in the water, which would have been dangerous from a health standpoint, so we ended up going to Staten Island. The amount of work that Suk Yi did in making that park feel like Central Park was just incredible.”

Tim Ives, director of photography
“Tim was able to light that episode in such a beautiful way. I kept saying, ‘I want to capture that feeling of a first date like you own the city you’re in, you could do anything, you could rob a bank. I want that energy.’ The way Tim lit it, there was a little bit of magic realism to it and I think that gave the audience this feeling that anything could happen.”

“You can’t even begin to imagine how many things in ‘Girls’ are actually sets and not real places.”
richard shepard

Matt Munn, production designer
“Matt is so talented and you can’t even begin to imagine how many things in ‘Girls’ are actually sets and not real places. We mix real locations and sets, and he just does a really special job of it. We had to re-create the place where Charlie was living — this sort of warehouse — and it’s so hard to make something ugly look beautiful. Grimy-beautiful is harder than you think. Matt is a very smart, diligent, cool guy.”

Nat Sanders, editor
“Nat had found the heart and soul of the episode from the very first moment I walked into editing. We were sort of in sync in terms of the finetuning we did. We were really able to focus on performance instead of other things — the initial cut was just so good. The episode that aired is basically my director’s cut. There’s one spot that’s different. It takes a very special editor to figure out the exact tone that the episode is.”

T. Sean Ferguson, assistant director
“Sean is a classic New York first A.D. He’s big, he’s gruff, he’s tough. He’s absolutely lovable. He knows every cop and every fireman. There’s nowhere he’s afraid to shoot. I’ve shot with him in Times Square. I’ve shot with him in Grand Central Station. He’s just like, ‘I don’t care about the crowds, we’re just gonna make it happen.’ I love shooting in New York, and having an A.D. like Sean makes it even more fun because he’s fearless. He’s like, ‘Let’s just do this, baby.’ ”

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  1. Not Below the Line says:

    Not below the line. You wanna hear from below the line people working on this episode? Ask the Set PAs who had to sort the background in the bar scene or the Wardrobe assistant who had to carry Allison’s shoes so that she could wear them in between takes instead of being barefoot on the sidewalk. Ask the locations ASSISTANTS who were there on the day and made sure everything ran smoothly.

  2. Below the line says:

    At least 3 of those positions are not below the line positions and one can be depending upon Union/Guild affiliation.

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