sábado, septiembre 24, 2022
InicioTechnologySeverance Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné

Severance Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné

ComingSoon had the opportunity to speak with cinematographer Jessica Leigh Gagne about her work on the Apple TV+ series. Severance. Gagne had an early and significant impact on appearance Severance, especially because her style of working with Stiller is one of open collaboration. They are a strong creative couple and love many of the same films, especially 70s cinema.

Additionally, Gagne was the sole cinematographer for all 9 episodes, acting as the creative liaison to the show’s vibrant aesthetic. Maintaining this aesthetic for 9 episodes in a row – 40-57 minutes each – is an extraordinary feat. The work paid off. Severance was renewed for a second season on April 6, two days before its glorified season finale, and the show currently holds a near-perfect 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Jeff Ames: What brought you to the world of cinema?

Jessica Lee Gagne: Oh, that’s a big question. Well, when I was growing up, I worked and played in my father’s video store and I went to the cinema to see many films, mostly American ones, with my family. It’s been a pretty big part of our lives. Subconsciously, I think I was training to make films. I didn’t know making films was a thing. Nobody in my family was an artist, and there was no production experience. So it took me a while to realize that this is a real career. I decided that I wanted to study cinema when I was 17 when I read a program in college that you can study it.

Cinematography came later when I was at university in Montreal when I was in my 20s and realized that I was very obsessed with cameras and aesthetics and I couldn’t get rid of it.

Was there an operator that really impressed you and influenced your style?

When it dawned on me that I liked cinematography, which was halfway through university—before I got into directing more—Gordon Willis was my biggest love in terms of cinematography. His work, especially [Alan J.] Pakula for me was just the definition of cinema. It really imprinted something in me.

So, in terms of your style specifically, how have you changed in the years leading up to Severance?

When I first started, my mind was focused on doing as much as possible – and doing it! Actually do it and you will get better at it. At first, I was really unconscious about my work because I didn’t get the results I wanted and didn’t know how to use the tools. I immediately started working as an operator. I didn’t do anything else.

So my first film and shorts – I was involved with lot short films were trial and error and really taught how to do things. I always came not knowing how to do something. I acted as if I knew how to do it, as if I had a certain confidence that allowed me to do it. But it took a lot of projects to get to where I am now. I didn’t shoot many music videos or commercials. I definitely didn’t go that route. I wanted to make films. This is what got me into this industry. So I started making short films that got longer. And the fact that I was actually doing it helped speed up my journey into the fantasy world and give me a certain amount of confidence in doing so.

I think a lot of young filmmakers don’t want to do anything unless it’s perfect. I thought, «I just want to make films.» I feel like all my mistakes are there. You can see them all. But those mistakes made me the filmmaker I am today. I appreciate every single thing that I have done.

Did all the time you spent working on the films make it easier for you to work on Severance?

No one has ever asked me about it, but this changes everything. I was never intimidated by the length or size of projects because everything led to the next one. Each individual project brought me the next, and sometimes very strange connections. The fact that I kept growing and growing and pushing myself was a constant fit for me. Escape to Dannemore was the first time I got scared mainly because of the power of the stars, but the size of the set didn’t scare me because I was working in India on a big film with big sets with hundreds of people. Sometimes there were about three hundred people on the set.

I kept having these amazing experiences, and I think it’s because I’ve channeled the desire to work on American films since I was ten years old. I grew up watching American things and I knew I wanted to do such big projects because they were imprinted on me as a child. Now it’s interesting to rethink what I want in terms of authenticity. But that’s what I’m comfortable with, that’s what I grew up watching.

People don’t really see it in me, they see this person coming from the indie world. I’ve worked with a lot of really obscure directors, but I never really connected or felt like I had a strong connection until I worked with Ben. [Stiller]because it takes me where I really wanted to go as a director. This might be too intense a conversation. [laughs], but this is the place where I’m comfortable. I am very comfortable with this kind of storytelling. I just see it.

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What difficulties did you face at Severance?

I would say Covid was the number one issue. We’ve started Severance before Covid I started in October 2019. I just finished This is America. We did the New York part and I immediately started looking for visual effects for Severance. It was also hard, without interruption. The car starts to pick up speed and it was about a month before filming, and then Covid hit and no one knew what was going on. This process, and then returning to work with a team that was afraid – no one knew what was really happening. And then you have to be in an environment where you’re filming and facing the stress of testing every day, wondering, «Oh my gosh, I’m going to test positive, I won’t see anyone these days, I’m being isolated.» The whole Covid lockdown was the hardest part Severance. It affected all We have done.

I read that you based your looks for Severance on Lars Thunbjörk’s The Office. Can you talk about it?

I do a lot of visual research as part of my process. I am a visualizer. I’ve always been like this. When I find the image I want, I immediately understand it. I feel the same way about cameras and lenses. When I put a lens on a camera, I do my own research first. I have a feeling inside and it all lines up. I’m very excited.

I went to this photo exhibition and found Tunbjörk’s book. Up to this point – it was in the fall of 2019, this was before I started working on the show in September – and I immediately wrote to Ben and said, “Oh my God, this is it. I understand it right now.» I didn’t really get it and when it happened it really opened the door for office photography. I also started looking at Lewis Baltz who has a book called Technology Sites which is very interesting. You can see a lot of aesthetics in Severance there. And then Lynn Cohen came to mind, a photographer who I thought was really cool when I was in school at Concordia. She was a brilliant photographer.

A lot of these visuals came about when Ben, Jeremy (production designer) and I teamed up on these weird images. Like, «Oh my gosh, it would be great to have a place with a fountain», I don’t know, whatever, but it was really fun to explore. It was like a new language.

Working on all nine episodes, has it become more difficult to find unique ways to capture these spaces?

Well, at first I didn’t want to do Severance, but one of my conditions was that I had to film all nine episodes. [laughs]. Ben wasn’t sure he would do them all, and then Aoife. [McArdle] came out and they split up – Ben did six, Aoife did three – and I was like, “No matter what happens, I have to shoot every episode.” I knew someone had to be there visually all the time. There were a few scenes that I didn’t shoot, but a friend of mine named Matt Mitchell took over because Ben and Aoife were filming at the same time. I chose which scenes I would shoot with each of them based on their importance, and then sometimes Ben could cancel it, but in the end I wanted to do as much as possible. This was done in order for the show to constantly evolve and have a linear sense as a whole.

Returning to your question about what scares me about such a big show, in terms of the number of episodes and the amount of work – this is all that motivates me to work in television. I’ve done I don’t know how many short films, nine films, and this is my third series and I’m excited about the challenge of evolving throughout the show. Take your audience through the journey and make them grow visually throughout the event. It’s hard to do when you have five different directors and three cinematographers, which is what happened on Ms. America.

I think filming all nine episodes made things easier. Ben and I have learned a lot from this. It wasn’t always easy for either Ben or Aoife, and maybe I was being selfish, but ultimately I believed that was what the show needed.

Are there any visual motives that you would like to bring to the attention of viewers while watching the first season?

I just did an interview and talked about it once or twice, but something interesting happened on Severance – and I don’t know if we ever fully said anything to each other – but we knew so much what it would look like this show. once we started doing it, it was like, “Yes, yes, yes, this Severance«. We knew that the inner world was very aesthetically based on security, but I also don’t think I realized how much the outer world was based on security and controlled. There’s a constant ‘being watched’ aesthetic within Severance, and I think we’ve done that very well. And there are so many things in the outside world… it’s just different.

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