DEFINITION May 2022 - Web


Jessica Lee Gagné discusses architectural framing, hyper-stylised realism and creating two distinct halves of a unified and thrilling whole, in Severance Divided attention

WORDS. Lee Renwick PICTURES. Apple TV+

H ow would we function, with memories from our work lives kept entirely separate from those formed outside the office? What implications must we face, when sharing the world with wholly unknown versions of ourselves? Who are we, if not a sum of all our experiences? These are the questions posed in the compelling narrative of Severance – and the series’ cinematography is no less nuanced. Jessica Lee Gagné brings life to a misfit gathering of Lumon Industries employees, working in the company’s controversial and confidential Macrodata Refinement department. Through the process of severance, which sees brains surgically divided, staff members are offered a dystopian chance at the perfect work-life balance. In every sense, Severance explores duality, and when it came to establishing a visual language, lighting was an essential question for Gagné. Emulating the experiences of corporate workers the world over, our characters are spread between the pale, stagnant light of the office and the softer glow of a more liveable world beyond.

PRACTICALS MAKE PERFECT “The architecture was a guide for much of the workplace lighting,” Gagné explains. “Because of the nature of the space, with fixtures built in and no windows, we knew it would be difficult to create distinct moods within that world. “I felt very stuck and claustrophobic myself, having to do all overhead lighting. So a lot of narrative detail was added, to work with and provide lighting cues. Every single moment we had to make a little bit different, we ran with. “For the outside world, we wanted a cold, slushy, depressing affair – to play with weather and have different situations for Adam Scott’s Mark character that were mostly ironic, or otherwise real mood-creating spaces. “Lighting out in the world also had to be extremely real,” she continues. “If something was lighting the scene, it had to make sense. I like a very natural style – maybe a little hyper-stylised realism. This means very directional, logical sources. If it doesn’t make practical sense, I struggle envisioning it.” Only naturally, this led Gagné to plenty of on-camera practicals. There are moments lit by nothing but car headlights, or a single nearby lamp. Unusually, though, she made the bold decision to modify them in a very limited way. “I don’t always love to mess with practical fixtures. I use real bulbs, which are admittedly more annoying for the gaffer and his crew,” she laughs. “Sometimes, they’d be controlled by the dimmer board operator, just to dial down a little. Other times, simply off or on. “Mark’s home is a stage, and a lot of research went into finding suitable practicals to create the right mood around him. There’s not much furniture in his apartment, but we wanted every lamp

SIZING YOU UP Aiming for disorientation when shooting in the MDR set, Gagné utilised close-ups with rather intimidating angles, as with Patricia Arquette (above)


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