Definition February 2024 - Newsletter


A dapting Bonnie Garmus’ literary gem Lessons in Chemistry was always going to be a plum job. With its beautifully drawn period setting, swoony love story, whip-smart protagonist and devastating twist, it seemed destined for the prestige TV treatment from the very start. Happily for the book’s fans, Apple TV+ answered the call with an exquisite eight-parter that premiered on the streaming platform at the tail end of last year. Lee Eisenberg ( WeCrashed , Little America ) served as showrunner, with Brie Larson in the starring role of Elizabeth Zott and Lewis Pullman as love interest Calvin Evans, while lensing responsibilities were shared between Zachary Galler ( Paper Girls, Dr Death ) and Jason Oldak ( Good Girls , Unprisoned ). The plot follows Elizabeth, a brilliant chemist, as she rails against the stifling patriarchy of fifties USA, determined to be treated as an equal in a man’s world. Dismissed from her lab job, she reluctantly steps into the limelight hosting a TV cooking show, becoming a national treasure and teaching a generation of overlooked housewives much more than just recipes. While Oldak’s CV leans heavily toward television projects, the cinematic allure of Lessons in Chemistry , with its distinct narrative arcs, captivated him. It felt, he

describes, like making an ‘eight-part movie’. Though he was aware of the book, he decided not to read it before shooting began. “As a cinematographer, it’s important to focus on the script that’s given to you and tell that story as best you can,” he muses. “The directors and I collaborated intensely to figure out the best way to bring it to screen. Now that it’s out there, we’ve had a great reaction from people who have read the book – but I couldn’t focus on that during shooting or it might have messed with the work.” Oldak acted as cinematographer on episodes 3, 4, 7 and 8, and Zachary picked up the other four, with the two DOPs collaborating closely to ensure consistency throughout the series. “We got along really well. From the beginning, we were talking about the visuals and sharing the images in our own personal lookbooks from our interviews. We soon realised we were kind of already on the same path,” he recalls. “What’s so unique about this project is that each chapter feels like its own story. This meant, in each episode, we could go outside the box a little bit. Episode 3, for example, deals with so much grief and sadness – and it’s incredibly different from the first two episodes. That was my signature to make a distinct mark within the structure.”

Cinematographer Jason Oldak discusses lensing the Apple TV+ adaptation of hit novel Lessons in Chemistry



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