The Cinematography Podcast Episode 164: Jessica Lee Gagné
Severance, a trippy, mind-bending thriller on Apple TV+, takes the idea of work/life balance to an extreme. Certain employees working for the mysterious corporation, Lumon, undergo a surgical procedure called severance that plants a chip in their brain. Severed employees can’t remember anything from their personal lives while at work, and outside of work, they can’t access their memories of their office life. This creates two separate people, known as “innies” at work and “outies” at home.
Cinematographer Jessica Lee Gagné grew up in Quebec City, Canada, surrounded by movies from her father’s video stores which sparked her love of film. She took photography in school, then enrolled in a film program in Montreal. Jessica first began working with director Ben Stiller on the Showtime series, Escape at Dannemora. The two enjoyed working together, and while shooting Escape at Dannemora, Stiller was already talking about directing Severance. Jessica didn’t particularly like the idea of shooting an office show with absolutely no windows, with the same lighting setups over and over. However, during the preproduction process, she was able to find references that allowed her to find ways to shoot the Lumon offices in a cinematic way. The production design team also created a very strange and surreal world within the gigantic building, whose brutalist exterior is a real location at the former Bell Works in Holmdel, New Jersey.
Jessica crafted a unique camera style for Severance. Most of the scenes that take place in the Lumon offices are done with tracking dollies on remote heads, rather than with Steadicam. She enjoyed playing with camera height, often showing the ceiling and choosing wide, surveillance-like angles from corners or above. The office workers are often physically “severed” in shots- by cubicle walls, computers or doorways. In the elevator up or down from the office, the office workers transition from their “innies” to their “outies,” with a dolly in and zoom out on their faces to create a morphing effect.
Find Jessica Lee Gagné
See Severance on AppleTV+
Close Focus: Ben and Illya recap the 2022 Academy Awards.
Illya’s short end: The Nanlite Forza 720 is an 800 watt bi-color light without a loud cooling fan. The COB LED component can deliver an immense amount of accurate, daylight-balanced light. You can buy one at Hot Rod Cameras.
Ben’s short end: X, a new horror movie by director Ty West AND an update on benrock.com!!
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