March 13, 2024

House of Ninjas showrunner and executive producer Dave Boyle

The Netflix series House of Ninjas has become a hit show, rising to #1 in the streaming service’s top 10 list. The story follows the Tawara family, who have been ninjas, or shinobi, for generations. Tragically, the oldest son and brother disappeared six years before in a battle with their rivals, leading the Tawaras to stop being ninjas. But the family must fight together again as the rival clan gets more powerful and threatens the entire country.

Showrunner Dave Boyle was first brought on as showrunner for House of Ninjas by an executive at Netflix Japan, who knew he was familiar with the culture. Dave’s second language is Japanese, which he studied as a Mormon missionary in Australia. He had written and directed a few independent Japanese American and Japanese language films, such as Man from Reno, Daylight Savings and Surrogate Valentine, which all took place in the U.S. This was his first experience with shooting anything in Japan. He was drawn to the tone of House of Ninjas, which combines both drama, action and violence with comedy and warmhearted playfulness. “Tone was the reason why we all wanted to make this project. It’s more than the plot mechanics and the story. It was all about creating this atmosphere, this tone that an audience could sink into and enjoy for many, many episodes. And so I think that tone was something that we were talking about from the very, very get-go and something that we really wanted to nail and get right.”

Once he was on board, Dave began working on the preproduction and show bible for House of Ninjas. The show bible had to be written in three weeks, which is a very fast process, especially since Dave knew the show’s foundation required a deep understanding of shinobi culture and history. He found the preproduction process in Japan to be much different from the U.S., with casting happening even before the show’s scripts were written. The script format in Japan read from right to left, and the top half of the page is left blank for the director to draw storyboards and a shotlist, as a clear way for the director to show what they’re planning to do.

House of Ninjas is available on Netflix.

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July 7, 2021

Cinematographer Stuart Biddlecombe on The Handmaid’s Tale Season Four

As a filmmaker, director of photography Stuart Biddlecombe wants to visually put his ideas on screen, telling stories that he genuinely connects to with true creative collaborators who listen and contribute. When Stuart came aboard to shoot part of season three of The Handmaid’s Tale, he knew he was taking on the mantle of what has become an iconic show. He had read the book in high school, and feels that the television series does an incredible job of putting the book into pictures, continuing to tell a meaningful and important story. Stuart was fortunate enough to begin working on the show with former cinematographer and Emmy winner Colin Watkinson, who had moved into directing. He was able to learn the ropes from Watkinson and continue the look of The Handmaid’s Tale smoothly into season four.

Stuart was very involved in the production of the fourth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, and he loved the extraordinary creative input he’s had on the show. He would meet with lead actor and executive producer Elisabeth Moss and showrunner Bruce Miller to talk though each episode, discussing with them what they wanted to shoot and what direction each episode should go. Color on The Handmaid’s Tale plays a very important role- Gilead is presented with strong red, blue and black costumes while the colors and tones representing Canada are muted and softer. In season 4, as the story follows the main character, June (Elisabeth Moss) as she escapes to Canada, Stuart knew they needed to change the color palette, shifting into stronger colors and contrasts to push the look forward.

Stuart began working in television in the UK before he went to film school, on game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, but felt no love for the job. He decided to attend college at the National Film and Television School in order to learn more about the art of telling stories using a camera. He was in a very small film class with fellow cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen. After film school, he shot several episodes of Call the Midwife and Doctor Who. Working in television taught Stuart how to shoot quickly, creating storytelling in the purest form, without the need for a lot of coverage. Stuart finds working on many of today’s television shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale to be very satisfying, as the lines of quality storytelling are blurring between television and film, with many television shows matching or even exceeding much of what can be seen in the cinema.

Find Stuart Biddlecombe:
Instagram: @stuartdop

You can see The Handmaid’s Tale season four streaming on Hulu

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