October 4, 2023

Silo cinematographer Mark Patten, BSC

Cinematographer Mark Patten, BSC’s most recent project, Silo, is a post-apocalyptic science fiction drama that’s been a huge success for AppleTV+. The thousands of people who live in the silo don’t know why the silo exists, who built it, or why the world outside is uninhabitable. Citizens who express a desire to go outside, or are convicted of a crime, are sent outside to “clean” the cameras and never survive. After being recruited as the new silo sheriff, engineer Juliette starts to uncover shocking secrets and the truth about the silo.

Silo was shot in Essex, England in a huge former cold storage facility. The set had to be completely built out, retrofitting the space into a working film stage. Lighting rigs were hung even before the sets were built so that the set building and production design crew could see in such a huge dark space. The production crew built three working levels of the actual silo set, complete with the spiral staircase. Mark found the richness of the set decoration created a lived-in, worn down place that made the silo itself seem like a character. Everything is very analog or “lo-fi sci-fi” in this dystopian world. It was interesting to think about how society would act together, in a closed vessel, and maintain their sanity in a locked in culture, especially after just coming out of the pandemic. Mark thought of the Silo as a slow ship moving through time, and it felt like shooting a submarine film. The central staircase acts as a helix through the society of the silo, and Juliette is climbing her way up through the layers of it to solve a mystery.

Mark worked alongside production designer Gavin Bocquet to visualize the Silo’s society, honing in and letting the visuals sing. He decided to subtly use different color palettes for each level. It was a great way to add texture to the images, with the mechanical level becoming very desaturated, except for some touches of bright yellow and orange glow from the heat of the power generators. Since the silo is a mile down into the ground, there is no natural light at all, and Mark needed to figure out what would motivate the light all the way at the bottom. He decided the lighting in the top of the silo would be strongest, and the light would filter down from there. Practical lights were built in everywhere throughout the set and as characters descend to the lowest level of mechanical, the practical lights are the only source. Since every light source was designed and built in, there was no hard light anywhere to manipulate, so for Mark it was an exercise in restraint manipulating reflective light.

Mark recently finished shooting Season 2 of Andor on Disney+.

Silo is available to stream on AppleTV+.

Find Mark Patten: https://www.markpatten.tv/
Instagram: @kiesh

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The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
Facebook: @cinepod
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February 2, 2022

Cinematographers Daniel Grant, CSC and Steve Cosens, CSC on shooting the series Station Eleven on HBOMax

Station Eleven is an HBOMax series based on the book by Emily St. John Mandel. The story focuses on several characters who are survivors of a devastating flu pandemic that wipes out most of the human population, completely collapsing modern civilization. The series mixes together the storylines of characters whose past and present timelines interconnect, weaving together the time during the pandemic, the days and months afterward, and then how the characters have adapted twenty years into the future. Art, music and theater have thrived in a small band of actors and musicians known as the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten, played by Mackenzie Davis, is the main character and a lead actor in the Traveling Symphony, going from settlement to settlement performing Shakespeare. Each community still remains under threat of hostile invaders, and a dangerous cult whose beliefs are based on a story from a graphic novel written before the pandemic appears to be on the rise.

Daniel Grant, CSC and Steve Cosens, CSC, both Canadian cinematographers, were hired as DPs for four episodes apiece for Station Eleven. They were happy to know that they’d be working closely together because they were familiar with each other’s work and comfortable with each other’s aesthetic. Executive producer Hiro Murai directed the first block of episodes- Episodes 1 and 3- with Christian Sprenger as the director of photography, and they established the initial look of the show. Murai and Sprenger shot two episodes in Chicago as COVID hit, and then production shut down for several months. Daniel and Steve were brought on to shoot the next blocks in Toronto, Canada, which felt weird and surreal as they developed the look and feel of a fictional post-pandemic world, while living through a real global pandemic.

As Daniel and Steve began prep, they were able to contribute their own ideas for the look and feel of Year 20 in Station Eleven’s post-pandemic world. Steve noted that the pacing of the show was very deliberate, and they would purposefully let shots hold for several beats. Each shot was nicely framed and the lighting was very naturalistic and organic- it was not a slick show with fast edits. With less humans around, they wanted to depict the earth returning to the natural world in the future, instead of the typical post-apocalyptic barren scorched landscape look. They wanted Station Eleven to feel positive and life-affirming, although still fraught with potential dangers.

Since the main storyline follows a roving band of theatrical performers, the show was always on the move with many different locations, and Daniel and Steve had to fuse the challenges of the logistics with the creative. Many episodes required different seasons or the same location dressed for different years. The hardest episodes and locations to shoot took place at the airport, set during Station Eleven’s pre-pandemic and then twenty years after the pandemic. The two cinematographers stayed in close contact and were true collaborators, sharing information and communicating to make it easier for each other as they switched off shooting in the airport location. Steve and Daniel would often have early morning phone calls to constantly feed each other information about the shoot day, and would watch each other’s dailies to match each other’s shots.

Find Daniel Grant: https://www.danielgrantdp.com/
Instagram: @danielgrant_dp

Find Steve Cosens: https://www.stevecosens.com/
Instagram: @cosenssteve

You can see all episodes of Station Eleven on HBOMax

Find out even more about this episode, with extensive show notes and links: https://camnoir.com//ep157/

Sponsored by Hot Rod Cameras: www.hotrodcameras.com

Sponsored by Assemble: Assemble has amazing production management software. Use the code cinepod to try a month for free! https://www.assemble.tv/
Be sure to watch our YouTube video of Nate Watkin showing how Assemble works! https://youtu.be/IlpismVjab8

The Cinematography Podcast website: www.camnoir.com
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/TheCinematographyPodcast
Facebook: @cinepod
Instagram: @thecinepod
Twitter: @ShortEndz