Trio of Streaming Originals Create Challenges, Opportunities Behind the Camera

Harlots Hulu
Courtesy of Hulu

Peak TV has been keeping demand high for first-rate television crews. Among the major players in the mix have been streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, which release top-quality original content year-round. Here are some key below-the-line creatives working on three such shows.

Catastrophe” (Amazon) It was a chance encounter at a U.K. pub that reconnected editor Steve Ackroyd with longtime friend and director Ben Taylor, who was about to make the “Catastrophe” pilot — the story of two lovers whose weekend fling turns into a permanent relationship after an unexpected pregnancy.

“When we bumped into each other I was cutting commercials, and Ben asked me if I wanted to do long-form,” Ackroyd says.

Ackroyd has cut the entire series, which begins its third season April 28 on Amazon. The key, he says, is in embracing the sometimes wide dichotomy between Horgan, who portrays an Irish schoolteacher, and Delaney, as an American ad man, while at the same time not playing things too broadly. “You don’t want the biggest performances, because the real performances would suffer,” says Ackroyd. “That’s where the truth is and that’s where the comedy is as well.”

Dear White People” (Netflix) Based on his 2014 film of the same name, Justin Simien’s new Netflix series, set to premiere April 28, follows a group of black Ivy league students as they navigate among an overwhelmingly white student body.

To transform stage backgrounds into places that feel real, cinematographer Jeffrey Waldron paired the RED Weapon camera with Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo zooms lenses. One of his biggest hurdles on the multi-culti project was trying to light and cover scenes with multiple actors.

“We really wanted to celebrate the array of skin tones in the show, and for a shot with nine people you’re getting very specific about lighting,” Waldron says. “Trying to retain some modicum of nuance, some shape to the light, [and] keep interesting compositions for two simultaneous cameras all at a television pace was challenging. This ultimately became one of my favorite things about [the show] — it’s a larger, more nuanced and complicated canvas.”

Harlots” (Hulu) Costume designer Edward Gibbon had his hands full dressing characters in the manner of 18th-century Georgian London for Hulu’s “Harlots,” from creators Alison Newman and Moira Buffini. The March 29 release follows the story of two brothel owners, Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton) and Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville), and their battles with each other, even as Margaret tries to raise a family.

“We wanted to get away from the stereotypical idea of what the past looked like,” says Gibbon. “There wasn’t much color back then, and without being unrealistic about it, we wanted to find the life and the color that did exist at the time.”

Gowns were curated from Rome and London, with some pieces sewn from first stitch.

“The costumes are important but the attitude in which they wore the clothes was important as well,” says Gibbon. “We tried to build a look for each house, with Margaret’s girls having brighter, stronger colors, and Lydia’s being more aspirational with pales tones. Margaret allowed her girls to have their own personality, while Lydia imposed a style on them.”

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