×

‘Black Mirror’ DP Seamus McGarvey Talks About Finding the ‘Photographic Heart’ of ‘Nosedive’

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey worked with director Joe Wright on a number of feature film projects through the years. So when his “old pal” signed on for the “Nosedive” episode of Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” and asked McGarvey to join him, there really was no question he would say yes. “The main reason I was excited to work on this episode was that it was Joe directing,” McGarvey says. “But I’d always admired Charlie as a writer [too], first as a journalist and then as a writer of the series. ‘Black Mirror’ really gripped my imagination in a way that I haven’t felt in television since ‘The Twilight Zone.’”

As the first episode of the third season of “Black Mirror,” “Nosedive” sets the tone for the batch of episodes. Did that offer extra incentive to sign on or present additional challenges?

I didn’t know it would be [the first]. I don’t think that even Netflix knew that! They decided the order after the fact, and I know that Netflix is particularly proud of it and wanted to kick off the season with it, but it is different from the other ones in the series — from the previous [seasons], as well. I think they wanted to mark those changes and say this is a much more kaleidoscopic series of stories. It’s not just what the fans of the series know as a kind of house style. This, in some ways, was a departure.

What is the dynamic like between you and Wright, given that you’ve worked so closely together for so long?

There’s a real democracy of ideas in terms of involving the look. Direction, production design, cinematography, hair and makeup all go hand-in-hand. There’s always a cohesiveness to his visual approach. He wanted to create a look that had a pastel feel but also signaled its futuristic nature and the idea of homogeneity and all of the themes of the future world where people try to fit in and strive for approval. The look was going to be crucial in that world from the get-go, and we all set about to create this look, so the props were very carefully chosen — the paints and the costumes all followed the color code of a sort of peppermint green, duck egg blue, strange peach colors.

Why do you feel the look and shot design is so crucial in “Nosedive?”

Even the drinks people are drinking and the biscuits people are eating all have a cohesiveness to get a sense of this world. I wanted to add to that with creating this not exactly “Stepford Wives” environment but a sickly pastel feel that would be so sweet as to be almost indigestible. Through the gritted teeth and rictus grins, there’s a kind of underlying malaise. That’s the world. We had to get elements of that in every frame.

What was the toughest part of creating that look for you?

Normally I shoot on film, but Netflix insisted we shoot on 4K. At that point I hadn’t shot on 4K, and I was kind of shoehorned into shooting with a camera I had never worked with before. But actually the constraints of that were good in a way. It was also intense and fast, a four-week shoot, the prep period was much reduced from what we’re used to.

What do you feel is the most important part of your job?

Finding the right, appropriate photographic heart of any script that I read — to find something distinctive to those words to make it unique. Every project has a photographic signature that a writer feeds onto the page, and it’s up to us as filmmakers to mine that and to bring our own sensibilities to it. So it’s about looking and it’s about thought, and that’s the exciting part, too, the part I love the most of all.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content