‘Big Little Lies’ Gets a More Naturalistic Look for Season 2

Jim Frohna has a knack for framing female-centric stories that are lyrical and dramatic. As Jill Soloway’s shooter since her debut feature, “Afternoon Delight,” as well as several seasons of “Transparent,” Frohna has become a preferred DP for capturing the female gaze. So when conflicts in scheduling kept director Jean-Marc Vallée and DP Yves Bélanger from returning for Season 2 of HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” which debuts June 9, it’s no surprise that Frohna was asked by new director Andrea Arnold to join the team.

Frohna had worked with Arnold on Soloway series “I Love Dick” in addition to “Transparent,” and he had heard good things about “Lies.” When he studied the show, he understood why — both visually and stylistically — he and Arnold had been tapped for Season 2. “It was so grounded in naturalism and done mostly handheld,” Frohna says. “I thought, ‘I could have shot that.’ It played to my strengths and felt like something I knew how to do very well.”

Frohna stuck with the Alexa Mini for Season 2 but changed up the lenses from vintage Zeiss Super Speeds to Canon K35 Vintages. “The K35s are softer in a subtle way and also a bit desaturated,” says the DP, who notes that the lenses better convey the beauty of the location and soften the look of the characters, adding a degree of humanity and compassion. It was all part of a change in the show’s overall visual goals. 

“The first thing [we focused on] was this facade” from Season 1, Frohna says. “The face that each character showed to the world versus what their lives were really like, or what their secrets were. In Season 2, we know that the facade is not the truth. Andrea wanted to dive in and get to know these characters and
find their humanity.”

The conversation between director and DP eventually revolved around showing the characters at moments of vulnerability. “That was an important thing to carry in our minds and hearts as we filmed them,” he says. Arnold also connected each character to a part of nature, delving more deeply into the landscape and their relation to it. Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), who held a dark secret last season, is seen jogging among redwoods, whereas Jane (Shailene Woodley) is very much a part of the sea and sand. In one such scene from the first episode, in which Jane dances on the beach with headphones on, unaware of the outside world, Frohna’s strengths as a DP are on full display.

“There is so much plot, so many characters and a powerful and compelling, fun story, that there aren’t many quieter moments when we can connect with a character,” he says. “Andrea strove for that whenever possible, and what I so much appreciate about her is that she knows and trusts that I come to life as a DP when I’m able to do those scenes. 

“It was Andrea who thought of it and then said, ‘Go dance.’” 

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” Related Russell Tovey on His 'Arrogant and Heroic' 'Years [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content