There are TV shows you don’t realize you need in your life until they crash land onto your TV screen. Yellowjackets is one of those shows, defying expectations and delivering insights in a fresh new way that could never be anticipated by simply reading a synopsis. 

Yellowjackets is a beautiful and brutal series that focuses on the burden of domesticated life, the freedom of being feral, the shame of survival, and the friends that are made and lost along the way. Spanning over 25 years with three different timelines, the show keeps returning to reveal the cause and effects of decisions made to survive. 

To disguise these different time jumps, the job falls on Yellowjackets’ cinematographer C. Kim Miles.

Miles sat down with the Go Creative Show podcast to break down how he created different visual styles for the ‘90s, the isolated woods, and the present time. Check out the full interview here.

Before the Plane Crashes 

One of the plot points of the show is the lead-up to the incident that left an entire soccer team stranded in the forest in 1996. Julie Kirkwood established the tone of the '90s in the pilot episode, using the Alexa LF with ARRI DNA lenses that were tuned specifically for the show. These lenses can add more or less in-camera effects than most other lenses, allowing the DPs to shoot the pre-crash scenes in a style that was nostalgic and gritty. 

Miles preferred the DNA lenses because of their ability to create a beautiful and slightly gritty image that arouses an emotional response from the viewers. Just like Kirkwood, Miles decided to add more camera movement instead of a steady camera to bring the youthfulness of the girls into the visual storytelling. 

Yellowjackets_pre-crash_visual_language'Yellowjackets' pre-crash visual languageCredit: Showtime Networks

In the woods 

After the varsity soccer team’s plane crashes in the woods, Miles switches lenses from the DNA lenses to the Atlas anamorphic lenses. Thankfully, the pilot was shot on a 21:9 aspect ratio which allowed for the lens to show off. 

The Atlas anamorphic lenses have the imperfect look that flared perfectly like old glass lenses without any of the faults that old lenses tend to have and give that perfect warped edge to the frame, which fades as the girls become more comfortable in the woods over time. 

Miles decided to make the camera a character in the woods by controlling the Alexa Mini LF by hand to make the viewers immersed in the chaos of the woods. The Mini LF mimics the depth of field and focal length of the Alexa LF with half the weight, allowing Miles to follow the actors around freely in the set, reacting to their performance rather than observing. 

The mystery of the woods in Yellowjacket is also reflected in the camera. Miles messes with the viewers’ subconscious through subtle tricks like altering the eye light of a character to influence how they are perceived, and how shadows take over the corners of the frame that make it feel as if something could be just around the corner. 

Since this timeline is mostly filmed outdoors, Miles wanted to preserve the natural light being filtered through the trees and used bounce boards to control the direction of the sun, and a helium balloon was used as the key light. Since the blocking of the show was more complicated than traditional television coverage, Miles believed it was important to stay minimal and react to the actors’ performances. 

Yellowjackets_night_shots_in_the_woods_0'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime Networks

The Domestic Lives in Present-Day 

In the present-day timeline, Miles used the Alexa LF with ARRI signature prime lenses. These lenses are the peak of evolution, according to Miles, because they are sharp without being overly sharp, are great at reproducing skin tones, and have a great way of causing the focus to fall off the frame. 

There is no diffusion needed for the ARRI signature prime lenses and creates a slight warmth in-camera that is flattering while giving the false sense of normality. This was Miles’ goal with the lenses in the present-day—to create a beautiful image that exists in an imperfect world.

The camera is no longer in motion during the present-day. Instead, it is still, allowing the audience to observe the survivors as they navigate their domestic lives and try to forget what happened in the woods. 

Yellowjackets_visual_language_present_day_0'Yellowjackets'Credit: Showtime Networks

The cinematography of Yellowjackets is breathtaking and riddled with anxiety as we watch the corners of the screen for a new secret to be revealed. The beauty of each shot also highlights the relationships between the women and the understanding they have for one another through the traumas they’ve all endured. 

Miles’ cinematography holds hands with the show’s central theme that asks us who we were, who we are, and who we will be. The changing landscape and visual language are there to guide us through this thrilling journey, and we can’t wait to see more in the next season. 

What do you think about the cinematography of Yellowjackets? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: News Shooter