Before “Part 8” of “Twin Peaks: The Return” aired last June, Peter Deming, David Lynch’s go-to director of photography since “Lost Highway,” teased it on Instagram. “Part 8 like no other,” he posted. That was probably the understatement of the year. The hour, most of which is in black and white and wordless, was like an avant-garde art installation that revealed the origin story of Bob, which tied all the way back to the first atomic bomb testing, blended emotional and terrifying sequences, and introduced a hybrid creature Lynch lovingly dubs the frog-moth.
But Deming had no idea the episode would be so weird — in the best way, of course — during production because the 18-episode season was filmed like a movie, instead of episodically, with a 520-page script. “You’re shooting for eight months, you’re shooting essentially story for eight months. The only way we could tell where it was in the sequence was the scene numbers,” Deming revealed as part of the episode’s secrets during Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Cinematography panel, moderated by this author (watch above).
Deming didn’t see it all come together until he was color-timing the series. “[Lynch] was still mixing, so I watched everything silent and just based on the visuals in ‘Part 8,’ I was just sort of like — you know, you remember shooting all that stuff, but you don’t realize it was all in this episode. When we were timing, I was sort of just reacting to it silently,” he said. “We knew we had a lot of unusual stuff and [it turned out] a lot of it was in ‘8.’ When we got into color-timing, I was like, ‘OK, it’s all in this one.’”
As is typical with Lynch’s shoots, there wasn’t a lot of prep or detailed guidance for the whole production unless Lynch had a specific framing in mind during rehearsal. But he did know he wanted to shoot the ‘50s sequences in “Part 8” in black and white. “We had a lot in the two-week period of black and white versus color and as I usually do when I shoot black and white, I turned to David and said, ‘Can we do the whole thing in black and white because this is really fun?’ He said, ‘No, but next time,’” Deming said. Before you get too excited, he just means their next project, not “Twin Peaks” Season 4.
Though “Part 8” goes vintage with black and white, like the rest of “Twin Peaks,” there is a ton of digital and practical effects in the episode, like the mesmerizing shot of a mushroom cloud from the Trinity nuclear bomb test. While that shot was all CGI, Deming had to use his imagination for the integrated scenes.
“There are other portions that are interactive. In Episode 8, our friend the frog-moth was one of them,” he said of the shots of the creature that included crawling inside a girl’s mouth. “David would describe how it would sort of move, so I would operate the camera and sorta tried to follow it around. He would watch and say, ‘Oh, it’s not that fast.’ Because these are things in David’s head. Having never seen a frog-moth, I don’t know how it moves!”
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