Trevor Forrest, director of photography on four key episodes of “Little Fires Everywhere,” came upon a few difficult but rewarding tasks to accomplish during his time with the Hulu limited series. One was filming the climactic Richardson house on fire moment seen in the premiere and the finale, while another involved providing a natural difference to how the series was filmed as the relationships between Elena (Reese Witherspoon), Mia (Kerry Washington) and their respective children began to break down. “As the series progressed, we got tighter and tighter and tighter,” Forrest reveals in a new video interview with Gold Derby, “to ratchet up the pressure points, the boiling point of the finale as well.” Watch the exclusive interview with Forrest above.
With “Little Fires Everywhere” being so focused on dynamics between mothers and their children, it was important to frame the actors in particular ways but to not maintain that consistency through the whole series. “When we get to an intimate situation with mother and daughter, off-angle or short-siding or all these tools that we started to use in the beginning, it felt that we used them a lot by Episode 4,” Forrest says. “Missing a beat and coming back and finding a beat and having the energy of putting you as a viewer in the room became as important as how we would finally find the frame in the end.” It was also necessary for Forrest to work within different confines between the grand Richardson house and the considerably smaller Warren apartment. “With a smaller building, you can get away with less on-set because you still have to step back and know that there’s five feet to the first window, seven feet to the next window, seven feet to that window and then that’s the end of the house,” the cinematographer explains, “where the Richardson house, you had to turn your head to see from side to side even on-set.”
The big centerpiece of “Little Fires Everywhere” is the fire that burns down the Richardson house, as witnessed briefly in the premiere and in its totality in the finale. The scene involves Elena and her children escaping their home surrounded by flames and billowing smoke and the cinematographer had to carefully figure out how the fire would escalate through the house. To achieve the effect without putting the actors in danger, Forrest acquired flame bars to create a realistic effect. “You get that sense of the fire flickering on their skin and them thinking about what they’ve just done for a few beats before they go back and get their mother and drag her through the flames in the corridor,” he states. This scene encapsulates Forrest’s intention to provide “escalation that goes from zero to 10 through the series.”
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