“Every episode was a new look,” explains cinematographer Jess Hall of the limited series “WandaVision.” Hall has a background in film, but jumped at the chance to work on this ambitious Marvel show on Disney+. “One of the great appeals was that I was going to do the whole show,” he says. The artist experienced fresh challenges with each vastly different episode. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
In the series, distraught super-being Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) surrounds a town in a magical “hex” which morphs the environment into a sitcom. She starts with the 1950’s in “I Love Lucy” inspired digs, but the decades rapidly jump forward in time in each installment. “I had to go deeply into each period, each decade, and build a specific look for it,” explains Hall. It involved an unprecedented amount of technical organization when plotting out shots, lens, and aspect ratios. “The contrast is pretty great between the periods,” he admits.
The cinematographer reveals that filming in front of a live audience for the 1950’s episode “was probably my biggest challenge.” The visuals are hyper specific, complete with black and white lensing and a classic 4:3 aspect ratio. He gives credit to director Matt Shakman for helping him to embrace the energy that dynamic provided. “I always felt completely safe in his hands,” states Hall. The cinematographer essentially had to live choreograph his cameramen and lighting “throughout what essentially became a 24 minute take.” The payoff was worth it though. “It was an exhilarating experience,” he describes.
In addition to the sitcom world, plenty of action also takes place in the real world beyond Wanda’s hex. Hall needed a way to visually convey the two different realities to the audience. “It’s an incredibly complicated story,” says the artist. “So I wanted a few key signifiers for the audience, to be able to tell them where they were.” This thought resulted in a familiar cinematic aspect ratio for the “real world” scenes, similar to the one used in Marvel’s big screen offerings. “It’s familiar,” Hall suggests of his visual trick. “Even if only subconsciously they were able to connect with that, it was an important connection to make.”
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