American Cinematographer - July 2018 - 48

◗

Life of the Mind
Right, from left:
David is
examined by
Cary Loudermilk
(Bill Irwin) and
Dr. Orwell
(Christine Horn)
in Season 2.
Below: David sits
alone in an
ostensibly
abandoned
nightclub.

one not overshadowing the other." A
varied roster of directors - including
Hawley, executive producer John
Cameron, Hiro Murai, Sarah Adina
Smith, Ana Lily Amirpour, Gonzales
himself, and Ellen Kuras, ASC - with
unique skills and talents seems appropriate for a show in which the main
character experiences the symptoms of
schizophrenia.
A particularly remarkable
element of Legion is its depiction of
mental illness as woven into the narra48

July 2018

tive and its visuals. From episode to
episode, the reality in which David and
his friends find themselves seems to
shift and alter ever so slightly, as if one
falls asleep on a square and wakes up
on a circle. According to Gonzales,
none of the filmmakers could truly rely
on what someone else did in a previous
episode, because each new episode
"goes places [that the story] has not
been before in tone and time period.
Each director works with the cinematographers to showcase and highAmerican Cinematographer

light the differences, while integrating
into the show as a whole."
With this in mind, Gonzales laid
down some loose ground rules for the
other filmmakers to follow going
forward: use little coverage, use wide
lenses, move the camera but don't use a
Steadicam, tell the story visually,
consider new possibilities. Shooting a
dialogue scene with David and Syd
lying in bed? Instead of a two-shot, try a
shot-reverse-shot with the cameras at a
90-degree angle, so that it looks like the
actors are standing up. It works.
The reasoning behind this
approach is another remarkable thing
about Legion, which depicts the effects
of mental illness with shockingly casual
suddenness. The projections and double
exposures that flash in blink-and-youmiss-them jump cuts aren't so much
scares as they are a poke in the side to
keep you focused on the details. Cameras
move in disorienting fashion. Things
we've seen in the past are misremembered by characters, their details shifting
ever so slightly and replayed as fact.
"It's a cinematographer's dream to
work on a show so dedicated to visual
storytelling, and it's always an adventure



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - July 2018

Contents
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