The images of ‘Severance’: Ben Stiller on the inhuman world of Lumon

Even more: Jeremy Hindle had built the set so that all the corridors connected and took up the entire soundstage. Everything actually led somewhere and there were lots of little jogs and side walkways you could go through that made it look like a maze. We knew we were going to have a sequence of Adam getting out of the elevator and walking to MDR the first time we see him go there, and I wanted to make sure they felt like it was a really long walk. And it was also very confusing. We talked a lot about maybe it’s different every time someone walks to MDR, there would be a different route, so you’d never be able to figure it out. But then that was also a matter of the reality of the show. And we end up deciding that there should be a route to go there, but we shouldn’t necessarily know what it is.

So when we were working on that sequence at the beginning of the shoot, we shot different shots of him walking down the hall with coverage in front of him, behind him, his point of view. And then at the end, I said, let’s just do one take where we stay with Adam the whole time. It will be very, very long, but let’s see what it feels like.

Won: I think the hallways are one of the most visually challenging parts to hack on the show. Every time we had a hallway sequence, we needed to take a minute and say, we need to talk about this with the AD, with the art department, we need everyone… Every time we ask ourselves, how do we make it new? How do we make it different? We had to use many different devices.

Even more: But without Steadicam.

Won: Yes. No Steadicam was important. In fact, a lot of people in the film world have been asking me if it’s Steadicam, and I say no, it’s a rickshaw or a dolly.

Why wasn’t Steadicam important?

Won: It wouldn’t feel like it did. If you look at it, there is never any lateral up and down action, it is very sturdy. When you follow an actor and add a human to control the camera like that, it’s not as precise. And we wanted that robotic feel. [On the severed floor] when we pan, when we move the camera, we didn’t want it to feel human-operated. There was a kind of rigid surveillance that was also part of it.

Even more: We ended up having to do Steadicam a little bit later in the show a couple of times, but that was our rule, that everything would be like a dolly. One thing about the hallways that always stressed me out was the sound. Like the walk in episode three, when they walk to Perpetuity—it’s really hard when you have a lot of dialogue and the actors are walking. They all work hard to smooth out the soles of the shoes or put felt on them or things like that, but they couldn’t put up acoustic blankets. When I think about the hallways, I just think that, for the second season, we have to find a way to make sure that the footsteps don’t interfere with the sound.

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