Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey talks working on The Nevers.



Twice a Best Cinematography Oscar nominee--for Atonement in 2008 and Anna Karenina in 2013--McGarvey is now in the Emmy banter for his work on the first two episodes of The Nevers, the fantasy drama created by Joss Whedon.


Of course McGarvey is no stranger to the Emmy Award proceedings or to Whedon. On the former score, McGarvey garnered an Emmy nomination in 2017 for his work on the “Nosedive” episode of Black Mirror. And for director Whedon, McGarvey shot the Marvel blockbuster feature, The Avengers.


The two McGarvey-lensed episodes of The Nevers were directed by Whedon. The story is set in Victorian London which is rocked to its foundation by an inexplicable supernatural event that gives certain people--primarily women--extraordinary abilities, from the wondrous to the disturbing. All those who belong to this new underclass, though, are in grave danger. Marshalling their powers to protect them are feisty widow Amalia True (portrayed by Laura Donnelly) and brilliant inventor Penance Adair (Ann Skelly). True and Adair have to stand up to brutal forces determined to annihilate their kind.


The coupling of drama and fantasy piqued McGarvey’s interest who observed that the way The Nevers unfolds “contradicts what you sometimes hear about the DP who does the pilot and the second episode being responsible for setting the tone and look for the show.” Rather, continued McGarvey, there’s a dynamism in the script in which the story expands, generating a momentum of its own. “It was exciting to know that other photographers would come in my wake and be able to do their own thing even though the action is set in the same world.”


McGarvey said that in terms of tone, Whedon aspired to “not a modern story but one with modern ideas in a Victorian setting. That’s what he was keen on doing--not to do something period or overly reverent to Victorian films you see that are all about sets and costumes. He wanted something that had the verve of a modern drama set in those times, showing London during that era.”


McGarvey went with the ARRI Alexa SXT for The Nevers, along with the Alexa Mini when scenes were set in tight spaces. He paired the cameras with Panavision Primo Prime lenses.

Another pairing was particularly gratifying to McGarvey. The Nevers marked his first time working with renowned gaffer Tom Gates (Game of Thrones).


McGarvey assessed, “Tom was a fundamental collaborator on The Nevers. His reputation is so glowing and sterling internationally, especially in Britain.”


In that McGarvey was not shooting the entire series, Gates served as “the through line of setting the production,” said McGarvey, adding that the series required “speed while preserving artistic integrity. Tom is an artist first and foremost and that’s what’s lovely about him. He is a wonderful spirit on set with a sense of focus and calmness under pressure.”


McGarvey felt a deep spirit of collaboration and camaraderie on The Nevers. The ambitious series, he said, gave everyone the sense that “we were all making this, wanting it to be at its best, That’s what keeps me wanting to shoot more and more until I can’t shoot anymore. It makes me look forward to the next time.”


As for what’s next, McGarvey just wrapped a major feature and at press time was about to embark on another. The latter, currently in pre-pro, is Wonka, a Warner Bros. film from director Paul King. Based on the early life of Roald Dahl’s eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, the musical stars Timothee Chalamet in the title role.


Regarding the recently completed movie, McGarvey had lensed Cyrano for director Joe Wright and MGM.


This article, Cinematographers Shed Light On "Small Axe," "The Handmaid’s Tale," "The Nevers", is from Shootonline.com


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