Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which dropped season two on Netflix on International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8, is the story of a modern-day superhero who’s living and working in a dark, gritty city. Jessica, as played by Krysten Ritter, is often sardonic and funny, but her story is ultimately dark.
While the cinematography that accompanies that storytelling needs to match the show’s tone, it shouldn’t leave the viewer feeling as dark as the show.
“I didn’t want watching the show to be work,” said Melissa Rosenberg, series creator, executive producer and showrunner during a panel at NAB 2018 in Las Vegas. “Sometimes when you have bleak storytelling and there’s a bleak look, it’s off-putting and it feels like work to watch. Even though it was gritty storytelling, I wanted it to be a beautiful world – a place you wanted to be. I’m talking about a really artistic, beautiful, inviting frame and the palette feeling very real and rounded, something that invites you in.”
Enter Manuel Billeter, director of photography, and Tony D’Amore, senior colorist, who are charged with turning Rosenberg’s vision into tone, colors and palette.
“When Melissa and I first met, we agreed on an immediate departure from Marvel’s regular palette,” said D’Amore. “We wanted to introduce beauty. The show didn’t need to be all grey. A lot of the work is going in and finding those subtle hits of color without making it over the top and garish. And it was decided that the show shouldn’t have a comic-book look by all of the studios involved.”
“The show should feel authentic, it shouldn’t feel contrived,” said Billeter.
It’s also about telling the story from very specific points of view.
“The storytelling on this show is all about getting inside of the characters’ heads,” said Rosenberg. “Manual did a beautiful job, doing all sorts of subtle things to achieve that.”
Coming together on what that look should be and how it should be achieved isn’t always as easy as it sounds, said Rosenberg.
“My first move is to always hire the most talented people and the second is to let them do their jobs,” she said. “Pretty much every time what I’m communicating is on a story point. I wouldn’t presume to talk to either one of these guys on the finer points of their craft.
“What I try to communicate to them is the point of the scene – what do I want to feel when I’m watching the scene? We talk in terms of story and point of view. It is about letting them do what they know.”
Along the lines of hiring the best people and letting them work, Rosenberg also hired women to direct all 13 episodes of the series’ second season.
Upon arriving on the set, all of them immediately set to work collaborating with the crew, said Billeter.
“They would come to set, meet me and establish a relationship, which to me was absolutely amazing. That doesn’t happen in most cases,” he said. “I just want to work with good directors – people who have challenging, interesting concepts. It doesn’t matter to me whether they are male or female.”
[Images of Marvel’s Jessica Jones courtesy of Netflix]