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Joe Wright Relished the Chance to Go Polyester in ‘Black Mirror’

Variety logo Variety 6/12/2017 Scott Tobias
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Anatomy of a Scene: “Black Mirror,” Season 3, Ep. 1 “Nosedive” (Netflix)

In his episode of the sci-fi anthology series “Black Mirror,” Joe Wright re-creates a near-future where people incessantly rate each other. A desperate social climber, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, survives a series of mishaps to speak at a childhood friend’s wedding reception, in the dim hope she’ll get a ratings boost. “The scene is a combination of everything we’ve seen leading up to that point,” says Wright. “It’s the moment where our protagonist falls apart and the collision between the way she wants the world to be and who she really is destroys all illusions.”

James Foster

Production designer

“The idea was to create a kind of picture-perfect wedding — the kind of dappled sunlight of a perfect magazine-celebrity wedding. We were replicating Southern California in South Africa, where we shot the episode. The choice of location was extremely important, and James had a great deal to do with that. But one of the problems we had was that the garden was beaten down by very bright sun throughout the day, so James came up with the fantastic idea of creating a canopy of flowers over the entire wedding-reception area. Then Katie [Spencer, the set decorator] sprang into action by dressing this garden. All the flower beds are embellished with extra flowers to create something that was really quite sickeningly perfect within a specific color palette. I haven’t worked in television for a while, and although Netflix are very good and generous, this was all done on a relatively tight budget.”

Sinead O’Sullivan and Jacqueline Durran

Costume designers

“We have done a lot of period films together, so it was quite exciting to do something that was in the future, using polyester fabrics that we never normally get to work with in period films. That was quite exciting for us, and in particular Bryce’s dress, which was made just a little bit too small to make the whole thing even more uncomfortable for her. Like a terrible child’s dress, really, to bring out the kind of childish relationship that she has with Alice Eve’s bride.”

Wendy Alport

First Assistant Director

“The scene really plays as a monologue from Bryce and the audience’s reaction, the crowd’s reaction, is vital to the drama. If that crowd weren’t responding to what they were hearing, then the scene wouldn’t have worked at all. That’s the job of the first AD and her team: to really express to the crowd, the supporting artists, what they should be thinking and feeling and how they should be behaving. Really, Wendy helped in managing to create a company of actors from those supporting artists, which is very unusual and a very rare gift, but also vitally important.”

Seamus McGarvey

Cinematographer

“Seamus and I have worked together many times now and we have a wonderful shorthand, but one of the things I really wanted to try achieving with this piece was a kind of minimalism, and Seamus locked right into that. We tried to keep it very, very simple, and because of the movements of Bryce [around the space], he created a 360-degree environment in which I could shoot any which way. In fact, there was a shot where we took the center of one of the tables out and mounted a camera head in the middle of the table that could turn 360 degrees, and in fact did. ”

Valerio Bonelli

Editor

“ I thought that he really managed to not only cut a beautiful performance from Bryce, but also really cut a great performance from the cast and the extras, and he shaped the geography of their reactions exceedingly well.”

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