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‘Black Bird’ Cinematographer Natalie Kingston On The Challenge Of Finding A Visual Language For Toxic Masculinity – Contenders TV: The Nominees

Antonia Blyth, DEADLINE

August 12, 2023

In Apple TV+’s Black Bird, Dennis Lehane’s limited series about convicted criminal Jimmy Keane (Taron Egerton) trying to elicit a confession from suspected serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), cinematographer Natalie Kingston knew she wanted to tackle toxic masculinity from a fresh angle.

Speaking during Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees event, Kingston, who shot all six episodes, said, “Dennis’ perspective on this was really inspiring and really what got me into this. He wasn’t interested in playing up the violence, being very literal with the story, being on the nose, making these killings feel very heightened or theatrical. It wasn’t about that at all.”

Instead, Kingston noted, the work was to tell “a human story.” Lehane’s telling, based on true events, is “character-driven,” she added, “and it’s about this uncomfortable tense dialogue between these two prisoners and this unlike, false friendship and about the different, complex layers within that.”

Lehane’s viewpoint inspired Kingston too, because, “For him it was about examining where each male in this series lies on this spectrum of toxic masculinity and misogyny. And nothing is black and white in real life. … It was about showing glimpses of humanity within Paul’s character, within Larry Hall. The challenge of painting that picture and showing that through a visual language was really an exciting challenge.”

Kingston’s approach to this challenge hinged on stillness and no gratuitous camera movement whatsoever. “A lot of it came through restraint with the camera, not moving the camera a lot of times,” she said, “because I felt that really increased the tension in a lot of scenes and created that sense of claustrophobia, like Larry and Jimmy were feeling in this prison where they couldn’t escape and making the audience feel that they couldn’t escape this weird and uncomfortable relationship and just drawing them in closer. And so, when we did move the camera it really, really meant something, and you felt it.”

Check out the panel video above.

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