Emmy-nominated Cinematographer Marshall Adams, ASC on Servant Season 2 — Episode 4, “2:00”

Taken from a Q&A with Riley Chow of Gold Derby.

At top, M. Night Shyamalan and Marshall Adams, ASC on the set.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan and photographed by Marshall Adams, ASC, the Servant Season 2 episode “2:00” is nominated for an Emmy Award — Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series.

Riley Chow: Can you discuss the episode you shot that is nominated for an Emmy this year?

Marshall Adams:  Yeah, sure do. It’s from Episode 4, “2:00” that I did with Night. Our opening shot was a very difficult set up. We craned up a set of steps with Dorothy and around a corner, so it was a very tricky shot. It was actually the first shot I ever did with Night, so I was really proud of it. Then the camera continues up into the attic, which we introduced for the first time in the show. So, I definitely wanted to take advantage of that 

Riley Chow: What did you try to show when you were going into the attic for the first time? And what did you want to keep hidden, I guess for later?

Marshall Adams: I wasn’t really aware of the fact that Night had that plan, that there were more layers to reveal, but there was so much in the way of layers of dressing that were going to get unpacked as the episode progressed, and then as the season progressed, that it was very easy. And also, the main source of light in there in the daytime, for sure, it was just those two front windows that faced out onto the street. It was an easy thing to keep it contrasty and full of life and reveal stuff as we went along. I'm just really glad that I got to be the first one to shoot it and set the look and the style of that room

Riley Chow: In your submitted episode this year, two o’clock episode, the fourth one from the second season, it climaxes in this burial scene that's shot in a specific way with a very long take from behind the staircase. Can you tell me about the decision-making for that shot?

Marshall Adams: That was all Night. And funny enough, that was one of the only shots that we varied from the storyboards that we had. He had that idea a few days before we shot it. And we went and looked at it on the finder. And made sure that it felt like it was going to work. And that we could really tell the story because there was a lot to tell there. We had to bring her out, we had to dig her up. We had to see everybody's reaction, and Dorothy's stoic non-involvement

But it laid out beautifully and that was all him. I loved the idea and it really worked well. So, I mean, I love when you can play a story out in a single shot like that, and it makes sense. And you don't have to necessarily ride around and see all of the closeups. All of the weight is carried in that one shot.

And even sometimes it’s even better not to see some of those reactions, just in a body posture. So I thought that was absolutely genius, to do that. And it just worked out so well.  

Riley Chow: What about earlier in the episode? There's a scene with Sean and Julian sitting at the breakfast table and it's a bird's-eye view of the table. Can you tell me about what went into that one?

Marshall Adams: Again, it was while we were storyboarding, and I went out there and walked around on the set and looked at it, and he had an idea of something low. Originally, we were talking about that reflection shot in the wine glass being the opening for the scene, and that led into that high angle because we needed to be high to get that reflection shot to work.

The two fed into each other, and with the wine bottle knocking over and it seemed like it just played out really well. And you're almost looking down into the basement. You could hear the basement underneath and the guys with a jackhammer. And it was one of those things that just all of a sudden, revealed itself, and we both thought it was great.

I mean, he’s a great collaborator that way, and that’s why it was such a natural fit, I felt like, from here on Saul to that show. Because in a lot of ways, visually, they’re both very story-driven. And so, as long as you can find a great way to tell that story visually, it's a great way to go.


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