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Elizabeth Moss and Handmaid's Cinematography
Vanity Fair’s article focuses on Elisabeth Moss's direction of 'The Handmaid’s Tale', particularly her work in the show's fifth season. Moss, who has won Emmys for both starring in and executive producing the show, is commended for her natural transition into filmmaking, combining her understanding of performance with an intrinsic understanding of the series’ brutal and beautiful imagery.
In the standout second episode, "Ballet," Moss directed a sequence juxtaposing an extravagant funeral with a ballet performance. The episode was characterized by a water theme, symbolizing the main character's (June) trauma and her feeling of being underwater after orchestrating the murder of her former abuser at the end of season four. The ballet was choreographed by Justin Peck and featured a water motif that gave the sensation of being underwater.
The creation of the ballet and funeral scenes required significant planning and coordination. The sequences were storyboarded extensively, and the team used animatics and giant boards to order each frame. The filming involved a Steadicam following the dancer, creating a dance between the camera and the ballerina.
For the funeral scene, which demanded a grand scale, the team used five cameras and a drone. One of the challenges was the scheduling of the shooting, taking into account the sun's direction, the extras, and the shooting time. The filming also had to comply with COVID-19 protocols, limiting the number of extras that could be used in each shot. The team used Unreal Engine for crowd replication to fill out the crowd in the scene.