The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon It received rave reviews for its apocalyptic France production design, emotional performances, and gorgeous cinematography. The design of the series is unlike anything else the walking Dead The franchise has been produced before, heavily influenced by European aesthetics, art and films. Even in the high-octane action sequences where the dead take over, the episodic series is a masterclass in effective on-camera storytelling.

Director Dan Percival and Director of Photography/Cinematographer Tommaso Fiorelli bring the emotionally engaging, fast-paced story to life with action sequences and dramatic moments. Percival and Fiorelli sat down with CBR to discuss what influenced their film choices Daryl DixonHow they framed the show around natural lighting, and how they used the actors as a directing force. Percival also explained how he filmed the flashback scenes for the second episode in Paris as the apocalypse quickly destroys society.

CBR: Many of the shots in the show seem inspired by classical works of art or paintings. Was that intentional at all?

And Percival: For me, yes. A lot of our cinematography, especially in Europe, is inspired by art or the artist. I think most of our references are from movies, but those movies are inspired by art. You think about (Johannes) Vermeer, and the Dutch painters, and the only source of light comes from a sidelight from the window. Bouncing that light creates a soft interior and a hard exterior, utilizing the depth of the room and the depth of the space. This often comes from classical paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries. Do you agree, Tommaso?

Tommaso Fiorelli: There’s a French actor, Jean Gabin, who once said that there are three important things in a movie: a good story, a good story, and a good story.

(Percival chuckled)

Flowers: I think it really came into play because I was so inspired by what the actors were conveying. At some point, there was something sacred about what they were acting, what they were feeling, the position they occupied in time and space, and their feelings. It just gives you the will or intention to do something sacred, like some kind of avatar. The story and the actors’ performances really carried me through. In our line of work, we look to be guided by the actors and the story rather than imposing our views on them. So, quite often, I have some pictures like that, which sometimes looks like Caravaggio. But it just happened. We put the actor in there and said, “That’s it. Let’s do this. Let’s shoot that.” And it was him.

Percival: We are not afraid of the absence of light, like the painter Caravaggio. We’ve talked before about nature in photography and (how) Tommaso lights up the group. The actors move across the set. So we are in motion, unlike a painting, a film is in motion. So we move through the light, and when you turn, you’re either in the hard light or in the bounce of light. But either way, we go with what we see. We respond to what nature gives us. Tommaso loves nature. It shines from outside the room, not from inside the room. It is a naturalism very influenced by the European aesthetic. This goes back to post-Renaissance paintings and the use of naturalism — natural light entering the space and interacting with it. So you are right. It’s a very smart observation.

Flowers: I also look for accidents. I always try to give space to not be in control of something. I can make something out of it. Often times, it’s just a question of how an actor positions themselves. This is the way I like to work. When I turn the camera on, I move a little bit so that we have this little kick, this little pose, this little look. Often times, small differences make all the difference, in fact.

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There are really neutral, soothing scenes in the countryside. Then you have some scenes in these eclectic jazz clubs. How did you guys work to create a unified look across the show despite having these two very different pieces?

Percival: As the experimental director, you come up with an aesthetic that represents an approach to the material and what gives it continuity, whether it’s an indoor night out or an indoor club. Sometimes there are light bulbs, and you have to justify where the electric lights come from. You think: “Do they have generators? How do they power them?” So you’re talking about Demimonde, which is the club scene. It’s a Baroque painting, Folies Bergère in a Paris sewer. What we tried to keep consistent is that all lighting comes from a practical source. A practical source could be a window, or it could be a lamp. But what it isn’t is studio lighting. Again, people are still moving through light. It’s still an organic experience and environment. The other way to create consistency is the way you use your camera. How to develop shots. The way you move all the time with your characters. So you’re discovering environments that contain your characters. These two things together create consistency no matter what environment you are walking into.

Isabelle lights up a cigarette at night in Paris in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon

Of course, this is it walking dead The show, so the fight scenes are a given, whether it’s infantry versus infantry or human versus human. Were there any challenges for you both in handling these fast sequences?

Percival: Yes, it’s always a challenge. In a funny way, the most challenging scenes for me are two people in a room trying not to say they love each other. These are the things that become more vital at work. Often times it is planned and planned for you, as if you have done all your thinking ahead of time. It’s like changing gears in a car. Here’s this shot. There’s that shot. There is an answer to that shot. If you believe that at the beginning of Episode 2, there’s a nice cinematic ending where she meets Isabelle 12 years ago in a club in Paris, and then her night gets progressively worse. The apocalypse night begins so you run out of the subway in this chaos of zombies attacking people. It goes from very slow, quietly developing shots to increasing drama and horror. But every one of the shots is an evolving shot. It’s a shot coming from her. There was a motorcycle crash, and I had five cameras filming the motorcycle crash, but you see one. So you’re on top of it, the motorcycle hums behind it, and the camera goes with the motorcycle and bang! Then he returned to her.

You then have the low angle of the motorcycle crash. You have the wide angle at which the chairs collide in the air, which is the typical American television way of covering something. What we went for was a more immediate development shot, so you pick a point of view, and you stay there. This becomes your vocation for all action sequences. We try to do action sequences with the character, and move through them with the character. You see that in the first big zombie battle on the market (in Episode 1). It’s really Darryl’s view of what’s going on, his experience, and he becomes the center of the wheel. I developed all the shots from it. So you’re not just shooting, counter-shooting, shooting, counter-shooting, shooting, counter-shooting all the time.

New episodes of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon air every Sunday at 9:00 PM ET on AMC, and early on AMC+.

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