Director Cédric Nicolas-Troyan and Renaud Chassaing, AFC, speak to Panavision about their work on episodes 1, 2, 3 & 4 of "Furies"

Contre-Champ AFC n°353

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Director Cédric Nicolas-Troyan and cinematographer Renaud Chassaing, AFC, share with us their artistic vision and their work on the filming of episodes 1, 2, 3 & 4 of the series "Furies".

How did you get involved in the project ?

Cédric Nicolas-Troyan : I read in a magazine that I was a French director who worked in the US… I don’t completely agree with that. I think I’m more of an American director who was born in France. For me the difference is huge. As a director I wanted to try my hand at a Show TV. But having spent ten years of my life in Paris, I wanted to film The City. Furthermore, I had never directed anything in French or worked with French actors, and as I love challenges and first times, when I was offered "Furies", I couldn’t resist.

Renaud Chassaing : It was through the Empreinte Digitale production that I met Cédric Troyan-Nicolas. He is French but has lived in the US for more than twenty years.

Cédric returned to France to carry out this project at Netflix and was looking for a crew. During a first meeting we quickly agreed on common references and on the overall artistic direction of this series written by Jean-Yves Arnaud and Yoann Legave. It amused me to work on this type of action series, with stunts and fights meticulously choreographed by Jude Poyer and Olivier Sa.

How would you describe the look of the project ?

CNT : When I direct a film or a show, I find 2 or 3 colours that are inspired by an aspect of the project. For "Furies", it was cyan verdigris, gold/yellow and red (at least for my episodes), colors inspired by the city of Paris and places like the Opera, oxidized roofs, baroque gilding, etc. I designed everything with these colours as a guide. For me it harmonizes the scenes together. I like to think that it gives a unique aspect to the film.

RC : Paris is almost treated as a character in this series and we wanted to shoot as many night sequences as possible.
For me it was essential because despite the beauty of this city, I find it complicated to photograph during the day. The facades of the buildings are white/beige, the streets are sometimes narrow and the photographic rendering often seems dull to me. Cédric wanted to film Paris with his very personal vision, he wanted to obtain a marked image that moved away from naturalism. We decided to push the sliders on colors and density. For the exteriors of the day he really wanted a verdigris shade which would counter the paleness of the Parisian exteriors.

Ultimately three colours were to define the look of "Furies" : this verdigris, red and warm orange for certain nights.
Then using my colorist Elie Akoka we created a contrast LUT that respected this look. Phillipe Chiffre, the production designer, was able to integrate this color code into the many sets.

On episode 6, director Laura Weaver took on Cédric’s aesthetic while bringing her universe to it.

To summarize, I would say that the visual identity of the series is a colorful, slightly pop image, with a certain density and texture.

Are there any visual references that inspired you ?

CNT : The architecture and colors of Paris clearly. Specifically everything that is NapoleonIII and the beginning of the 20th century.

RC : Several films which use colours in the narration such as John Wick, The Neon Demon, Last Night in Soho, Atomic Bomb. Le Samouraï, by Jean-Pierre Melville, also, for its monochrome blue nights. Greg Girard’s photographs of colorful nights in the great metropolises of Asia also inspired me a lot.

What brought you to Panavision for this project ?

CNT : I do all my projects with Panavision, even commercials. I don’t know what it’s like to shoot with lenses other than Panavision. As today almost everything is filmed digitally for me, the choice of lenses is very important. The Panavision series have very strong identities. For me, choosing a series of objectives is a narrative bias.

But I think it’s also a fascination with lenses that have made Hollywood legends. For me, working with Panavision means working with legendary tools.

RC : The question of choosing optics arose from our first discussion around the aesthetics of the project. Cédric only works with Panavision optics ; he could not imagine any other options. And he particularly likes the C-series with which he shot his two feature films. We quickly came to an agreement because I also really appreciate this anamorphic series, but I thought it was unavailable in the dates. Thanks to the tenacity of Alexis Roposte and Alexis Petkovsek we were lucky enough to recover at the last moment a C-series of an American film which was delayed.

What attracted you to the specific C-series lenses you chose ?

CNT : The C-series is very special, it creates a lot of life, it adds an extra layer to the reality that the camera sees. It creates the space between things, the void between the object that we are filming and the camera.

For me, each anamorphic distortion, each lens flair adds a palpable dimension, a physical existence... The illusion that it is not just a digital file. For me it’s important.

RC : I find that they have a unique look. This series transfigures reality through its aberrations and its texture. The optics of this C-series can have colorimetric differences but there is always this diffraction which affects the entire image. The organic feeling that this series provokes and the flaws that appear on screen are specificities that seemed perfect to me to accompany the offbeat tone and the original characters.

What inspired you to become a director and what inspires you today ?

CNT : The magic of films, I’m dyslexic. I loved Jules Verne but reading for me was difficult and I struggled at school. In the 70s my father took me to the cinema to see 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (R. Fleischer, 1954) and it was wonderful. The films created these hundreds of places where I could go and dream. My dream transformed into a desire to participate in an adventure, like that of making a film, of telling stories.

I didn’t really know to what extent I would be part of this world that seemed so far away but every time I had the opportunity to make a decision that would bring me closer to this dream, I took it. It wasn’t easy and you had to believe it. My first decision was to pack my suitcase and go to Paris.

What inspires me is the unknown. I’ve always been like this, and I don’t think I’ll change.

What inspired you to become a cinematographer and what inspires you today ?

RC : I remember that very early on I was fascinated by the camera object without really knowing why. Then I got a camera in my hands, and I practiced film photography in the lab. Later I finally intended to prepare for the Louis Lumière school competition in the sound section. It was during a conference at Henri Alekan’s film library that I really discovered the profession of director of photography. It was a revelation, and I changed my direction…

Today what inspires me are meetings, discovering the worlds of directors. I try to remain open to quite diverse proposals and what interests me most now is not to create a beautiful image but to find artistic coherence on each project. I find it fascinating to find the right photography that will correspond to the author’s vision, to watch old films, to discover early works and series. This job also distorts vision daily, I feel constantly on visual alert, so I try to see as many photo and painting exhibitions as possible.