HBO’s “The White Lotus”: Behind the Scenes with the Production Team

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Organized by the IndieWire Crafts team, Craft Considerations is a platform for filmmakers to talk about recent work that we believe deserves to be recognized. Partnering with HBO, for this edition, we take a look at how cinematographer Ben Kutchins, songwriter Cristobal Tapia de Veer, and casting director Meredith Tucker created a darker, more complex take on Hawaii for guests and the guest. staff of “The White Lotus”.

Writer / director Mike White isn’t the first TV showrunner to create a thriller where any character could be either the killer or their prey, but his choice of setting provided the limited series with its greatest appeal. and his biggest challenge. Hawaii is, we are constantly told, a bright and relaxing tropical paradise.

In order for the White Lotus to feel like a luxury resort where a terrible fate lurks just around the corner, the filmmakers of the limited series had to create a palpable stream of doubt, obscurity and mania that no number of Tiki bars, breakfast buffets or plunge pools can dispel. The challenge of creating the messy undercurrents – while serving White’s unique brand of comedy – would be central to every craftsman’s work on the series.

For cinematographer Ben Kutchins, the test was to create a visual look that finds literal darkness and compositional unease within this natural paradise. The score by composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer had the task of destabilizing the audience, preventing us from falling too far into character identification and instead focusing on all the ways these people lack focus. Casting director Meredith Tucker had to find actors who could display the same depths within themselves that Kutchins and de Veer brought out of the environment: actors who could nail the black humor of Mike White that so often comes out of. our deepest vulnerabilities.

In the videos below, you’ll see how Kutchins, de Veer, and Tucker all found ways to unearth the anxiety and ferocity that lurks just beneath the sunny surfaces of “The White Lotus”.

The cinematography of “The White Lotus”

The look of “The White Lotus” was a delicate balancing act for series cinematographer Ben Kutchins. “How can I represent this [location] in a way to you as a member of the audience that locks you into her beauty in a satisfying way, but also [captures] its dangerous element, and do it in a fun way? Kutchins said. “How can I do all of these things at the same time? “

Kutchins was certainly well versed in darker tones, having worked in the deep and murderous blues of “Ozark” before, but for “The White Lotus” he should have played with contrast and color in a way that made the otherwise Instagram-capable Hawaii setting feels like a truly lurking place.

Kutchins has been successful in bringing out the shadows in the natural landscape and hallways of The White Lotus hotel itself, deliberately pushing the landscape shots to find slightly off-set angles or ways in which Hawaii’s natural beauty can dominate. the characters – a message from the natural world that most of them can’t seem to hear. In the video above, watch how the cinematographer worked with White to create an impression that the world is subtly out of step, not quite made up, making it impossible for real estate brother Shane (Jake Lacy ) or the manager of the Armond hotel (Murray Bartlett) to let go of the little human insults.

The score of “The White Lotus”

Veer’s Cristobal Tapia score caused a sensation on Twitter in its own right, as it sounded unlike anything else on TV. This is because de Veer didn’t want his music to come from a character’s emotional state, but rather to focus on how resort guests are disconnected from not only the lush landscape they are visiting, but also from their own sense of self.

To that end, de Veer avoided leitmotifs and themes that would indicate to the audience who we should be feeling at any given time. Instead, said de Veer, “the sounds were really coming from the simple jamming [on] all that percussion. I opted for a traditional sound, so playing big native flutes and little South American guitars and all that African percussion.

In the video above, watch how this eclectic instrumentation creates an overall sonic palette of messy, chaotic, almost joyful tension that perfectly reflects the show’s dark, comedic tone and fatalistic narrative conduct. It continually amplifies the weight of insult or failure, a chorus of apes pointing and laughing at their exhausted human cousins. “It brings more dimension and perspective to what’s going on, and maybe it adds to things that aren’t there, but could be there,” De Veer said of how the score is used in the series.

That sense of things that are half there, that could be there, driving the characters crazy, is key to how “The White Lotus” maintains the suspense over its six episodes. The score continually pulls on a thread of anxiety that we inevitably feel is about to break.

The cast of “The White Lotus”

Finding actors who can understand this mix of dark humor, observation, and especially Mike White’s human frailty is something Meredith Tucker has been doing for some time. Tucker, who worked on White’s previous projects like “Brad’s Status” and “Beatriz at Dinner,” came on “The White Lotus” with several key roles already written for specific actors. White had Jennifer Coolidge in mind when creating Tanya, for example, and envisioned Molly Shannon as the cheeky stepmom Kitty from the start. So Tucker consciously built a cast that could elevate the show’s delicate tone around the existing pieces.

One of the hardest parts to pin down, Tucker said, was Armond. In the video above, Tucker explained how she saw Murray Bartlett’s audition, she recognized someone the audience could hold onto and who could go to the depths where Armond eventually sinks. “I think using her natural Australian accent I think it really worked,” Tucker said of Bartlett’s audition tape. “He did that cock of his head and that, like, smile, without changing tack, but you could tell the claws could come out anytime.” It was as if he was baring his teeth slightly and you knew he had the ferocity to go where this character went. Whether it was with Armond, or with the wary and compassionate Belinda (Natasha Rothwell) or with the brooding and hurt teenager Quinn (Fred Hechinger), Tucker found actors who could go wherever the characters went, and showed us all of them. the stages along the way.

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