Cameras are powerful tools. A picture really can speak a thousand words in emotions and memories. The challenge we had in CELL was in finding a way to keep that picture interesting. There are only so many shots you can get in about 800 square feet, which was the total size of our set. And not all of it was usable space for the camera.

I think we did a pretty good job mixing up our shots so it felt fresh throughout the series.

We also used a little trick to help express things to the viewers that they hopefully never realized.

When I break down the majority if Season 1 of CELL, I look at it as if there are really only 2 types of scenes, excluding the finale. One consists of our two heroes alone with each other. The other includes the Man in the cells with our heroes.

When we see Brian and Sarah together by themselves, it’s usually pretty calm. Sure they get into some arguments, but overall they’re safe. They’re in control of their space. For any shot with just the two of them together the camera stayed on sticks (tripod) to give the frame a nice steady feel. Any movements were done on a dolly or jib to give it a smooth, controlled feeling.

On the flip side, anytime the Man was in the frame, it was a handheld shot. The subtle movement of the camera added just enough imbalance to disorient the viewer a tiny bit. I didn’t want the effect to be a huge contrast. I just wanted it subtle enough to give the viewer the sense that something changed whenever the Man came into the scene. All of the camera movements were done by hand as well which gave a nice frantic feel when the camera moved.

There are a few instances where we actually broke that rule, and each one was for a specific reason.

One was in episode 10. When Sarah confronts the Man, the shot follows her as she walks across the cell to the bars. We kept that shot on sticks and used a dolly to track her movement. I wanted that shot to be controlled, because for the first time in the show, Sarah is in control when the Man is with them.

Another time we broke the rule was in episode 12. At its deepest level, Sarah is in control now so we kept the camera locked down for that entire episode. (That episode also has no music. It’s the only episode where the only music is Sarah singing at the end.)

I hope that those subtle changes worked for the viewers. Can you find the other times that we changed out camera moves? Did it work for you?

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