Photo Credit: Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix; Pictured: Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Niecy Nash
Acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s Netflix four-part miniseries “When They See Us” tells the notorious and powerful true story of five teens from Harlem who become trapped in a nightmare when they’re falsely accused of a brutal attack in Central Park.
The project continues DuVernay’s track record of helming impactful, riveting content that shines a light on social injustice, including Best Picture Academy Award nominee “Selma,” which marked her first collaboration with EFILM Senior Colorist Mitch Paulson. Since then, they’ve collaborated on Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and “When They See Us,” which was shot by Cinematographer Bradford Young, ASC.
“Mitch knows what I want and gives it to me every time. This is our fourth project together. He is a wonderful collaborator. Our goal on this was emotional grit. I wanted texture, but not at the expense of emotion. I wanted you to see the grime of the prisons and police precincts and courtrooms and city streets, but remember the heart, the families, the innocence of the five falsely imprisoned boys as they become exonerated men. As always, we conversed about the goal and then went about finding a path to make it so. We pushed limits on this one. Also, Mitch knows what I want with the skin tone of black and brown people. I prioritize that,” says DuVernay.
“The story begins in 1989 then progresses several years so we tried to keep that period-specific look throughout. We leaned cooler with the interrogation scenes to mirror how dire the situation was for the teens, and scenes in Riker’s Island prison reflect the bleak feel of that space. We kept the look of the prison dark and gritty, and I played up certain elements to underscore that feeling,” describes Paulson.
DuVernay and Paulson worked out of EFILM’s Hollywood facility, where they completed color finishes for SDR and HDR versions of the miniseries.
“I was honored to be a part of this project. It’s an incredible story of injustice and perseverance, and Ava tells it beautifully,” concludes Paulson.
The creative force behind “When They See Us,” DuVernay also directed and co-wrote the limited series. She executive produced the series through her banner, Array FilmWorks, alongside Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films, and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions.
Watch “When They See Us” only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80200549