ADG Perspective

July-August 2021

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T H E F L I G H T A T T E N D A N T | P E R S P E C T I V E 5 7 "I want to get you on the phone with the showrunners, and then let's do this," director Susanna Fogel excitedly urged. It only took one conversation with Susanna Fogel to convince me that The Flight Attendant was the perfect project for our second collaboration. We'd been in touch for over a year while opportunities slipped away. This time, schedules lined up and the project compelled us both. An international thriller with a psychological turn, helmed by a smart and sassy (if slightly unhinged) lead, it came with the potential to be aesthetically bold while staying rooted in character. A week later, I was laughing and chatting with show creator Steve Yockey and showrunners Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin, about Hitchcockian references for the world surrounding Cassie Bowden. Based on the book of the same name, Steve Yockey carried major elements of The Flight Attendant into the series, with producer Kaley Cuoco playing Cassie Bowden, the vivacious party girl centering the story. Her fun exterior is cover for the darker parts of her life—alcoholism, childhood trauma, and her immediately perilous situation after a wild Bangkok night ends in a body, one Alex Sokolov, bled out next to her. The book is full of introspection from the lead character, but rather than turning her musings into action, Steve conjured a physical space for her to explore her thoughts. Lovingly referred to as the "Mind Palace," Cassie is sucked—or escapes —back to the scene of the crime throughout the show. There she schemes with a reanimated Alex to piece together the events of the night, outwit those chasing her, and finally reckon with her past. Creating that Mind Palace, the script's Makara Prince, was the first order of business. I excitedly dove into research at the New York Public Library Art and Architecture collection, planning to use regional references to drive the look of the international high-end hotel chain. Originally set in Dubai, I loaded my arms with books about traditional Islamic design. A week into the show, however, production pivoted from that arid city's new money glitz to the dense and beautiful history of Bangkok. The investment in geometries didn't go to waste, though. It helped inform how I wanted to represent Cassie's state of mind when she wakes up with only fragments of her night to piece together. Working with a combination of freehand sketching and hand-drafting, I created a rectilinear, modern, minimalist floor plan and then shattered it. Symmetries were broken apart, halls and doorways angled to allow Cassie to literally run in circles. Freestanding panels pivoted or protruded, obstructing her path, and were set against thick massing walls which added weight to the open space. Because the story returned to the suite often, the space functioned much like a theatrical stage. With that and Hitchcockian themes in mind, Rope became a conceptual touchstone for me. With the freedom of cuts and camera moves, I worked to provide a variety of sightlines and blocking options for the directors and DPs to discover. Vertical surfaces offered reflection, refraction and obfuscation, giving the camera and audience the ability to see Cassie as she sees herself—which is to say not very clearly or completely. D e s i g n i n g t h e S u b c o n s c i o u s T H E F L I G H T A T T E N D A N T B Y S A R A K W H I T E , P R O D U C T I O N D E S I G N E R A. THE LIVING ROOM OF THE MAKARA PRINCE TOWARD THE BEDROOM, SHOWING OFF THE SYMMETRY. PHOTO BY SPENCER LASKY. B. THE MASTER BEDROOM FOR THE EPISODE 6 HALLWAY MAZE, MERGING ELEMENTS OF CASSIE'S PAST TRAUMAS INTO A CHILLY SCENE. CONCEPT RENDERING BY DAVID SWAYZE DEVELOPED WITH RHINO, VRAY, BLENDER AND PHOTOSHOP.

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