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‘The Path’: How The Editors and Cinematographers Achieved a Creepy and Haunting Allure (Emmy Watch)

'The Path': How The Editors and Cinematographers Achieved a Creepy and Haunting Allure (Emmy Watch)

The Path

“The Path”

Hulu


There’s something creepy yet haunting about “The Path,” in which a tornado levels a town and enables a religious cult to expand its power as an extended family. The central conflict revolves around the ambitions of charismatic leader Cal (Hugh Dancy), the crisis of faith for follower Eddie (Aaron Paul) and the precarious impact on his marriage to Sarah (Michelle Monaghan).

With the support of director Mike Cahill, exec producer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”) and creator Jessica Goldberg, there was a freedom to be minimalistic and observational. This certainly impacted the cinematography of Yaron Orbach and co-editor Tad Dennis.

READ MORE: ‘The Path’ Review: The First Great Drama Series of 2016 Belongs to Hulu

“I visually played with two worlds: the facade of it, which is very organic and very natural, and the darker undercurrents you start learning about with these people and how they’re recruited [and treated],” explained Orbach, who shot with the Red Dragon. “I used a lot of natural light and bounce light and I allowed myself to go extremely dark at night.”

To create a greater sense of intimacy, around 80% of the series was shot with steady hand-held moves to explore the space and to give the actors the ability to move around. For suspense, he used a lot of slow zooms. Besides, there was already a very small footprint with practical lighting and a couple of cameras.

In addition, the pilot introduces strange flashbacks during a Peru retreat in which Eddie is confronted by the ghost of his dead brother. These were shot in a more hyper-real fashion. “We’re not sure whether it’s an hallucination or supernatural and I used available firelight to give it a reddish quality,” Orbach added.

For Dennis, “The Path” has a plaintive quality, serving as a metaphor for faith and happiness offered by support groups that inevitably devolve into power and corruption. “I embraced [the observational quality] by letting the scenes play out naturally, with wide shots and just cutting in when we had to for tighter shots,” he said. “There’s so much going on in their faces, especially with group leader Cal. He’ll be saying one thing but there’s some other meaning beneath it that maybe he doesn’t even know. It really benefits from unconventionally long scenes.”

For instance, a campfire scene during the retreat reveals how Cal manipulates Eddie’s vulnerability. It’s the catalyst for his emotional descent. Or the uncomfortable moment when a young addict (Emma Greenwell) throws herself sexually at Cal, and the conflict it arouses in him between immediate and delayed gratification.

“In the second episode (‘The Era of the Ladder’), Eddie’s going through the program and the process to ‘clean’ him. By the end of it, he’s ‘clean’ but essentially a broken man. Talk about creepy,” Dennis added.

READ MORE: Watch: Hugh Dancy Saves the Day in the Intriguing First Three Minutes of ‘The Path’

Both the cinematographer and editor pointed a favorite moment in the pilot when Sarah spies Eddie entering a hotel room to meet with another woman, punctuated by a slow zoom. 

“The whole concept is that she thinks she’s finding her truth and he thinks he’s finding his, but what they’re both witnessing ends up being no more truthful than what they already knew,” the editor remarked.

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