Written by Ryan Fleming, Deadline
“The biggest key with mysteries,” says Poker Face cinematographer Jaron Presant, ASC, “is you want to disseminate the information at the right time, but also play with the audience.”
Poker Face, created by Rian Johnson, follows Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne) as she travels the country on the run. After her unnatural ability to detect when someone is lying gets her into trouble with a mob boss, Charlie takes to the road for safety. With every stop, she finds herself embroiled in a new murder mystery with new casts of colorful characters.
Piecing together a mystery in each episode of Poker Face is an interesting challenge, as the first part of the episode shows the murder and how it was committed. That is followed up with the story being told with Charlie in it, as it turns out she was there the whole time. “It’s about information that you’re giving the audience, and the more you can do that visually and not exposition-ally, the better,” says Presant. The biggest question is, “What are we giving the audience and what aren’t we giving?”
The eighth episode this season, “The Orpheus Syndrome”, was directed by Lyonne and Presant was thrilled to work with her. “The world the Natasha created kind of seeped into every aspect of what we were doing – into the costume design, into the production design, into the cinematography – in a way that just felt so all encompassing.”
The episode was particularly interesting for Presant, as it centered around a special effects artist played by Nick Nolte. “[Originally], the thing I really wanted to do was be a special effects man. I wanted to do that thing, and make creatures… I wanted to be Nick Nolte’s character,” says Presant. He was even more excited to work with legendary special effects artist Phil Tippet. “To be around that and to have Phil Tippet there… there’s some special moments on sets where you have this out of body experience where you’re watching the whole thing come together and it seems surreal.”