Cinematographer Brett Jutkiewicz knew he wanted to do something different for Scream VI. Not long after starting the script, he felt inspired by the franchise’s relocation from the frequently used fictional small town of Westboro to New York City. Seeking something different for Scream VI cinematography, Jutkiewicz embraced the new environment and pursued a visual departure for the sequel.
With 2022’s Scream, the cinematographer, as well as directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, paid stylistic tribute to previous films while putting their own stamp on the series. “For Scream VI, we felt like we could push that a little bit further and really make it our own and embrace that,” says Jutkiewicz.
The cinematographer, who has also worked on The Black Phone and Stranger Things, shared three ways he sought to make Scream VI stand out.
Ghostface Seen Through a New Lens
Until Scream VI, the franchise had been shot with anamorphic lenses. Jutkiewicz decided the move to New York City required a different look and, therefore, a different lens. Anamorphic lenses add an – often welcome – cinematic, aesthetically enhanced sheen to an image. They add a layer of soft cinematic fantasy to what the camera and audience will see.
Jutkiewicz wanted to remove that layer for Scream VI by using spherical lenses instead, which offer a sharper, more realistic look. “There’s this immediacy to spherical lenses,” Jutkiewicz says, and that is precisely what he wanted to achieve in the film. “Presenting the imagery in a more realistic way would help ground the audience to that environment.” Also important is that it would, in turn, further elevate the audience experience as Ghostface terrorized the characters of Scream VI, making it feel more visceral and real than other entries in the franchise.
New York City as It Is, But Also Heightened
“The real experience of New York City is moving from small space to small space,” says Jutkiewicz, who has lived there for nearly two decades. “For this film, I liked the idea of embracing that realism. But also using that to our advantage to create a slightly disorienting feeling that the walls are closing in on these characters.”
Take, for example, the scene where Ghostface pursues the characters in a quintessential New York City institution: a bodega. The filmmakers not only used the setting – bodegas are inherently compact – to create a claustrophobic feeling for the heroes during an attack, but Jutkiewicz wanted to accentuate it too.
It’s why even though much of Scream VI is set in dark environments, they embraced the more realistic well-lit look of actual bodegas. “In terms of the lighting, it was about responding to the environment and trying to create this sense of heightened naturalism,” Jutkiewicz says. It is also about adding to the threat of the scene. “For Ghostface to attack in that sequence is so brazen it felt right to make it feel like he’s unstoppable at that moment. There’s no dark corner for the characters to hide,” Jutkiewicz says.
A Killer Commute
When Jutkiewicz first read the Scream VI script, one scene gave him pause: an extended sequence where Ghostface would pursue the film’s heroes in a packed, moving New York City subway. “The first time reading that in the script, my brain was spinning. ‘How are we possibly going to do this?’” It would be a logistical challenge to find a way to control the movement and lighting of a subway to allow for the realism Jutkiewicz longed for while Ghostface moves in and out of the darkness created by tunnels between stations to get close to his would-be victims.
“That was the sequence that we talked about the most in prep, and we went through many iterations of ideas,” he says. They all knew, however, that their efforts would be worth it. “Everybody was excited about it. That’s part of why it ended up in the trailer. It is a centerpiece of the film.”
How They Pulled it Off
The production design team built an entire subway car and platform from scratch on a soundstage. The next challenge was to shoot it in a way that made the subway seem like it was moving in and out of tunnels to different stations. Jutkiewicz and his team created a giant lighting rig with 70 feet of lighting on each side of the car. Then they programmed the lights to move at different speeds to simulate movement. The special effects team found a way to rock the subway car back and forth so that the handheld cameras and actors inside felt like they were swaying as they would on an actual subway.
The result is perhaps one of the most terrifying Ghostface sequences in the Scream franchise. It is also one of the sequences Jutkiewicz is most proud of in the film. But he quickly adds about Scream VI and the filmmakers’ efforts to make it unique, “I’m really proud of the film as a whole.”