Netflix embraces the dark arts


Netflix is to double its in-house production of movies and serials to meet an almost insatiable demand for product on the subscription-based streaming service provided by the US-based entertainment behemoth.

And the good news for the company with more than 148 million paid subscriptions worldwide is that the doubled output is not going to cost anywhere near as twice as much in production costs.

The Bug understands this “little-extra-cost” expansion will be possible because Netflix has advised its writers and directors to pump out far more police procedurals, private-eye yarns and spooky mystery dramas with double the number of night-time scenes where viewers can’t see anything anyway.

The company has always dabbled with the technique – from The Ranch where night-time scenes disguised shitty set designs and River to the ominously named Dark, When They See Us, which could be a rhetorical question, and Black Spot, which perhaps should have been in the plural – but have been particularly inspired by outside productions screened recently on their service such as Shetland and Hinterland.

“Those UK shows have been an eye-opener in more ways than one,” a Netflix spokesperson told The Bug.

“We always wondered why those two series was so cheap to procure until we realised they didn’t cost a helluva lot to make. They’ve been a real motivating factor in our own moves in that direction.”

Pictured at top is an exciting moment from an episode of the Welsh noir police procedural drama Hinterland where troubled – and aren’t they all? – detective chief inspector Tom Mathias spends a large amount of time searching a former children’s home with a past even darker than it is on this particular night.

“Our regular subscribers would know those sorts of scenes from those two UK shows and some of our own productions that are concentrating more and more on the same technique,” the Netflix spokesperson said.

“Chase sequences along windswept moors on moonless nights; detective inspectors using a torch to check disused warehouses and dilapidated country manors for murder suspects or victims because the light switches never work, ditto for darkened country laneways, ditto for squalid Victorian-era railway tunnels and deadends in places like Brixton where no-one wants to live.

“Any Netflix aficionado would know that with many of our shows, unless they are sitting in a completely darkened room, they’ve got next to no idea what’s happening in so many scenes. It helps them to feel as if they’re really there and they can share the character’s nervousness and apprehension in facing the unknown.

“Good lighting would only take away from that realism we’re trying to achieve here by filming noir; the added dramatic effect that comes from our viewers turning to one another and inquiring: ‘Have you got any fucking idea what’s going on here?’

“Shadowy, barely discernible forms. The flash of a silhouette that may have been a face. A close-up of what may have been an arm holding what may have been a gun. Or a police badge. It doesn’t really matter.

“Besides, proper lighting can be so damned expensive. Those guys charge a packet.

“This technique also saves a lot of money in production costs because the main actors aren’t needed for days on end as we shoot these extended ‘dramatic’ scenes. Because the viewer can see bugger-all anyway, we normally just use stick a DCI longcoat, a wig, a beard, whatever, on a junior member of the crew to do these extended cautious walk-throughs and then the lengthy chases themselves.

“Our actors can do some ‘Who’s there?’ voiceovers and huffing and puffing running noises on the days they’re needed on set for the shooting of scenes where they, well, you know, need to and can be seen.

“One of our senior producers examined a 90-minute episode of Hinterland and reckons with a bit more night shooting and longer shots of police vehicles speeding on windswept moors, actor Richard Harrington would have only been needed on set for a few days.”

The savings are expected to be substantial as Netflix “originals” are rapidly grabbing a much larger share of its streaming product.

Netflix also has an ever-increasing income from tourist boards in “shitholes” around the world who pay handsomely for the company to cease streaming the likes of Hinterland and Shetland that have severely impacted their much-needed tourist dollars.

The Bug understands Netflix has also raked in countless millions of extra dollars from local authorities, tourist boards and the like around the globe as please-don’t-do-it bribes  after touting movies and series that were never planned anyway in Outer Uzbekistan, the Orkney Islands, large parts of inland South Australia and in and around Rockhampton, Queensland.

Below: Other dramatic scenes from episodes of Shetland and Hinterland as storylines reach their denouement. It’s a growing film noir technique that have given Netflix so much inspiration.

dark scene - net

dark scene - net