The elevator pitch for “The Afterparty” was pretty straightforward. It was everything that followed that got complicated.
“Just a murder mystery, where each episode is a different kind of movie, told in a ‘Rashomon’ type style,” Carl Herse, the series’ cinematographer, said in the video series’ final episode. “How I Did It” by TheWrap, sponsored by Apple TV+. “As a cinematographer, it’s like the perfect project to be involved in.”
Co-creator, showrunner and director Chris Miller added that he was excited to juggle several different film styles on the same show.
When an attendee at a high school reunion mysteriously dies, all the guests at the titular afterparty become suspects. Each brings a unique perspective (and genre) to their version of the night’s events. In practical terms, this meant that certain scenes would be shot several times in very different ways.
“There was a scene in a school hallway where Sam Richardson and Zoë Chao meet Ilana Glazer and we see it as a romantic comedy first,” Miller said. “And then we see it a second time from the perspective of Ilana’s character as a thriller. To do this, we started the day with the hallway lit.
“It’s hot, everyone’s backlit, everyone’s cosmetically lit, and then after you finish this scene, everyone leaves and we reset the scene to make it look like a thriller” , added Herse. “Suddenly everyone is in silhouette with strong moonlight streaming through the slats and we’re playing with shadows more.”
But to make the show work, it wasn’t just about figuring out which genres audiences would most like to see ape, it was figuring out which tropes from those genres could be optimized for the story “The Afterparty” told. .
“Part of it was figuring out which releases in each genre were the most visual and had the most possibilities, like the teen party movie,” Herse said. “There are a lot of examples of that, but finding one that had a visual style, that we could connect with and try to express.”
“The romantic comedies – we watched a lot of the Richard Curtis ones, all of the Hugh Grant ones,” Miller said.
“Anything with Hugh Grant, of course,” added Herse.
“We did a musical and a lot of the discussions were like, is this a pop musical? Is this a ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ style movie of a musical? Does this shot look like a music video? And we decided to make it our own thing that was inspired by all of those things,” Miller said.
With genres chosen and styles refined, all that was needed to make “The Afterparty” sing was meticulous attention to detail and creatives who cared enough about characters and concept to thrive while making variations on a theme.
“All departments really stepped up the show, where the costumes were slightly different in each episode to accentuate the genre,” Miller said. “In the props, on set, there were all these different little details that led to swapping things out and saying, ‘Oh no, he has to wear his ‘Thriller’ jacket. It’s his musical jacket.
The show’s ridiculously deep cast of comedic actors had its own multiplicity challenge. “All of these actors are really great,” Miller said. “They have to figure out who their character is and then do eight different shades of that character depending on what story it’s about. And it can really mess with your mind if you start thinking, ‘Am I playing myself or someone else’s perception of me?’
Watch the full episode of “How I Did It” in the player above.