TELEVISION: Merlin moves to 35mm
The shift to filming in glorious 35mm has opened new doors of creative storytelling for the crew of MERLIN, and the evidence is clear in the lush cinematography and haunting approach to “Lamia,” an all-new episode MERLIN premiering Friday, Feb. 24, at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on Syfy.
The episode sets Merlin and several Knights of the Round Table on the road to a distant village to help treat those inflicted with a mysterious illness. But the young warlock quickly discovers he is the one in danger. As the Knights become increasingly bewitched by an alluring young woman named Lamia, Merlin finds himself with only Gwen as an ally, all the while lured into a cat-and-mouse game against an unseen enemy more deadly than he could possibly imagine.
Actress Charlene McKenna, who also stars in the popular Irish TV series Raw, plays Lamia, bringing to MERLIN her impressive acting talents, which include her debut role in the award-winning Breakfast on Pluto. She followed that role with a breakout performance in the television series Pure Mule, and was honored as Outstanding Actress in a Mini-Series for her role in Whistleblower at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. In 2009, she earned Best Actress/Television laurels for Raw at the Irish Film and Television Awards.
“Lamia” is also a showcase for behind-the-scenes developments on MERLIN, which shifted from high-definition video to 35mm film for Season Four. Series co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps explains that technology, combined with three years of experience on the series, has given the production team an opportunity to truly step up their game for the benefit of the viewers.
“The more fantasy stories you tell, the more confident you become in your storytelling and the way you make it – and the bigger the challenges you set before yourself,” Capps says. “Shooting on 35mm was a natural move for us because we’re able to make the CGI look a lot better, which is the kind of celluloid magic that allows you to make that fantasy world come to life that much better.
“I think it’s not that our budgets got bigger,” Capps explains, “but that you gain in confidence, you learn more, and technology is constantly changing. So in Season One, we would never have a huge marching army – but in Season Three, we didn’t think anything of it, and in Season Four you’ll see thousands of people marching on Camelot. You become more confident and you grow with the technology.”
Capps adds that while the technology is better, that doesn’t mean the crew uses it just for its own sake – particularly when revealing the mystical, often-frightening monsters that inhabit the landscape of MERLIN. “Lamia” is as entrancing for what viewers see as what they don’t see: a creature that mysteriously waylays villagers and Knights with a paralyzing effect.
“The leap to 35mm has allowed us to be more ambitious in the creatures we create, but what’s interesting with creatures is that we really believe less is more,” says Capps. “You don’t show the monster straight away – we’ve learned that it’s far more effective to use the ‘Jaws effect.’ In the first season, we might have shown the monster jumping down on the ground, growling. Now, you might see a glimpse of it and then we won’t reveal it until halfway through the episode. You learn about how to make it technically good, but also how to build the suspense. And ‘Lamia’ is a good example of that style.”
“Lamia,” an all-new episode of MERLIN, airs Friday, February 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on Syfy. All three seasons of MERLIN are now available on DVD and on iTunes. Be sure to follow the latest news on MERLIN at the Official Merlin page on Facebook.