Shining Girls Director Details How She Established the Complex and Chilling World of the Series

The Apple TV+ series Shining Girls enlisted a number of talented filmmakers to help bring the project to life, which includes Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead veteran Michelle MacLaren. While developing the project was a collaborative effort, MacLaren was tasked with directing the first episodes of the series, which brought with it the freedom to explore this story how she saw fit, yet it also challenged her to establish the look and feel of the unsettling experience. Elisabeth Moss and Daina Reid also serve as directors on the series. Shining Girls premieres on Apple TV+ on April 29th. 

"When you do the first two episodes of a new series, that's your responsibility is to help set up the look and the style of the show, and hopefully the other directors who come in carry that on," MacLaren shared with "I talked to Lizzie and Daina extensively about what my intentions were, but I always want to encourage the directors coming in after me then to take that and run with it because it is a collaboration, and I learned from [Breaking Bad creator] Vince Gilligan years ago, who would say, 'Come in, do whatever style you want, but make sure the camera's always telling the story,' and hopefully you set up a style and a tone that people want to carry on that is telling the story and that it evolves from there. Yes, it's a collaboration, but I do have the wonderful privilege of setting up the initial style and tone."

Based on Lauren Beukes' best-selling novel, Shining Girls follows Kirby Mazrachi (Moss) as a Chicago newspaper archivist whose journalistic ambitions were put on hold after enduring a traumatic assault. When Kirby learns that a recent murder mirrors her own case, she partners with seasoned, yet troubled reporter Dan Velazquez (played by Wagner Moura), to uncover her attacker's identity. As they realize these cold cases are inextricably linked, their own personal traumas and Kirby's blurred reality allow her assailant to remain one step ahead. In addition to Moss and Moura, the gripping drama stars Phillipa Soo with Amy Brenneman and Jamie Bell rounding out the ensemble cast.

While the filmmakers have the advantage of manipulating the way a series is edited in order to keep audiences on their toes, adding another layer of complexity to Shining Girls is the fact that Kirby herself grapples with her own memory, creating a confusing narrative that is delivered in a disjointed way.

"That was an incredible challenge and something that we all discussed a lot. You take a leap of faith, and in this case, audiences are very sophisticated today, they're really smart," the filmmaker said of managing to keep audiences guessing without throwing them off entirely. "I think, hopefully, they want a challenge when they're watching something, so I want to give them a lot of space to be involved in the storytelling process and wanting to figure it out."

She added, "It is a fine line, and something, as I said, we discussed a lot, but ultimately this is about how the time shifts are a metaphor for the aftermath of trauma, so you want to create that sense of imbalance. You're trying to solve a mystery of who's killing these women, but also the mystery of what's happening to Kirby's mind, and we want you to be solving it with Kirby. Most of this is told from her point of view, so it is going to be ambiguous, it is going to be off-balance, and that's because that's how her character is feeling, and we want the audience to feel that way."

Shining Girls premieres on Apple TV+ on April 29th.

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