A modern breakup in seven parts
Pillow Talk's director, Calum Bradshaw, on the stylistic vision behind the show
Pillow Talk is a modern series. It’s about LGBTQ+ relationships. It’s about Deliveroo. It’s about Millennials and masturbation and moving on. From scripting to shooting style, we’ve aimed to approach contemporary issues from contemporary angles - doing things a bit differently, and stretching our tech and the webseries format in new and exciting directions.
This is a 7-part series, and we decided early on that each episode should have a unique feel to it. The ultimate goal is for Pillow Talk to be just as watchable if thought of as 7 individual short films, and each of these episodes gave us a great (and scary) opportunity to try a load of new things.
Pillow Talk is a series with one consistent thread: our main character, Stella. Each episode centres on her interaction with a different sexual partner. This is the root of our changing styles - we decided that each of these partners should bring a new and unique brand of visual storytelling with them, whether they’re Stella’s ever-present ex-girlfriend Astrid, creepy French sugar daddy Mathieu, or weepy new grad Francis.
This variation has been an exciting process to plan. For instance, in Episode 1 Stella spends an ill-advised night with Astrid, who is - for better or for worse - a point of normality and stability for Stella. To reflect this, we shot in smooth-flowing widescreen anamorphic, with Tiffen ProMist filters and a muted, pastel colour palette. Casually hooking up with her ex is an unhealthy habit Stella has become comfortable with, so the entire look of the episode is engineered to maximise this dreamy, relaxed vibe.
But dreams don’t last forever. The harshest counterpoint to the soft tones of Episode 1 are probably found in Episode 6, when Stella, at rock bottom, sleeps with sleazy middle-aged Mathieu. Cranking discomfort up to 11, we shot this episode with a vintage Zeiss Superspeed 18mm lens and a heavy grade of Tiffen Tobacco filtration. This world is yellow, distorted, and firmly not where Stella belongs. Mathieu leers, Stella shrinks, and suddenly we start to understand the attraction of a comfortable night with Astrid.
We’ve got a few more surprises in store that I won’t spoil right now, but suffice to say we’re really pushing the boat out for this series - Episode 4 in particular should be one to remember. My philosophy is usually to try something new on every film I shoot - with Pillow Talk, little of it isn’t new - and that’s so damn exciting.