Jim Fiscus on shooting “Dexter” key art

Jim has shot the key art for three seasons’ worth of Dexter, including for Season 5, which kicked off on Showtime on September 26. Earlier this week, I called him up to ask him about the differences among the images. Here’s what he said…

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“The challenge for Showtime is to get a consistent look with the Dexter key art from previous years, but also a look that’s different. For the new season, they felt that these ads had a different message from what we’d done before. In previous years, it was really kind of bright and shiny and exciting. Poppy, contrasty. Optimistic colors…
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Key art for "Dexter," Season 3. Photo by Jim Fiscus for Showtime.

Key art for "Dexter," Season 3. Photo by Jim Fiscus for Showtime.

Key art for "Dexter," Season 3. Photo by Jim Fiscus for Showtime.


 

 

Key art for "Dexter," Season 4. Photo by Jim Fiscus for Showtime.

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“And then this year, the look is somber. The advertisement specifically represents the minute after the conclusion of last year’s season. Other years, the imagery was designed to promote the show. But this year’s picture was sort of a treat for fans of Dexter in that they would know that that picture was that moment immediately after he discovers the murder of his wife. In the show, the scene occurs in the bathroom, hence the reflection of him staring in my ads…

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“I always spend a lot of time thinking about the lighting design. The lighting this year was a departure from last season’s ads: Michael [C. Hall, the star of the show] is in ugly light because it was an ugly moment. I was trying to evoke an emotional response from the viewers.

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Key art for the current season of "Dexter." Photo by Jim Fiscus for Showtime.

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“If you haven’t seen last season’s episodes, the story is that John Lithgow plays a serial killer named Arthur Mitchell, the Trinity Killer. He and Dexter are playing chess—they’re trying to get one another. After all their maneuvering, Dexter finally succeeds in killing Arthur. But when he goes home, satisfied that his nemesis has been eliminated, he walks into the bathroom and discovers his wife has been murdered—in the style of the Trinity Killer. And his baby son is sitting in her blood, crying. It’s the same thing that happened to Dexter when he was a boy.

“Dexter is usually upbeat and smiling and sly. He’s never been stumped, and now he’s at a total loss. So my challenge was, How do you show Dexter when he doesn’t know what to do next, especially when he’s never been shown that way before?

“When I was directing Michael, I was telling him that he’s feeling an emotion he’s never felt before. The blank stare in the photo is intentional. Dexter’s eyes are dead while his brain races to figure out what to do next.”

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Thanks, Jim!

Related: “Dexter” kills ’em at the BDA Design Awards

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