Two Sentence Horror Stories: Guy Pooles talks about creating the show’s distinctive sense of terror

Two Sentence Horror Stories -- "Hide" -- Image Number: TSH104a_0013r.jpg -- Photo: Stage 13/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Two Sentence Horror Stories -- "Hide" -- Image Number: TSH104a_0013r.jpg -- Photo: Stage 13/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

The CW spooks its fans this summer with horror anthology, Two Sentence Horror Stories. We spoke with the series’ cinematographer Guy Pooles about the show’s creation.

If you’re looking for a creepy new series to watch to lead you into Halloween season, look no further than The CW’s horror anthology series, Two Sentence Horror Stories.

You may have seen episodes of the series before when it ran in a short-form on the network’s digital platform, CW Seed. As the title suggests, each episode brings a two-sentence horror story to life in a terrifying fashion.

Thus far we’ve seen the show tackle timely topics such as workplace harassment, mental illness, and even immigration. It’s smart, savvy, and surprisingly frightening. We had the chance to talk with Guy Pooles, who serves as one of the show’s cinematographers, about how they create the look and feel of the show.

1428 Elm: What initially intrigued you about a project like Two Sentence Horror Stories?

Guy Pooles: I’m a huge fan of the anthology format, for one. The ability to tell a story, in its entirety, within a single episode is incredibly satisfying from a visual standpoint. You get to design a visual arc for the narrative that’s far more pointed and direct, as the shorter runtime only allows room for what is absolutely necessary to tell the story.

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I have such a love for short films and it saddens me that they are so often overlooked as a medium; a show like Two Sentence Horror Stories is really able to take what’s so effective about that nature of filmmaking and then open it up to a larger audience.

Then there’s the joy of getting to collaborate with so many different directors. I was so impressed with each one of the four directors that were hired to lead my episodes. The director-cinematographer collaboration is, to me, the most rewarding part of the job, so to have directors with such great instincts and clear visions for what they wanted was an absolute dream.

1428 Elm: Beyond its increased length, how would you say the series has evolved since its 2017 digital short-form incarnation to what we see airing on television now?

GP: The spirit and intention of the show are still very much the same, but for me, this production felt like an entirely different animal from the digital series incarnation. A lot of this was probably due to the production moving to New York; a city I’ve never shot in before.

Naturally, this shift creates quite a significant change in aesthetic from shooting in LA, not to mention a few logistical limitations that I wasn’t used to. I suppose the biggest evolution to the show as a whole, from where I stand, is the involvement of a second cinematographer.

The episodes were split between myself and Paul Yee. I really love his work on the show. Seeing the dailies from his episodes as we were shooting ours was incredibly inspiring and I think that he absolutely elevated the series as a whole.

Two Sentence Horror Stories
Two Sentence Horror Stories — “Hide” — Image Number: TSH104a_0326r.jpg — Pictured: Greta Quispe as Araceli –Photo: Stage 13/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

1428 Elm: Which segment of this season was your favorite to film?

GP: As with the digital series version of Two Sentence Horror Stories, it was really remarkable how each episode felt like an entirely different production. New directors, new actors, new locations and new narratives brought totally fresh energy to each shoot.

In that respect, it’s incredibly hard to compare the experience of shooting the episodes. Each shoot had such specific moments of joy and moments that challenged us.

I enjoyed every collaboration I had on this production. Especially with the incredible New York crew, I was lucky to have on my team. They brought joy to even the most difficult days of production.

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1428 Elm: Would you say that telling horror stories specifically is something you’re passionate about?

GP: Absolutely. Horror storytelling presents such a wonderful opportunity for introspection. I feel horror is at its best when the antagonistic force of the narrative taps into a relatable human fear or insecurity that we’ve not often stopped to reflect upon.

Through examining our fears, horror can teach us things about ourselves with a potency that is often tougher to achieve in other genres.

Two Sentence Horror Stories
Two Sentence Horror Stories — “Scion” — Image Number: TSH105a_0239r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Uly Schlesinger as Noah and Kate Jennings Grant as Dr. Lucie — Photo: The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

1428 Elm: With so many different storytellers on the show due to its anthology format, how do you ensure the cinematography maintains consistency?

GP: Vera Miao, the showrunner, was excellent about making sure that we all came together in pre-production to get on the same page. We collectively were able to discuss and agree upon what the visual rules of the show should be, and when it was narratively appropriate to break those rules within each episode.

Two Sentence Horror Stories
Guy Pooles – Courtesy of PR /

Vera had built a brilliant look-book for the show, that we could always refer back to, and we also had the resource of the previous, digital series of Two Sentence Horror Stories to look back upon and collectively discuss what worked about that aesthetic, and what we wished to do differently this time around.

1428 Elm: Were there other films or television shows you were visually inspired by when crafting the look of the series?

GP: Oh yes. Between the production designer, the costume designer, the two cinematographers, and the six directors, there was an abundance of visual references that were brought to the table.

What I really responded to the most about the works that we discussed as references, is that they fell outside of what would usually be expected for the aesthetic of a horror project. We wanted to push away from, what you might call, the James Wan aesthetic of horror storytelling that continues to strike a chord with audiences, and instead embrace a feeling that was far more minimalist and muted.

We looked at the recent work of Lynne Ramsay and Paul Schrader, and how they brew tension within their narratives through very repressed-feeling and almost oppressively sterile compositions and production design.

Two Sentence Horror Stories
Two Sentence Horror Stories — “Gentleman” — Image Number: TSH101a_0339r.jpg — Pictured: Nicole Kang as Hana — Photo: Stage 13/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

The goal was to design a look for the show that unsettled a viewer but did not draw immediate attention to how this was being achieved.

1428 Elm: You’ve written and directed a few short films yourself, would you ever consider writing or directing one of the episodes on this series?

GP: I find the process of writing and directing incredibly rewarding and I am certainly looking to do more in the future. In regard to Two Sentence Horror Stories, I really have no idea what the plan for the show currently is going forward from this season, but seeing as there are so many writers and directors out there who are infinitely more talented than I, if such an opportunity were to present itself I’d have to be certain that I would be the best choice to tell that specific story.

1428 Elm: Thank you so much for chatting with us Guy!

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Have you been watching Two Sentence Horror Stories on The CW? If not, do you plan on checking out the series now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Two Sentence Horror Stories airs Thursday nights on The CW. You can catch up on current episodes on The CW website and app.