Today the first four episodes of Amazon’s I Know What You Did Last Summer television adaptation became available to stream. Based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan, the new series is a modernized reimagining that takes the story in a new direction, although you will likely see some fun shoutouts and references to the classic ’90s films, too!
1428 Elm had the pleasure of chatting with series cinematographer Anka Malatynska about her work on the show. You’ve previously seen her work on projects like Hulu’s anthology series Monsterland and the OWN series Delilah.
1428 Elm interview with I Know What You Did Last Summer cinematographer Anka Malatynska
1428 ELM: What attracted you to this project, and were you familiar with this franchise beforehand?
ANKA MALATYNSKA: I was familiar with the movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt from my teenage years. Honestly, what attracted me to the franchise and the project itself was that it’s a horror series that is an allegory to what a lot of young people and teenagers are going through today.
It’s one of the things I love about the horror I’ve done, that I feel like horror serves as a good allegory for real problems we face in our lives that we can’t talk about in a straightforward way. I thought the characters were incredibly well-written, and I could empathize with them.
I think the core of the story is a world of young people that have been abandoned by the adults in their lives. The adults themselves are too f**ked up with their own problems to help their children navigate, which is such a powerful commentary on our world today.
1428 ELM: What are some of the challenges unique to the horror genre when you’re doing cinematography?
ANKA: A fun, unique challenge to this genre is night, darkness. Funny enough, I’m going to be teaching a workshop in December about that. Night can seem like a straightforward thing, but the night is a place where, as cinematographers, as visual directors, we can make the biggest artistic impact. It’s a place where horror is exciting, but also a place where horror is challenging and not just at a creative level, but at the physical level.
I think we shot five, maybe six weeks of nights. That is intense, to be up all night for six weeks, that spawns communication challenges and people not thinking clearly. The party that we revisit over all eight episodes, I think we were something like four and a half weeks in a mansion on the side of a cliff, at night—followed by two weeks on the side of a cliff on the road, at night. All of that presents real physical challenges and, like I said, creative challenges.
What was important to Craig Macneill and Sara Goodman—Craig, who was our pilot director and Sara, our showrunner—was that these kids feel authentic and that their world feels real and relatable. We watched a lot of Andrea Arnold movies when we were first talking about the series and making it feel useful and handheld and like we’re really on a journey with these characters.
1428 ELM: I think that comes across. One of the things I like about the show is the grounded aspect and the sensuality, like in the party scenes. What was the approach to those moments?
ANKA: As a cinematographer, the approach was to free up the space as much as possible. The production designer and I collaborated on the lighting of the party. [Elizabeth J. Jones] did such a spectacular job. We had these conversations about how we were putting our money on the practicals, practical lighting and incorporating film lights as design elements so that what we’re lighting with can also play on camera. Creatively it was also based on our conversations with Amazon and referring to shows like Euphoria and using strong colors.
I’m glad you said it feels sensual at times because that’s what we were asked to do. They wanted it to feel sexy and erotic but not like Eyes Wide Shut, not adult erotic. Everyone wants this party to be bright and colorful. In a way, it’s like building a world that looks like one thing, and then through the series, we find out what’s actually going on underneath, the breaking of the facade.
1428 ELM: Since I Know What You Did Last Summer is a reimagining of the novel, but it also pays homage to the ’90s films, did you feel obligated to use similar cinematic techniques or were you encouraged to do your own thing creatively?
ANKA: We wanted to do our own thing creatively. I will say, ironically, the cliffs on Oahu chosen for the crash scene were such a match to what they did in the original movie. What I will say, what I love about this iteration of the show versus the ’90s version; the ’90s iteration still, to me, reeked of stereotypical sexes, the guys playing certain roles and the girls playing certain roles.
I don’t think you could make an adaptation today that just lifted that story without changing significant aspects of it. I think what was so brilliant about what Sara did, and what’s different about our approach, is we wanted all of our girls and all of our characters to feel powerful and not feel objectified.
1428 ELM: What was the experience of filming on location in Hawaii like?
ANKA: Hawaii is a beautiful and challenging place to shoot. From a filmmaker’s perspective, I would say just like I feel like there are hardworking crews in New York that will be there at 4 o’clock in the morning in negative 20 degrees doing their job professionally without complaining, it’s the same thing in Hawaii.
It’s challenging in the way that rain comes and goes all the time. There was a lot of weather things. We filmed on Oahu, and the big island originally inspired Sara. I don’t know if you are familiar with Hawaii, but there are goats all over the big island and a creepy vibe to it at times, so we pieced together all of Oahu to create our imaginary town.
The first four episodes of I Know What You Did Last Summer are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.