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Sense8

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Sense8
Sense8 Title.png
Genre
Created by
Written by
  • Lana Wachowski
  • Lilly Wachowski
  • J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by
Starring
Composer(s)
  • Johnny Klimek
  • Tom Tykwer
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 23 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Deepak Nayar (season 1)
  • Leon Clarance
  • Marc Rosen
  • Cindy Holland
  • Peter Friedlander
  • Tara Duncan
  • Lilly Wachowski (season 1)
  • Lana Wachowski
  • J. Michael Straczynski
  • Grant Hill
  • John Toll (season 2)
Producer(s)
  • Marcus Loges
  • L. Dean Jones Jr. (season 1)
  • Alex Boden
  • Terry Needham (season 2)
  • Roberto Malerba (season 2)
Location(s)
Cinematography
  • John Toll
  • Danny Ruhlmann
  • Frank Griebe
  • Christian Almesberger
Editor(s)
  • Joe Hobeck
  • Joseph Jett Sally
  • Fiona Colbeck
Camera setup Single-camera[1]
Running time 46–124 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Netflix
Release
Original network Netflix
Picture format 4K (Ultra HD)[4]
Audio format Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 with Descriptive Video Service track
Original release June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05) – May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
External links
www.netflix.com/sense8

Sense8 (a play on the word sensate /ˈsɛnst/) is an American science fiction drama web television series created by Lana and Lilly Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski for Netflix. The production companies behind Sense8 include the Wachowskis' Anarchos Productions (replaced by Lana and her wife's Venus Castina Productions in the second season), Straczynski's Studio JMS, and Georgeville Television, with Unpronounceable Productions having been set up specifically for this show.

The show's first season introduced a multinational ensemble cast, with Aml Ameen, Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Max Riemelt, Miguel Ángel Silvestre and Brian J. Smith portraying eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become "sensates"; human beings who are mentally and emotionally linked. Freema Agyeman, Terrence Mann, Anupam Kher, Naveen Andrews and Daryl Hannah also star. In the second season Toby Onwumere replaces Ameen. The show aims to explore subjects that its creators feel have not been emphasized in many science fiction shows to date,[5][6] such as politics, identity, sexuality, gender and religion.[6][7]

Each episode of Sense8 was written by the Wachowskis and Straczynski in the first season; in the second season, Lilly Wachowski took a break from the show, and the scripts were written by just Lana Wachowski and Straczynski. Most of the episodes of the two seasons were directed by the Wachowskis (or just Lana, in the second season), with the remainder being divided between their frequent collaborators James McTeigue, Tom Tykwer and Dan Glass. Lilly's break during the second season marked the first time in the sisters' career that they did not work together as a writing and directing unit. Sense8 was filmed almost entirely on location in a multitude of cities around the world.

The first season, consisting of 12 episodes, became available for streaming on Netflix on June 5, 2015, and was met with generally favorable critical reception. It became notable for its presentation of LGBT characters and themes, winning the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama Series. It has also been recognized with a Location Managers Guild award for its use of locations as an integral part of the story, and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music.

Netflix released the first episode of the second season, a two-hour Christmas special, on December 23, 2016; the remaining 10 episodes of the season were released on May 5, 2017. The season was met with positive critical reception. On June 1, 2017, Netflix announced that they had cancelled the series, despite preliminary negotiations with the cast for a third season.

Plot[edit]

The story of Sense8 begins when the psychic connection of eight strangers, Capheus, Sun, Nomi, Kala, Riley, Wolfgang, Lito and Will, each from a different culture and part of the world, is "birthed" by a woman called Angelica, before killing herself to avoid capture by a man named "Whispers". The eight eventually discover they now form a cluster of "sensates"; human beings who are mentally and emotionally linked, being able to sense and communicate with each other, as well as share their knowledge, language and skills. In the first season, the eight are shown trying to both live their everyday lives and figure how and why they are connected. Meanwhile, a sensate named Jonas who was involved with Angelica comes to their aid, while the Biological Preservation Organization (BPO) and Whispers, a high-ranking sensate inside it, attempt to hunt them down.

In the second season, the eight have grown accustomed to their connection and help each other on a daily basis. They learn more about Homo sensorium (the scientific name of sensates), the history and goals of BPO, the role of Angelica in it, their powers, and how to temporarily suspend them. They also meet other sensates, not all of whom are friendly. At the same time, Jonas attempts to both aid them and look after himself after being captured by Whispers, who is now involved in a cat-and-mouse game with Will, each of them trying to outsmart the other.

Cast[edit]

The eight sensates[edit]

Other regulars[edit]

  • Freema Agyeman as Amanita "Neets" Caplan, Nomi's girlfriend, who later becomes an ally for the new sensates.[21]
  • Terrence Mann as Milton Bailey "Whispers" Brandt, a sensate who turned against his own kind and who is a high-ranking member of an organization determined to neutralize sensates, known as the Biological Preservation Organization (BPO).[7] Whispers uses many fake names, such as Dr. Matheson or Gibbons,[22] and is commonly known among sensates as "The Cannibal" for devouring his own cluster.[23] Angelica and the people she's been involved with call him Whispers, after she likened him to the voice in ones' head that beckons them to commit suicide; "That voice never shouts. It only whispers."[24]
  • Anupam Kher as Sanyam Dandekar, Kala's loving father, a chef and restaurant owner.[25]
  • Naveen Andrews as Jonas Maliki, a sensate from a different cluster who wants to help the newly-born cluster of sensates.[7][26]
  • Daryl Hannah as Angelica "Angel" Turing, a sensate from the same cluster as Jonas, who becomes the "mother" of the new sensates' cluster as she activates their psychic connection.[27]

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes Originally released
1 12 June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
2 11 1 December 23, 2016 (2016-12-23)
10 May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)

Season 1 (2015)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
1 1 "Limbic Resonance" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
2 2 "I Am Also a We" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
3 3 "Smart Money Is on the Skinny Bitch" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
4 4 "What's Going On?" Tom Tykwer The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
5 5 "Art Is Like Religion" James McTeigue The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
6 6 "Demons" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
7 7 "W. W. N. Double D?" James McTeigue The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
8 8 "We Will All Be Judged by the Courage of Our Hearts" Dan Glass The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
9 9 "Death Doesn't Let You Say Goodbye" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
10 10 "What Is Human?" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
11 11 "Just Turn the Wheel and the Future Changes" Tom Tykwer The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)
12 12 "I Can't Leave Her" The Wachowskis The Wachowskis & J. Michael Straczynski June 5, 2015 (2015-06-05)

Season 2 (2016–17)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original release date
13 1 "Happy F*cking New Year"
"A Christmas Special"[a]
Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski December 23, 2016 (2016-12-23)
14 2 "Who Am I?" Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
15 3 "Obligate Mutualisms" Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
16 4 "Polyphony" James McTeigue Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
17 5 "Fear Never Fixed Anything" James McTeigue Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
18 6 "Isolated Above, Connected Below" Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
19 7 "I Have No Room In My Heart For Hate" James McTeigue Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
20 8 "All I Want Right Now Is One More Bullet" Dan Glass Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
21 9 "What Family Actually Means" Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
22 10 "If All the World's a Stage, Identity Is Nothing But a Costume" Tom Tykwer Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)
23 11 "You Want a War?" Lana Wachowski Lana Wachowski & J. Michael Straczynski May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05)

Production[edit]

Conception[edit]

"We started out at one point talking about how evolution involves creating ever greater circles of empathy: You belong to your family, then you belong to your tribe, then two tribes link up and now you have empathy for your people on this side of the river, and you're against the people on the other side of the river... on and on through villages, cities, states and nations... So what if a more literal form of empathy could be triggered in eight individuals around the planet... who suddenly became mentally aware of each other, able to communicate as directly as if they were in the same room. How would they react? What would they do? ... What does it mean? And what would the world think about people with this ability? Would they embrace it, or hunt them down...? It would give us a perfect platform to do a show that was loaded with action, big ideas, some amazing stunts that no one's done before, and play to a planetary audience."

J. Michael Straczynski, co-creator[31]

According to the Wachowskis, the origins of Sense8 date back several years before the announcement of the show to "a late-night conversation about the ways technology simultaneously unites and divides us".[32] Straczynski recalls that when the Wachowskis decided to create their first series, because of Straczynski's extensive experience working with the format, Lana chose to invite him to her house in San Francisco to brainstorm ideas together.[31][33] Both the Wachowskis and Straczynski agreed that if they were to do a television series, they wanted to attempt something that "nobody had done before",[34] and change the "vocabulary for television production" the same way The Matrix became a major influence for action movies.[35] After several days of discussion they decided on creating a show that would explore the relationship between empathy and evolution in the human race, and whose story would be told in a global scale, necessitating filming on location in several countries over the world, in contrast to the standard production model for television which attempts to limit or fake that as much as possible.[31][36] A source of inspiration for Straczynski was his own experience concerning friends of his who live in different parts of the world but coordinate to watch a movie at the same time and comment to each other online about it.[33]

The title of the show was thought up by Lana on their second day of brainstorming, during a time when they hadn't yet decided how many characters they were going to have.[37] Lana appeared to Straczynski with a notebook with the word "Sense8" written in it, as a play on the word sensate and the notion of eight main characters, telling him "The hard part is over now!".[38]

Development[edit]

The trio became so excited with the concept they came up with, they decided to do initial development on their own instead of pitching it to someone else.[31] The Wachowskis wrote three hour-long spec scripts,[39] and together with Straczynski attempted to shop them around, such as at Warner Bros. and HBO,[40] but when they saw that nobody could understand the concept they decided to shelve it.[36] A few years later, when they felt that the landscape of television had become friendlier towards more experimental concepts, they decided to pitch it a second time.[36] On October 2, 2012, Variety first reported the existence of the show, by writing that the Wachowskis, with the help of Straczynski's Studio JMS and Georgeville Television, would be shopping Sense8 around Los Angeles the week to follow.[39] If the series was picked up, the sisters and Straczynski would be sharing showrunner duties. Additionally, the Wachowskis were planning to direct a few episodes of the show if their schedule permitted it. According to Straczynski, the first meeting with potential buyers was with Netflix. The Wachowskis and Straczynski talked to them about subjects such as gender, identity, secrecy and privacy.[41] According to Lana they pitched shooting on location all over the globe to which Netflix responded favorably, which was in contrast to the "clearly impossible" response they had received by other outlets during their earlier abortive attempt.[40] They also told Netflix they were only interested if they had the freedom to "do anything", like "crazy psychic orgies with all sorts of different bodies" and "live births even" to which Netflix also responded positively.[42] After the end of the meeting, despite it having seemingly gone well,[31] they worried they had made a mistake because they had not pitched any action or otherwise commercial aspects.[41] By noon, and before they had the chance to pitch it to other outlets, such as HBO,[35] Netflix called them to preemptively offer to buy and produce the first season.[31] Netflix announced that they had ordered a 10-episode first season for the series on March 27, 2013.[32] Later, during filming,[43] because of the density of the scripts and the extended length of the first cut of the first episode, the showrunners and Netflix came to an agreement to extend the season to 12 episodes.[33]

Before filming began, Straczynski and the Wachowskis mapped out five seasons worth of stories for the series,[33] including the series' final episode, similarly to what Straczynski had previously done on his Babylon 5 series.[44] The actors cast were signed for five seasons. "We pitched it as a five-year story. We've mapped out five seasons of this thing, our actor deals are being made for five seasons, five or six depending on the breaks", said Straczynski.[45] The first season acts as the origin story for the characters.[46] When asked how long is their story bible, Straczynski replied "It's in our heads".[41] However, Straczynski did compile a 30-page document detailing the key points of a hypothetical second season should the first season become a success.[47]

Comic book artist Steve Skroce, who has been collaborating with the Wachowskis since The Matrix on both film and comic book media, has created storyboards for the show.[48] Julie Wachowski, sister to the Wachowskis, is given the credit of "story researcher" in the closing credits of each episode of the first season.[49] Karin Winslow Wachowski, Lana's wife, is credited for researching the story starting with the second episode of the second season.[50]

Lilly Wachowski, after completing her gender transition, decided to take some time off and did not return as writer or director for the second season,[36] although she remained active as co-creator.[51] Straczynski, who had a very active role during season 1 from pre-production to post-production in order to assist the Wachowskis with their first foray into TV, said his primary involvement in season 2 finished with the completion of the writing phase, as Lana felt this time she had the required experience to tackle the filmmaking aspect of the show on her own.[36] Lana came up with the idea of making the first episode of the second season a two-hour Christmas special, because of her love for such programming in the television shows that she watched as a kid, such as Hill Street Blues, Mork & Mindy, and All My Children. Lana said she enjoyed watching the lives of the characters in specials intersect with her own and considers birthdays, holidays and celebrations unique events for their ability to make one feel connected but also isolated and alone.[52]

Writing[edit]

Initial writing for the first season was split between the Wachowskis and Straczynski. The Wachowskis wrote episodes one, two, three, seven and eight while Straczynski wrote episodes four, five, six, nine and ten. Then the Wachowskis rewrote Straczynski's scripts and vice versa. Straczynski said a good portion of the writing was done by just Lana and himself.[53] Straczynski believes writing with the Wachowskis helped mask each other's weaknesses and also allowed each party to learn from the other.[54][55] He recognizes action and plot as their biggest strengths but structure as their weakness. On the other hand, he views himself as really good on structure but weak on action.[54] Straczynski said the way he works is by first developing the entire script in his head, from the first sentence to the last, before sitting down to write it, while the Wachowskis begin by writing the scenes they have already developed, leaving the others they haven't figured out yet for later, while they constantly move the pieces around to see in which way they work best.[55]

Earlier versions of the story featured a sensate from Iraq and more about Whispers, the villain of the show. The show was transformed when the writers decided to limit the storytelling, with the exception of the opening scene of the first episode, to the perspective of the eight characters.[54] This means that every scene set in San Francisco must be about Nomi, in Chicago about Will and so on. Since the show begins with the characters not knowing what is happening to them and without being able to cut e.g. to the villains like a traditional show, the audience starts with the same questions and confusion as the characters do.[47][54] As the characters slowly begin to understand more about what's happening to them over the course of several episodes, the audience does as well, at the same pace. Straczynski notes this type of writing wouldn't work if they were writing for a traditional network. "The first episode is written in a way that you could never do a pilot. With pilots you have to set up all the rules and explain everything to hook people in," said Stranczynski. Instead, taking advantage of the binge-watching model Netflix promotes, the series was written as a continuous 12-hour movie, making it possible to tell the story at a different pace.[44]

Lana Wachowski, a trans woman, has written her first transgender character in her career in the series: Nomi Marks. For that she partly used her own experiences. "It has some very intense, autobiographical scenes, and that was very difficult and surreal," said Lana.[56] Jamie Clayton, who plays Nomi, has provided the example of a scene where a young Nomi is bullied by boys in a gym shower, as a scene that was based on experiences from Lana's life.[57] Freema Agyeman, who plays Nomi's girlfriend Amanita, has shared that her character was based heavily on Lana's wife, Karin Winslow.[58] Straczynski has stated that like Lana felt the close to Nomi when writing, he felt the closest to Wolfgang Bogdanow, because both him and Wolfgang had a bad relationship with their respective fathers.[59] "Wolfgang was my true north in the storytelling," said Straczynski.[41] Straczynski did not reveal who was the character Lilly Wachowski felt the closest to during the writing process, saying it's up to her to do that.[41] Since then, Lilly has come out as transgender too.[60] The beginning of her transitioning process preceded the release of the first season, and Clayton had known about it early on.[61][62]

Unlike the first season, where the Wachowskis and Straczynski split the amount of scripts in half and worked remotely from each other (but with frequent meetings),[31] writing for the second season was done by collaborating inside a shared writers' room.[54] The author of Cloud Atlas David Mitchell and the novelist and columnist Aleksandar Hemon worked as writers on the second season,[63][64] and were credited as "consultants".[65] Lana became friends with Mitchell after adapting Cloud Atlas to film with her sister and Tom Tykwer, and was very surprised when she read Mitchell's The Bone Clocks shortly before shooting the first season of Sense8 to find it strongly resembled "Sense8 and Jupiter Ascending [put] together", even though they each wrote their works separately. "This was a total strange, mind-sharing Sense8 experience", said Lana.[66] Hemon first met the Wachowskis in 2009, when they interviewed him looking for inspiration to write a movie script they wanted, and in turn he profiled them and wrote about the making of Cloud Atlas for The New Yorker in 2012.[67] In the fourth episode of the second season, "Polyphony", Mitchell and Hemon make a cameo appearance as two of Nomi and Amanita's favorite writers and are credited as themselves.[68]

Casting[edit]

On June 20, 2014, Deadline announced the cast of the eight lead characters, along with Freema Agyeman, Naveen Andrews, Daryl Hannah, Alfonso Herrera and Eréndira Ibarra.[69] For the roles of those characters living outside of America, the filmmakers wanted to assemble a cast of international actors that matched the nationality of their respective characters, if possible. For example, Doona Bae, Tina Desai, and Max Riemelt are from Seoul, Mumbai, and Berlin like their respective characters.[47] Because the eight leads share the same birthday, the actors selected were all somewhere between mid-20s and mid-30s.[45] The filmmakers wanted to write a Chinese, Japanese or Korean character and since the Wachowskis had worked with Bae on Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending before, they decided on creating a Korean character for her.[47] Bae expressed worry to them on signing on Sense8 because the proposed five-season plan could mean she would have to be able to film action scenes for the next 10 years, which would be difficult if she ever decided to get married and got pregnant. She joined the cast after the showrunners told her not to worry as they would kill off her character for her if that ever happened.[70] Jamie Clayton is a trans woman like the character she plays. She was attracted to Sense8 because of the opportunity to play a transgender character that was written and directed by a transgender filmmaker, and because she was a fan of science fiction and Straczynski.[13] Tuppence Middleton knew the Wachowskis were writing Sense8 while working with them on Jupiter Ascending but she did not think they would ask her to play a role.[17] Max Riemelt was cast at the recommendation of director Tom Tykwer, who had been wanting to work with the actor for a long time.[71] Daryl Hannah was brought in to read for Whispers, because they were thinking of making him an androgynous character at the time, but when she arrived she was told they'd like her to read for the role of Angelica.[72] In November, Deadline wrote than Christian Oliver had joined the cast as a recurring villain.[73] Oliver said he was excited to play a villain for the Wachowskis for a second time, after Speed Racer.[74] Joe Pantoliano, who previously played in the Wachowskis' Bound and The Matrix, was cast in a small uncredited role as Will's father.[75]

On April 26, 2016, Deadline reported that Aml Ameen abruptly left production a couple of episodes into filming of the second season over a conflict with Lana Wachowski that started during the table read for the season and progressively got worse.[8] Both the Deadline article and Ameen's co-star on Sense8, Tuppence Middleton, suggested the conflict was over creative differences.[76] When asked about it, Straczynski commented he was not there to know what happened between Ameen and Lana but he respects the choices of both.[77] Subsequent to Ameen's departure, the role of Capheus was recast to Toby Onwumere after a seven-day auditioning process.[78] Onwumere watched a few episodes of the show to prepare for his audition, as he had not seen it before.[79] Onwumere said about his approach to the character: "My duty [was] not to emulate exactly what [Ameen] has done, ... but just to give it my own spin, and kind of do my own thing, and just give this character the same essence, but ... maybe a different life and a different take on it."[80] Earlier in April, Kick Gurry, who had played parts in the Wachowskis' Speed Racer and Jupiter Ascending in the past, revealed he had been cast in the second season, after Lana called to inform him that they had a written a role specifically for him.[81] In May, Deadline reported Ben Cole had been cast as Todd, a sensate who would rather be "normal".[82] In September, Sylvester McCoy reportedly revealed he filmed three or four episodes of the second season of a Netflix show, later identified to be Sense8, and has signed to appear in further seasons if he is wanted.[83] Martin Wuttke, who had minor roles in Cloud Atlas, also joined the cast in the second season.[65]

Carmen Cuba served as the casting director on the series.[84]

Filming and locations[edit]







To properly tell the international aspects of the story, filming for Sense8 took place almost entirely on location around the globe. In the first season they filmed in nine cities located in eight countries: Berlin, Chicago, London, Mexico City, Mumbai, Nairobi, Reykjavík, San Francisco, and Seoul.[42] Production on the first season began on June 18, 2014 in San Francisco.[85] The filmmakers successfully negotiated with the organizers of the Clarion Alley Mural Project and select artists to feature their artwork in the show.[86] Shooting in Chicago began on July 9 and wrapped up on August 8,[87] with filming taking place both on location and at the Cinespace Film Studios.[88] During location scouting, the producers found the City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana and changed one site's description in the scripts to a church accordingly in order to fit that particular site into the filming.[89] They also shot some scenes in Chicago's Superdawg drive-through restaurant, while customers were being asked not to stare at the filming. Lana and Lilly Wachowski are frequent customers of the place.[90] In Germany filming also took place in Babelsberg Studio, outside Berlin.[91] A sequence in Nairobi required a crowd of 700 extras, 200 cars and a helicopter.[92] In Mumbai they shot a Bollywood dance number that was choreographed by Slumdog Millionaire's Longinus Fernandes.[93] The writers wanted to feature an event in each city.[94] They were able to schedule the Pride[95] scenes with its Dykes on Bikes on the Dyke March[96][97] in San Francisco, the Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Chicago, and the Ganesha Chaturthi Hindu festival in Mumbai.[98] Additionally they recorded footage from the Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance[99][100] in San Francisco, a club event taking place at the KOKO in London,[101][102] and a real lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling) event with the fighters wearing wrestling masks in Arena Naucalpan, in Mexico City.[98][103] Lastly the scenes where characters are flying on an airplane were recorded during the real flights the cast and crew had to do to get from London to Iceland.[94][98][104] On November 17, 2014 Straczynski wrote that the main unit shooting had wrapped, with only a few winter shots in Iceland remaining to be captured the next month.[105] These scenes were further delayed to mid-January 2015, until Iceland had the necessary amount of snow,[94][106] with the wrap party taking place in Reykjavík's Harpa Music and Concert hall on January 21.[107] By the end of the shooting, the filmmakers had completed 100,000 miles of flight time, or four times around the globe.[42]

For the second season, production credited 16 cities located in 11 countries for having been part of the filming.[108] The major locations they shot in include all of the first season's except Reykjavík, and the following new ones: Amsterdam, Argyll, Chippenham, Los Angeles, Malta, Positano, Redwoods, and São Paulo.[65] Production start for the main unit of the second season was given an expected date of March 2016,[109] but a separate shoot involving the principal actors began on December 30, 2015 in Berlin to capture footage during the Christmas holidays.[110][111][112][113] This was followed by a short two-day shoot in Chicago on January 23 and 24, 2016.[114] Filming resumed in Berlin in the middle of March 2016[115] and proceeded to Mumbai on March 25 for a ten-day shoot.[25][116] Aml Ameen left production after Mumbai.[8] On April 7 filming started in Positano.[81][117] Later in April filming moved to Mexico with Toby Onwumere replacing the departed Ameen,[76] in Mexico City and for one day in Metepec.[118][119][120] On May 7 filming began in California in San Francisco and lasted up to the 23rd of May.[121] Location manager Matthew Riutta was fined by the Department of Parks and Recreation when "someone accidentally got naked" during a romantic scene set at the tree swing in Billy Goat Hill.[122] A short shoot in Los Angeles, Malibu followed.[123][124][125] Filming in São Paulo, including its 20th Gay Pride Parade took place in late May.[126][127][128] Filming in Chicago began on June 5 and wrapped up on June 15,[129][130] then moved to the United Kingdom in London,[131] Cambridge and Scotland,[132] and wrapped on July 4.[133] Then, filming moved to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam and The Hague, up to the 19th.[134][135][136][137] Then, filming proceeded to Nairobi[138] and in South Korea, in Seoul and Bucheon.[139][140][141] Afterwards, filming returned briefly to London and to Berlin until the middle of September.[142][143][144][145] Filming then moved to Malta for a two-day shoot, where they used the water tanks in Kalkara.[142][143][146] On September 19, 2016 with the completion of the Malta shoot, filming for the second season came to an end.[147][148] Overall the cast and crew flew in excess of 250,000 miles to complete the season, while some directors and producers who also did location scouting flew as much as 370,000 miles.[149]

Directing[edit]

The show's directors were attached to locations instead of episodes[150] and with several countries appearing in every episode, in reality none of them has a singular director.[151] During the first season the Wachowskis were responsible for directorial duties in scenes shot in Chicago[88] and San Francisco[152] along with London and Iceland, two places which were initially announced to be helmed by Straczynski.[34] Straczynski eventually opted to offer them to the siblings because of the extensive action scenes involved in those locations[153] and instead focused his energy on post-production.[33] James McTeigue (V for Vendetta, Ninja Assassin) worked on the Mexico City and Mumbai parts[94] along with some in Reykjavík[151] and German director Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas), whose Nairobi Half Life production impressed the Wachowskis, helmed Berlin[154][155] and Nairobi.[92] Dan Glass, who had been the visual effects supervisor for every Wachowski film since The Matrix Reloaded, reprised his role in Sense8 while also making his directorial debut in the Seoul part of the story.[156] Even though there were times that units located in different countries were simultaneously shooting, the Wachowskis would travel to the various locations and have collaborations with the attached directors.[109] Reportedly the Wachowskis directed such segments in locations where a different director was otherwise attached as the stunts the character of Silvestre performed for his action movie in Mexico City[157] and in Nairobi car chase scenes with the "Van Damn" bus[92] along with a fight scene involving machetes.[158] In total, the Wachowskis were credited for directing seven episodes, McTeigue and Tykwer two each, and Glass one.[4] During filming of the first season of Sense8 the Wachowskis were shooting ten to fifteen pages a day, which was much faster than the two to three pages a day pace they were used to on the typical large budget film. They commented it put a lot of pressure on them, but Lilly also called it exciting learning how to adapt to it.[159] Tykwer said he had to be moving at a pace of completing seven minutes per day, which he similarly found highly unusual coming from the world of film.[154][155]

In the second season, Lana Wachowski took over many of the filmmaking aspects of the show,[36] which combined with her sister's break, made her responsibilities as director shoot up.[76][160] Production sound mixer Stevie Haywood recounted Lana's directing style was to use two cameras as the default setup, and develop the shot over "enormously long takes" which could last up to fifteen to twenty minutes. Additionally, the cast and crew under Lana did not use any rehearsals. "We rehearse on camera effectively", said Haywood. If there were any technical issues Lana expected the cast to improvise and keep the shoot going instead of calling "cut".[161] Smith, Desai and Silvestre corroborated Lana's style of developing the shots on the set, her dislike for rehearsals, and the use of long takes, with the actors told to try different variations on how they play their parts.[162][163] McTeigue returned as director for Mexico City.[164] Tykwer returned as director for the Nairobi parts but not for the Berlin ones, as he was busy working on his own TV series, Babylon Berlin.[165] Overall, six episodes of the second season, including the Christmas special, credit Lana as director; three credit McTeigue, and Tykwer and Glass get credited each in one.

Cinematography[edit]

Netflix required the production to shoot with 4K cameras to make the look of the show future-proof and John Toll who is credited as the main director of photography for overseeing the distinct look of the nine featured locations, made the decision to shoot by using mostly Sony's CineAlta PMW-F55 cameras,[109][166][167] paired with Carl Zeiss Ultra Prime[168] and Cooke Optics S4 lenses.[169] During the first season, Toll, once again collaborating with the Wachowskis and Glass after Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending,[170] personally handled the cinematography in San Francisco, Chicago, London, Iceland, and Seoul.[171] Toll's approach to shooting was to use a lot of Steadicam and hand-held partly out of the necessity to follow the faster schedule of a television production compared to the feature films he was used to working on. Additional cinematographers worked with the rest of the directors in the remaining locations and they used a similar shooting style because they were facing the same scheduling challenges.[109] McTeigue's cinematographer of choice for shooting in Mexico City[172] and Mumbai[94] was Danny Ruhlmann, who previously shot The Raven and Survivor for him.[173] Tykwer worked with Frank Griebe and Christian Almesberger for the Berlin[174] and Nairobi[169] scenes respectively. Griebe had previously shot seven feature films of Tykwer's including Cloud Atlas and Almesberger was the cinematographer of two films Tykwer had produced in Nairobi: Soul Boy and Nairobi Half Life.

In the second season, production used again mostly F55 cameras,[168] paired with Panavision Primo 11:1 zoom, Carl Zeiss Ultra Prime, and Fujinon 19-90mm Cabrio Premier lenses.[175] Ruhlmann returned to work with McTeigue in Mexico City,[164] Almesberger with Tykwer in Nairobi,[176] and Toll with Lana Wachowski in all the remaining locations.[177][178] They used a two camera setup (A and B), with the first being nearly all of the time Steadicam, and the second being hand-held all the time. Toll explained this setup was necessitated by both their tight schedule and large volume of the material, but also by Lana's commitment to stay with the A camera operator, Daniele Massaccesi, and make choices as they were filming. Toll further commented on their approach: "We adopted a system of shooting traditional wide master shots and, during the course of the shot, gracefully moving into other angles and even close-ups at times. Essentially, we were often doing masters and coverage within the same take."[175]

Effects and post-production[edit]

Seoul unit director Dan Glass and Jim Mitchell were the visual effects supervisors of the first season. An in-house VFX team was established in Chicago which completed over 700 shots. The major external VFX vendors were Locktix VFX (160-180 shots), Technicolor VFX (over 100 shots)[167] and Encore VFX. Additional work was done by Studio 8 FX, Trace VFX and Almost Gold.[156] Because of the series' tight budget and timeline the production made the decision to do most of the effects in-camera and only enhance them digitally where appropriate. In fact for a great number of shots which involved the sensates communicating and visiting each other telepathically the cast were simply moving in and out of the frame in timely fashion requiring no additional work.[98] According to Glass most of the VFX work that was done is invisible in the final show and consisted mostly of split-screens, crew and rig removal, weather augmentation and screen inserts. Of the more visible work done, Glass provided the examples of age manipulation of actors, dramatic enhancement of the weather in the car scenes in Iceland, a few greenscreens, and computer generated blades, blood and wounds.[156]

Technicolor provided dailies and worked with cinematographer John Toll and the Wachowskis to color grade the show giving it a look which colorist Tony Dustin describes as "both real and surreal, with a slightly elevated color-saturation". The Wachowskis made the mandate for production to not "lock reels", as it is typically done on TV shows, but instead be able to tinker editorially with the series' narrative, look and tone up to two weeks before release. They also wanted the color grading of the series to be done in the da Vinci Resolve software and be of theatrical feature film quality. Technicolor finished the show in 4K and delivered both 2K and 4K resolution masters.[167][179]

In the second season, the visual effects supervisors were Dan Glass and Ryan Urban,[65] the latter of whom held the title of digital effects supervisor during the first season.[156] Technicolor were again responsible for managing dailies and color grading the show, while their VFX department delivered over 600 shots this time around.[180]

Sense8 was edited in the Wachowskis' headquarters in Chicago,[167][179][143] Kinowerks,[52] by Joe Hobeck and Joseph Jett Sally in the first season and by Sally and Fiona Colbeck in the second.[181][65] Sally previously worked with the Wachowskis as first assistant editor on Speed Racer and editor on Ninja Assassin.[182] The Wachowskis found editing a TV show to be a challenging process because of the required fast turnaround times. Lilly commented that for a feature film they get a minimum of ten weeks for editing as mandated by the Directors Guild of America, while for the first season of Sense8 they had to be moving at a pace of completing two 1-hour episodes (roughly the equivalent of a feature film) every two weeks.[42]

Music[edit]

The score of Sense8 was composed by Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer;[183] the two had previously co-composed the score for Cloud Atlas and had a minor contribution in the soundtrack of The Matrix Revolutions as part of Pale 3. Responsible for the orchestration was their fellow Cloud Atlas collaborator Gene Pritsker,[184] and the recording was done by the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra.[91] Each season's score was written up to a year and a half before filming began,[183] enabling the production to play it back to the actors before shooting a scene.[185] Tykwer, who has made the music for all of his movies this way, introduced to the Wachowskis the concept of first writing the music during pre-production of Cloud Atlas and the sisters have since commented they are not making a movie again a different way.[186] Once a first cut is completed by the editors, the composers do further developing of their tracks. "We flesh things out; both expand and refine, write new material and even change direction if it is prudent.", the composers have explained.[183]

The theme music of Sense8 was picked by the Wachowskis from the two hours of original music Tykwer and Klimek had written. It was shortened from its original seven or eight minutes and a choir and electronic elements were added to it at the wish of the Wachowskis.[187] The show received a nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music during the 68th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.[188]

Ethan Stoller, frequent collaborator of the Wachowskis is credited with composing additional music and also being the series' music editor.[189] Long time Klimek and Tykwer collaborator Gabriel Isaac Mounsey is credited as additional score composer for the series and as one of the score mixers in the second season.[190][65]

The title of the first season's fourth episode, "What's Going On?", refers to lyrics in the song "What's Up?" by the 4 Non Blondes, which was played in the episode during the main characters' first shared experience together.[191] A soundtrack album for the first season was released digitally by WaterTower Music on May 5, 2017. It includes 10 tracks by Klimek and Tykwer, and the licensed songs "What's Up?", "Kettering" by The Antlers, "Keep It Close" by Seven Lions and featuring Kerli, and "Dauðalogn" by Sigur Rós.[183] Klimek and Tykwer's compositions alone, are also available on WaterTower's YouTube channel.[192] Klimek commented on his and Tykwer's collaboration with the Wachowskis for the first season's score: "We would often just do a one-week mad writing session. It's a very collaborative process, and there's no ego involved."[187] Lana Wachowski called the score "its own unique script and it transports the viewer into the world of Sense8 in ways neither words nor images can".[183]

For the second season, Klimek and Tykwer provided to the editorial about 10 "mother" themes, each with a length of over five minutes, before filming began.[183] This time around, Lana experimented more with combining original and source music while working with Mounsey,[190] who in the last episode of the season was credited as composer, along with Klimek and Tykwer.[193] In the Christmas special episode "Happy F*cking New Year", a cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is featured, which was arranged by Gary Fry and recorded by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, with the lead vocalist being Daniel Martin Moore.[190][194] The sequence, which depicts the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus singing,[195][196] was originally cut to a different cover of the song, but days before the deadline of completion the licensing deal fell through, and Stoller had to order a custom version to be conducted to match their completed cut. The song was ready in five days, and the producers were happy with the end result, including Netflix, which made the song a prominent feature of the special's marketing campaign.[197][198] In the fifth episode of the season, "Fear Never Fixed Anything", a remix of "What's Up?" is played by Riley in a club, in an attempt to get other sensates to make themselves known, recalling the first season's appearance of the song.[199][200]

Title sequence[edit]

For the series almost two-minute long title sequence, Karin Winslow rented a car and with the help of a camera assistant traveled in the eight featured countries of the first season and captured over a hundred shots. "My directive from Lana was to go out and describe each country by what you see; find the nuances, find the food, find what people are doing, get a feel for the place," said Winslow.[201] In the second season some of the footage was replaced by new shots,[65] including a shot of the Wachowskis' parents.[202] The closing credits of each episode credit Winslow for the "main title design".[49]

Cancellation[edit]

On March 2, 2017, Deadline reported that Netflix was in the process of renewing the lapsed contracts of the series' eight leading actors, to keep them available until June of the same year, suggesting that a positive decision to renew Sense8 for a third season before that time passes was highly possible.[203] In early May 2017, producer Roberto Malerba said that not all eight regulars of the cast had renewed yet, but the process was still going. He additionally disclosed the first season had an average budget of about $4.5 million per episode, and the second season $9 million per episode. Furthermore, he added that a potential third season would likely be the series' last, due to the complicated nature of the series' production, and the fact Lana Wachowski works as a filmmaker on it almost alone.[204][205] On June 1, 2017, Netflix announced they had canceled the series after two seasons.[206][207] Although no official reason for the cancellation was provided in the press release by Netflix, actor Brian J. Smith, who had hinted at the cancellation a couple of days before the announcement was made, has said it was a problem of low viewership compared to the production's cost.[208][209] Shortly after the cancellation, Malerba commented that it happened abruptly by Netflix without providing them an explanation, "just numbers".[210]

As a response to the cancellation, fans created online petitions, called Netflix, and tweeted #RenewSense8 and other hashtags, in an attempt to bring back the show. On June 8, 2017, the show's social media accounts acknowledged the fans' efforts, and wrote that Netflix looked into the renewal of Sense8 a second time, however they concluded it wasn't possible.[211] Straczynski clarified the message came from Netflix and not from any of the Sense8 staff, as Netflix never reached out to the cast, crew, or producers for subsequent negotiations.[212][213] Smith released a letter to the fans reiterating the reason for the cancellation was low viewership, and explaining that the reason he rallied them to voice their support before the show was officially canceled, was that once that happens, there is no going back. He praised Netflix for their support while making the show, and thanked the fans for putting up a great fight to keep it alive.[214] On June 10, 2017, Chief Content Officer of Netflix Ted Sarandos during his talk on Produced By Conference, explicitly commented the show was canceled because its audience, despite being very passionate, wasn't large enough to support the high production costs to travel and film around the globe.[215]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception and popularity[edit]

Critical reception of the first season of Sense8 has been generally favorable. Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator website, reported a 67% critical approval rating with an average rating of 6.11/10 based on 45 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Some of the scenarios border on illogical, but the diverse characters and the creative intersections between their stories keep the Wachowskis' Sense8 compelling."[216] On Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, the season is assigned a score of 64 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[217]

Sense8 continued to be positively received in its second season. Based on 14 reviews, Rotten Tomatoes gave the season a critical approval rating of 86%, with an average rating of 7.2/10. Its critical consensus reads, "Sense8 maintains its stunning visuals, Wachowski wackiness, and great heart -- though its individual characters deserve more development."[218] On Metacritic, the season was assigned a score of 73 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[219] Rotten Tomatoes also indexed separately 7 reviews specifically for the early released Christmas special, and reported an 86% critical approval rating for it, with an average rating of 7.0/10.[220]

In a report released by Netflix it was discovered that at least 70% of the viewers that watched up to the third episode ended up watching the entire first season,[221] and Straczynski was told there are people that watch it "straight through – three, four, six times."[222] In another report released by Netflix, Sense8 was listed among the shows whose viewers tend to heavily binge-watch their first seasons, rather than savoring their episodes by watching them at a slower pace.[223] Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos praised the success of Sense8 in the up-and-coming French and German markets[224] but also globally.[225] Vice president of international series for Netflix Erik Barmack has named Sense8 one of the most popular Netflix series in the Brazilian market.[226] Less than three days after the premiere of the first season, Variety reported that it had been pirated more than half a million times, regardless of the series' digital distribution.[227]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
2015 Camerimage First Look – TV Pilots Competition Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski (directors), Christian Almesberger, Frank Griebe, Danny Ruhlmann and John Toll (cinematographers) Nominated
2016 Dorian Awards LGBTQ TV Show of the Year Sense8 Nominated
Campy TV Show of the Year Sense8 Nominated
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Drama Series Sense8 Won
HPA Awards Outstanding Color Grading – Television Tony Dustin Nominated
Location Managers Guild Awards Outstanding Locations in a Contemporary Television Series Marco Giacalone and Bill Bowling Won
Saturn Awards Best New Media Television Series Sense8 Nominated
Emmy Awards Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer Nominated

Marketing[edit]

The red carpet premiere of Sense8 took place on May 27, 2015, in San Francisco's AMC Metreon,[240][241] where the first three episodes were previewed.[242] Starting in the middle of July 2015, Netflix Brazil released a series of documentary shorts called Sense8: Decoded. Inspired by Sense8 and directed by João Wainer, the shorts briefly touch upon subjects such as psychiatry, feminism, being transgender and buddhism.[243][244][245][246] Later in the month, Netflix released a music track titled Brainwave Symphony on Spotify.[247] To produce it they subjected eight strangers to a series of various stimuli and they recorded their individual brainwaves using EEG sensors. After extracting a melody from each of them they arranged them in a way to produce a track which mirrors the escalating action of the season.[248][249] In early August 2015, Netflix made available Sense8: Creating the World, a half-hour web television documentary, shot around the world, about the making of season 1 of the series.[98][250]

On May 3, 2016 publicity stills of the ongoing production of season 2 were posted online accompanied by a short message by Lana Wachowski introducing the #Road2Sense8 hashtag under which new pictures would be posted.[251][252][253] On December 3, 2016, the Christmas special episode was screened at São Paulo's Comic Con Experience, in advance of its Netflix premiere on December 23.[254] The second episode of the second season was screened out of competition during the Series Mania festival in Paris, on April 18, 2017.[255][256][257] On April 23, a screening of the second and third episodes took place in Chicago's Music Box Theatre, in a benefit for the American Civil Liberties Union, followed by Lana Wachowski taking questions from the audience,[258][202] and again on April 26, in the red carpet premiere of the second season, at New York City's AMC Lincoln Square.[259][260]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The episode was originally announced and released as "A Christmas Special",[28][29] but it was later renamed to "Happy F*cking New Year".[30]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]