Spielberg’s influence is all over “Stranger Things” and has been since the very first season. In fact, I interviewed The Duffers once for Backstory Magazine and the majority of that conversation was about their two ’80s dads: Stephen King and Steven Spielberg. The whole of “Stranger Things” feels like a blending of “It” and Amblin’s style. That’s the show’s secret sauce. And some of that sauce is very blue.
Not only are we talking about direct nods to Spielberg’s filmography or something as visually apparent as lens flares and blue nighttime shots, but we’re also talking about the more subtle filmmaking tricks at play.
Spielberg is the master of making complicated shots look natural. He moves his camera a lot and will capture different kinds of shots in one flawless take. According to cinematographer Caleb Heymann, this is something The Duffers have been studying and implementing as “Stranger Things” evolves from season to season. The result is the cinematic season 4, which had the filmmakers the most confident in their ability to execute these complicated dances between the actors, sets, and the camera. As Heyman said:
“For this season that meant that often we’d be shooting these shots that moved around 270 degrees, sometimes even a full 360. As a cinematographer, I love that challenge, because it really keeps you on your toes with lighting. It’s not just about making it look good in one direction. You have to make it look good in all directions and also keep your lights out of the shot.”
It’s paying attention to the minute details that makes Spielberg one of the best that has ever been, and that makes “Stranger Things” stand out from other streaming shows. It’s a filmmaking tactic I hope they keep embracing well into the next (and supposedly final) season.