P-Valley Pilot – Starz

Studio: Starz
Showrunner, Writer & Creator: Katori Hall
Line Producer: Montez Monroe
Director: Karena Evans
Director of Photography: Nancy Schreiber
Production Designer: Jeffrey Pratt Gordon
Editor: Hye Mee Na

P-Valley presented Karena with a rare opportunity to communicate empowerment and representation like never before. A show which centres around a group of strippers in Mississippi, Katori Hall (the showrunner) and Karena wanted to subvert the narrative of objectification and exploitation that has always surrounded this subject. Central to doing this was capturing these characters through the lens of the female gaze, and rooting the storytelling in the experience of each woman.

In bringing this vision to the screen, Katori was passionate about taking old school principles of film noir, a style which traditionally put women and people of colour at the periphery, and adapting these same principles to place them at centre stage. And so together, Katori and Karena explored shadowplay and high-contrast lighting, and traded a black and white palette for hyper-saturated colours to subvert traditional film noir, reflecting the subversion of the narrative.

Karena worked to make the club a metaphor for the battle between appearances and reality, creating space for authentic and holistic storytelling. On the floor of the club, it’s an intimate dreamscape, characterised by hyper-stylised visuals and dynamic and fluid camera work. Off the floor, she intended for more cinematic truth, with a more grounded feel.

She wanted the visual style to contradict the often weak representation of women on screen instead capturing the protagonists as heroes. In modernising film noir, she created bold landscapes, moving the characters in and out of shadow to highlight their spirit shining in the dark. Through the high art of pole dancing, she wanted to show the strength and creativity of the women featured. Using highly stylised frames, this artform glorifies the power of these women, rather than objectifying them.

But Karena was very careful not to misrepresent what is typically a space of exploitation. However, it was incredibly important to her that the pilot highlighted the empowerment that absolutely exists within this space of exploitation. In P-Valley, the women are the heroes, and have power over anyone who enters their club. Their story pushes aside stereotypes, and gives deserved visibility to these daring and bold characters.