The following analysis will examine Atlanta season. It will ask the question, “How do the 4 elements of cinematic stylist communicate the theme of television programs and influence spectators reactions to them?” I will discuss how scene setting and other elements of mise en scène contribute to this theme. It also relates to the series’ cinematographic goals to propel the story forward. The scenes are also paced and shot in sequence to reflect the series’ central theme: Atlanta’s harsh reality.

Atlanta is based upon the reality and perspective of black men in Atlanta. Ernest is a father struggling to make ends meet. Ernest has a low-paying, unfulfilling job. This series focuses on the economic realities and racial demographics that Atlantans face. Alfred Miles (AKA Paperboy) is Ernest’s cousin. Miles is a hip-hop artist who has recently released a mixtape and is becoming increasingly popular. Atlanta series is dramedy it uses comedy to get down to series points like police brutality, what is it to be black, poverty and Atlanta as a city and magical realism(Opam:2016).The opening scene begins with a matching action shot where Alfred miles is in his car someone walks by and hits his rear view mirror off. As miles exclaims “What is the…?!” in this matching action shot, one can clearly hear his voice. The camera then switches to a long shot of the location, which is a convenience shop. It then changes to a medium close-up of Miles and Ernest inside the car. The camera moves quickly and the audience is suddenly confronted with the brutal reality of Atlanta. It makes it clear that you need be alert and vigilant when traveling in Atlanta. Miles is known for keeping a gun in his car. This makes it clear that you need to be vigilant. This raises questions about the location of Atlanta’s police. Atlanta is to be the setting. The cinematics isn’t so overbearing it makes it feel like you have to be able to control the elements. However, it helps the story move forward by allowing the setting to guide the way. Because the setting is the main element of the story, the cinematography can be simple.

The framing and composition are important parts of the mise-en-scene. The opening scene shows Alfred miles facing the man who smashed his rearview mirror off. Ernest is positioned between the characters. This creates a three-dimensional position that shows us Ernest’s character. The steady camera provides continuity and gives the illusion of a natural feel. “This implies that the camera has neutral attitudes toward the subject. The camera moves to a medium-close of the man who struck his rearview reflector off. The costumes of the characters add depth to the narrative. Earnest is wearing simple clothes (shorts, red shirt, and a teeshirt), while miles and mile are wearing gold chains and baggy pants. This could be a sign that Ernest has an identity crisis. Three guns are used as props in the scene. They expose the audience’s harsh realities of Atlanta by having guns on their person. Darius also points out the dog, which he calls “death by deja vu” and asks him “where are the Texas dogs on him.” Another scene shows the same god, which is related to the theme of magical realism.

The lighting source in the scene was cut from the convenience store. This gives the scene a natural, super stick feel that is essential for cinematography. The series is realistic and has simple cinematic intentions. However, the lighting is very underexposed. The characters are of black origin and would require more lighting to see them. However, the film’s cinematic intentions mean that there is no need for additional lighting. The shadows help to create the real feel of Atlanta which fits into the main theme of the series. To give the series a distinct style, the lighting is LED lights.

A background sound of hip hop music is heard in the background. This is an indication that hip-hop/rap will be a major theme throughout the series. A man shouts “World star”, a funny sound that is synchronized. Because the characters have their own dialects, they communicate with each other in a unique way. Another scene demonstrates the magic realism theme. Earn is holding his little girl in his arms while he takes a close-up medical picture. It then jumps to a medium with a shot of a man wearing a bowtie and suit sitting on the opposite bus side. Earn suddenly appears and is not recognized. Then, it cuts to close-up where Earn sits next. Earn’s face stays focused while the background blurs. The man asks Earn what is bothering him. Earn responds that he’s losing it all the time. Earn is inside thinking and the man in a suit blurred out in background butters his Nutella sandwich. Earn hears him give some wise advice about how victory comes to those who don’t see failure. The shot moves to an over-the-shoulder shot in which the man in suits tells Earn to eat his sandwich. Earn refuses. Earn refuses the sandwich and becomes more aggressive. The Nutella sandwich is essentially a prop in the mise-en-scene. Earn sees this prop as a symbol of the possibility for success. A diegetic sound is heard with blue flashing lights coming towards Earn’s bus. The scene then changes quickly as Earn moves towards the police cars. The scene cuts to Earn’s right and he sees that the Nutella has been left behind. This scene is mystically surrealized by the cutting. Earn watches as Earn’s dog appears out of nowhere in the dark woods. The audience is left wondering if this is real or a dream. The bus costume depicts Stanfield as the magical negro stereotype.

Scene cuts are deliberately “motivated”. Chandler 2003.2 states that there is a reason the editor made the cut. The editing purpose was to create a magical reality that does not make it seem real. Atlanta is comedy at its best. This series explores the problems of Black culture, race, economics, and demographics. Atlanta was chosen to be the setting of the series. It is also a thriving economic city. The city is able to tell its own story through cinematic techniques like simple, natural lighting. The mise-en-scene added depth and richness to the theme thanks to Alfred Miles’s clothing. Props such as a Nutella sandwich and dog were also used as symbolism. As the second scene was cut with discontinuity, it was a strategic decision. This gave the illusion of mystical realism. The harsh reality theme was reflected in interlinks between sound clips and action shots. It was hip-hop music that gave identity to Atlanta’s hip-hop culture. Earn and Alfred Miles talked about Atlanta’s struggles and how they were able to overcome them. These four elements were essential to the storyline and gave life to specific scenes.


  • noahtaylor

    Noah Taylor is a bloger, teacher, and writer living in upstate New York. He is the author of the highly successful educational blog, Noah's World, and the creator of the popular teacher resource, Noah's Notes. He has also written for many online publications, including Parenting, The Huffington Post, and The Learning Place. Noah is a graduate of Williams College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.