Working in film for the past two decade, Logan Kibens has sharpened her skills on a wide variety of projects. Kibens began her career as a visual artist, concentrating on experimental film and video art, but eventually fell in love with narrative storytelling. Since then, she’s worked on numerous short films and documentaries, including her 2016 breakout feature Operator.
This year, she brought her directing talents to Snowfall. Kibens was tapped to direct episode 208, a pivotal episode this season. In "Surrender," Franklin (Damson Idris) turned to extreme measures to keep his operation under his control, while Lucia (Emily Rios) and Gustavo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) secured a risky deal to save their own skins.
Snowfall marks Kibens's debut as a solo director on the small screen, but her introduction to the world of big Hollywood productions came with her HBO/DGA fellowship. After working for years on her own projects and short films, the transition to larger productions with bigger budgets and staffs was a welcome change.
"I've had this conversation with other friends. Especially female filmmakers and other minority filmmakers who, you know, it’s taken a little longer to get a first shot in TV, but people who have done a lot of their own work and who've done features on their own,” she explained. "I've felt such a relief and an ease and even a playfulness going on set and understanding that I didn't write this, I didn't invent these characters, I didn't hire the crew, and I didn't finance this. There are other people who made these choices who are responsible for them and I am here to be responsible for my area of what I'm bringing to the table."
However, taking the helm on her own episode did present some challenges. While a bigger crew allows you to delegate tasks you would normally tackle yourself while working on an indie, there is an increased number of people relying on you to make key decisions. "You have to think a lot about communication,” she observed. “[About] being overly communicative and making sure a decision you make is understood. So, you can't really move, necessarily, as quickly and decisively as you may on your own project, but that, I think, also has a lot of benefits to it. It's just something that's a little bit different of a process."
You have to think a lot about communication, about being overly communicative and making sure a decision you make is understood.
Good filmmaking is all about preparation and Kibens did quite a bit to get ready to direct her episode. Along with her hands-on experience shadowing on set, she also watched the first season to familiarize herself with the show's visual style: "I watched the first season. Some episodes I watched twice. Everything is very highly composed, image quality is really important to the show. There's a lot of moving camera work. There's a lot of opportunity for moving camera work, which is really interesting, but also is a different way for me personally to be thinking."
While watching, she tried to keep eye towards the storytelling as well, concentrating on the fundamentals of the world and the interaction of the characters by "trying to understand sort of the evolution of the characters, the evolution of the world. I guess I would say I look at the existing material--whether it's just a script at that point or there's previous seasons of the shows--and try to see what are the staples of that show."
While Kibens wanted to be able to put her own stamp on the episode, she also worked to respect the stylistic choices that had already been established. She paid close attention to what the "core ingredients" of the show were, but also knew she could "play" in other areas. "I'm not going to come in and have a totally different camera style. I think that probably wouldn't go over well. If you did impose your vision that way, it just wouldn't work as a larger piece. So, kind of always remembering that you're making a section of a larger whole."
As for her favorite scene from the episode, that was an easy answer: the scene on the porch with Aunt Louie (Angela Lewis) and Jerome (Amin Joseph). Kibens appreciated the "balance of tone" the scene had and said she was very happy with how it came out.
“Amin as Jerome got to be his sort of physically comedic gregarious character, but also switch that really quickly and be grounded and be just really caring and present for his partner. You got to see their relationship rekindle in these moments, but then get serious because they've been together for so long and shit's happened. So, I liked that bouncing back and forth. Every actor on the show is wonderful, but those two guys were just so fun to work with and they understood all those levels and they had all that history together as actors and characters.”
"It was a very character relationship driven episode, which I enjoy,” she added. “It's funny. There was not a lot of action and then there was a lot of action."
All of the work Kibens put in both on and off set paid off: "Surrender" was a favorite among both the cast and fans. But that success comes after years of hard work by Kibens trying to break through. While women continue to get more and more chances to work in the technical side of film and TV, it’s still a male-dominated field. Kibens has a very smart and straightforward piece of advice for other female filmmakers:
"You deserve to be there and your ideas are appreciated."
Catch up on every episode of Snowfall, completely ad-free, only on FX+