Fremantle for Apple TV
Main on End (MOE)
Motion Design
VFX/Visual Effects

The Mosquito Coast

Much like the featured family’s adventurous travels from Stockton, California, to the Mosquito Coast in Central America, our process in building these main titles was a journey.  With twists, turns, and unexpected solutions,  that journey ultimately lands us in a place that just feels right and fits the tone of the show.

It creates a sense of tension and claustrophobia: A simple three-column grid of footage and space juxtaposing streams of imagery and variously revealing or hiding moments. The entire grid is contained within a frame that gradually narrows to nothingness.

The Journey

The Mosquito Coast is the tale of a family on the run. The patriarch of the family is a bit of an engineering genius, but his intelligence, personality, and idealism place him in an uneasy relationship with forces (including his own government,) that seek to exploit his genius. So it’s off to The Mosquito Coast in Central America to make a new home. Surely it will be a smooth journey with little drama or excitement…?

No spoilers, but it isn’t.

Very much like the family at the heart of this story, we began our design process with a notion and a goal. But as is the case with all design challenges (or flights to freedom),  it took several twists and turns to get to the final destination.

We wanted to tell the story of travel and journeying using metaphors of migration and path tracing. The idea was to create a sense that we were following the family’s journey from Southern California to Central America, but eschewing expected tropes such as pins in a map or path-lines across aerial photography. Our solution? Subtly weave threads through physical environments the family would have traversed:  A thread snagged on a barbed wire fence. A dusty highway in Mexico. A line tangled amongst mangroves on a jungle coast. 

While this approach felt right on many levels,  something was missing. Our ongoing collaboration with writer and show creator, Neil Cross, helped us identify the missing suspenseful element: dramatic chase. While the family was indeed on a journey they were also being chased and driven. The family is, after all, on the run, pursued every step of the way.

The Chase

To create the fraught sense of tension  that comes with chase and pursuit, we had find and pace the right shots within an edit. And while we wanted to take the audience from California to the Mosquito Coast, we knew we needed to add something to the shot sequence that felt more textural and evocative without retelling the story through show footage. Moments on the road, on the run—glimpses, details, and movement added just that.  It all came together in a high-paced cut that kept up a feeling of drive and relentless forward momentum.

As our edit tightened around shot selection and timing, we focused on ratcheting up a sense of menace and tension. We didn’t want the title sequence to show too much, but we wanted it to feel a lot: uncomfortable, perhaps even subliminally–in a way the audience didn’t immediately notice. The sequence didn’t need to be a visual tour de force or a highlight designed solution. Much like Neil’s core approach for the show it needed to be timeless and uncomplicated.

What would we have done with the tools available in a previous era of film title design?

The Coast

To get there, we landed on the idea of using a simple three column grid for the footage that would allow us to juxtapose imagery in interesting, and even uncomfortable ways. This allowed us to build rhythm and pace, and  to create moments of nothingness—of something withheld. The entire grid was then placed inside a cinematic widescreen letterbox container that gradually contracts as the sequence progresses until all that is left is a narrow strip of texture, color, and motion. And finally, nothing.

This contracting frame creates a claustrophobic feeling–the sense that the walls are closing in, because they literally are. It’s the perfect visual metaphor for the family’s journey:  Originally a flight to freedom, it becomes a tense and narrowing path.

Project Credits 
  • Executive Creative Director
    Erin Sarofsky
  • Executive Producer
    Steven Anderson
  • Creative Director
    Stefan Draht
  • Senior Producers
    Joel Signer
  • Editor, Color, Finish
    Tanner Wickware
  • Motion Designers
    Duarte Elvas
  • Jake Allen
  • Dan Moore
  • Associate Producer
    Kelsey Hynes
Client Credits 
  • Client
    Fremantle Production
  • Showrunner
    Neil Cross
  • Director
    Rupert Wyatt
  • Producer
    Christina Fitzgerald
  • Studio

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