Things Get Strange for Stephen Wilkes and Netflix
There’s something strange happening in Hawkins, Indiana. Teenagers are missing, mysterious white vans filled with armed men are rolling around town, and there’s something trying to claw out of the walls. And everyone loves it. When Stranger Things, the Netflix series that follows the events in the fictional town of Hawkins, debuted last summer it was an immediate fan favorite. Within hours, calls for a second season were already deafening. That second season is almost here and we’ve gotten our first taste of it thanks to a foreboding poster photographed by Stephen Wilkes that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con.
Part of what makes the series so successful is the amazing team that puts the episodes together. The writers, directors, actors, production team, and marketing team at Netflix are all top notch, but the series also plays on sci-fi and horror conventions that were cemented in the 1980s. It’s harping on a level of nostalgia that’s built into the genesis of many fans’ passions. Stephen and Netflix knew it was crucial to include that in the poster. “The hope was to create something that was really iconic 80s in feeling and I really felt like we really achieved it, and still very much spoke to the soul of the show,” Stephen says. “There’s always kind of a wink and nod to the 80s in everything within Stranger Things - it’s almost like a period piece, yet it’s so contemporary in the storytelling.” Not only did the Stranger Things team host Stephen to shoot on location in the fictional town of Hawkins, but all of the props and wardrobe were from the actual show to keep it as aligned as possible with the aesthetic and detail we’ve grown to love.
Getting all the details perfectly is a labor of love, and requires work from dozens of people to balance everything. It’s evident in the show, it’s evident in Netflix’s team, and Stephen made sure it’s evident in the poster. “One of the things I was very struck with was how everyone involved in this show feels a really vested interest in it and that’s rare to see,” says Stephen. All the extra work and love turns up in every frame.
In the poster, the four young male main characters stand straddling their bikes on a road headed into town, facing a stormy sky and the shadow of some kind of creature from another dimension that we’ve never seen before. It definitely ups the ante for this season while encapsulating what the show is all about. That’s by design. “It really is about the ensemble of these four kids and the way they see the world and the context to this very supernatural thing that’s happening within their small town,” explains Stephen. “I’m a huge fan of the series so I’m very much into the characters and I wanted to make sure that each character, even though you’re viewing them from behind, that their gestures were very much in keeping with the series.” We already know who these kids are, so Stephen had to stay faithful to our expectations while showing us something new. He did just that.
As soon as Netflix released Stephen’s poster, fan attention spiked and the image was immediately shared all over social media, in a variety of formats – including being blended into a few animations. “It’s exciting, I’m excited about it,” says Stephen. “And seeing the reaction that it’s had has been really quite incredible.” We have to wait until the end of October for Stranger Things to return to Netflix, but until then we have a first look thanks to Stephen’s poster.