How was the opening scene of La La Land filmed?

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La La Land opening scene
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Damien Chazelle and his team have done a titanic job.

La La Land will return this evening on M6, followed by another cult musical: West Side Story. We can’t resist the urge to review its opening scene, deciphered by Damien Chazelle a little after its release in early 2017.

Why La La Land is a masterpiece

The scene comes from the fact that I live in Los Angeles and I’m in traffic all the time, wondering if I want to shoot myself or dance. And we had already seen the version where you want to shoot yourself in Free Fall “, summarizes Damien Chazelle in Entertainment Weekly when he talks about the opening scene of La La Land. Crazy, incredibly joyful, and genius choreographed, the opening of the film appears to be a six-minute long shot. This is not the case: the director and his teams cut the scene in “three shots“, as he recently confided to The Wrap (one cut at 3 minutes, another at 4:45). Once perfectly assembled during assembly, it is difficult to see it on the screen. And each shot had to be shot at the same time of day, so that the light was always about the same. “It was a technical puzzle“, assures the cinematographer Linus Sandgren to Indiewire. “We kept the idea of ​​movement, but at times we had to stay behind the dancers instead of in front“. But how was this crazy scene – which took six months of preparation and a few bumps on the cars that were used for rehearsals – actually filmed? A video that compares the film and its backstage gives a good idea of the device:

Damien Chazelle: “At no time has La La Land been obvious”

But before filming, we had already had to obtain the authorizations to close an access ramp to the interchange that connects freeways 105 and 110 in Los Angeles. “We closed it on a Saturday and a Sunday in August 2015, but a week before we had an authorization for a Sunday, in order to carry out the costume tests.“, explains the director to EW. Chazelle, choreographer Mandy Moore and the dancers rehearsed in city parking lots, trying to limit space to find the same dimensions as the highway. “We were so precise in rehearsal that we took a little too much confidence“. And the awakening was all the more difficult when we arrived there for the first time:”Previously I used my iPhone, but obviously it’s more complicated with a crane. There were loads of things we hadn’t even thought about. The ramp of the highway is sloping, it is never flat. You have to deal with the heat, the sun which makes the roofs of the cars scorching… And the wind was powerful.“, it was therefore necessary to manage the movements of the crane to prevent the camera from bumping into a dancer or a vehicle. It was also necessary to hide the shadow of the crane, obviously visible on the ground:”That’s why we decided to cut the sequence shot into several shots, and to mask them with a very fast panning.“, explains Sandgren.”For the audience, it’s invisible, but it was important for Damien to keep the idea of ​​a sequence shot“.

Damien Chazelle and his team then decided to slightly modify the choreography to adapt. AT Time.com, he specifies that the first take was a disaster. The cranes almost hit the dancers on the head and the choreography brought them dangerously close to the side of the road… The second take was the right one. “It was difficult, we were limited at times“, he explains. But he confides to EW than “thanks to the rehearsal the week before, we managed to complete everything in two days. I wouldn’t say it was easy (…) but we got what we wanted. And without these months of preparation, we would never have been able to do it“. A complicated shoot for a scene that has already found a nice place in the collective memory.

Damien Chazelle: “Basically, I didn’t contact Ryan Gosling for La La Land, but for First Man”

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