How was the opening scene of La La Land filmed?

A titanic work.

At the time of general confinement, the urge to dance itches you? First invites you to (re) see some cult dance scenes from cinema …

The scene comes from the fact that I live in Los Angeles and that I am always in traffic, wondering if I want to shoot myself or dance. And we had already seen the version where you want to shoot yourself in Chute Libre “, summarizes Damien Chazelle at Weekly Entertainment when he talks about the opening scene of La La Land. Crazy, incredibly joyful and choreographed with genius, the beginning of the film seems to be a six-minute sequence. This is not the case: the director and his teams have cut the scene in “three shots“, as he recently confided to The Wrap (a cut at 3 minutes, another at 4:45). Once perfectly assembled during assembly, it is difficult to see this on the screen. And each shot had to be shot at the same time of day, so that the light was always almost identical. “It was a technical puzzle“, ensures 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 required six months of preparation and a few bumps on the cars used for rehearsals – actually filmed? A video that compares the film and its behind the scenes gives a good idea of the device:

But before the shooting, it was already necessary to obtain the authorizations to close an access ramp to the interchange which connects freeways 105 and 110 of 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, to perform the costume tests“, explains the director to EW. Chazelle, choreographer Mandy Moore and the dancers rehearsed in city car parks, trying to limit the space to find the same dimensions as those of the highway. “We were so precise in rehearsal that we gained a little too much confidence“. And the awakening was all the more difficult when arriving on the spot for the first time:”I used to use my iPhone, but obviously it’s more complicated with a crane. There were lots of things we hadn’t even thought of. The ramp of the highway is sloping, it is never flat. You have to deal with the heat, the sun that makes the roofs of cars burning… And the wind was strong“, 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:”This is why we decided to cut the sequence shot into several shots, and to hide them with a very fast panorama“, details Sandgren.”For the public, it’s invisible, but it was important for Damien to keep the idea of ​​a sequence shot“.

Visit the dream Los Angeles of La La Land with our map

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 failed to hit the dancers’ heads 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 could never have done it“. A complicated shoot for a scene that has already found a nice place in the collective memory.

Damien Chazelle: “At no time was La La Land obvious”

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