Damien Chazelle Wanted the Camera in 'LA LA Land' to Glide on Air

"Where coverage was concerned, both Linus and I agreed the camera had to be a character in this film."
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Damien Chazelle's acclaimed La La Land is a modern-day musical that's an ode to the great Hollywood musicals of yore--even filmed in Cinemascope.

"I wanted a camera that felt like it was gliding on air, at least for large parts of the story," Chazelle tells ICG Magazine. "It’s an approach somewhat similar to what [DP Linus Sandgren] did with American Hustle. Then, when Linus was grading Joy, and I got to see some stills, I was even more convinced he was the right guy. The way [in Joy that the photography] would flip in and out of dreams and reality sequences, but in a gritty and grounded way, was perfect for [La La Land]. I think of Linus as an analog DP in that he likes to use older, traditional processes in new and contemporary ways. That’s exactly how I like to make movies."

"Where coverage was concerned, both Linus and I agreed the camera had to be a character in this film," he continues. "It had to provide the audience with a privileged viewpoint. B-roll has that long-lens feeling that takes away that intimacy. As for using digital effects for background extensions or green screen instead of real locations, we did a little bit of that in the Planetarium scene for Emma and Ryan’s waltz in the air. But I wanted in-camera capture, not just for the sake of it, but because I believe there is a feeling, perhaps even subliminally, that [the audience] can tell the difference. Linus and I were walking around L.A. at magic hour, and the sky was just so unbelievable. We wanted to capture those colors and that magical glow the way you really see and experience it, not through post or enhancements in the DI."

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