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Another Day of Sun is the 5 minutes and 11 seconds opening shot of the movie La La Land. It depicts commuters of Los Angeles being stuck in morning traffic and eventually getting out of their car to dance on the highway while singing about their aspirations at becoming Hollywood stars. The choreography is accompanied by the song Another Day of Sun, created for the movie. The song finishes as people go back in their car, just as the movie’s title appears on the frame. The shot then continues and brings attention to the cars of the two lead characters, Mia and Sebastian, played respectively by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

It is one of the series of long-takes in the movie La La Land.

On the sequence after the title Edit

Often, the shot in question is said to end when the movie’s title appears at the screen, ignoring that what follows is the camera starting traveling to introduce the main characters in their cars, without any visible cut from the dancing scene. Although there is a perfect continuity after the apparition of the title, it can be argued that the segment after semantically belongs to another scene. In this interpretation, the shot continuity could be a stylistic gimmick to link two scenes that could actually take place days apart, especially considering that Sebastian and Mia cannot be seen during dancing, although they’re supposed to be part of traffic.

However, such literal reading fails to consider that the whole point of a musical is that of fantasy in a first place. For example, the whole musical number could be nothing more than a representation of the thoughts and imagination of Sebastian and Mia while waiting in traffic, since they’re the one presented in the rest of the film as wanting to become stars. This interpretation is more in favor of the idea that the dance took place just before the lead characters’ presentation, although in their minds.

Faced with such ambiguity, this article choses to follows the most visual interpretation which is that the segment after the title belongs to the shot, as everything is done to give the impression of continuity into one unit of space and time. This will also be the occasion to explore the technicalities behind the hidden composite transition that takes place after the title.

Production shots Edit

This shot is comprised of 4 production shots that have been filmed on location, the Los Angeles city having agreed to close an highway ramp for the movie for 3 days[1]. The first two transitions are hidden in whip pans[2], and the third one is hidden in a composite. Most shots were shoot using cranes except for PS#3 which was filmed with a steadycam since this shot follows a bike rider and a skateboarder zigzagging between cars. This steadycam shot required 25 takes[3]. The following table present the 4 shots.

PS (Production Shot) Description Duration Starting transition Camera support
#1 Traffic is introduced using a travelling alongside the cars. A woman start singing and is followed by other in dancing out of their cars 01:34 Fade-in from the Cinemascope logo Crane
#2 More people get involved into dancing 01:46 Whip pan Crane
#3 A skateboarder and a man on a bicycle zigzag between cars. Everyone dance on top of the cars. 00:59 Whip pan Steadycam
#4 Lead characters Mia and Sebastian are presented in their cars 00:52 Composite Crane
Out

4 frames during the composite transition. The blue line is an estimation of the border between the bottom shot and the upper shot. As the camera pans down, the bottom shot progressively takes over the entire frame. In frames 3 and 4, the transition is complete. The car ahead at left of the Toyota Prius is red in the upper shot (frame 1) but gray in the bottom shot (last frame). Shadows cast by the cars aren’t of the same shade in the top and bottom shots.

PS#3 ends with a vertical traveling and gain elevation. This was achieved thanks to a platform mounted on a crane on which the steadycam operator could step on and continue filming while being lifted.

There is a inconsistency between PS#2 and PS#3 which is that the sun is not on the same side of the highway, which betrays the fact that the two production shots have been filmed at different times of the day (possibly at different days). There is also a visual inconsistency between PS#3 and PS#4 which is that a car that goes out of the frame is not the same once it goes back inside the frame. This is a consequence of the composite transition between the two production shots. As explained in the first paragraph of this article, this is not necessarily a semantical inconsistency.

The composite transition between PS#3 and PS#4 is highlighted in the following sequence of frames to the right. The shot from the bottom progressively takes over the shot from the top. The red car at top left of the gray Toyota Prius, which belongs to PS#3, is replaced by another gray car in PS#4. When both shots are visible in the frame, the shadows of the cars are not of same shade on ground between the two shots, which indicates that the two shots were filmed in different weather conditions or with different camera settings.

Creation of the shot Edit

Dancers first rehearsed parts of the choreography in dancing rooms[1], and then rehearsed the complete scene in a parking lot, where Damien Chazelle could film the shot as he envisioned it using his smartphone[1]. The highway ramp was then closed by the city of Los Angeles one Saturday of August 2015 for rehearsal on location and then the whole week-end one week later for production (probably Saturday 22 August 2015 for rehearsal and the week-end of the 29 for production)[4]

Go inside 'La La Land's' big opening number

Go inside 'La La Land's' big opening number

Dancers rehearsing the cheorography on a parking lot. Damien Chazelle rehearses directing the shot with his smartphone

Pinpoint camera

The Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange. The ramp that was closed for production is highlighted in blue. The red dot is an estimation of the camera position at the end of the shot. License of the unedited picture: © Rémi Jouan, CC-BY-SA, GNU Free Documentation License, Wikimedia Commons

During day 1 (rehearsal), the crew faced various problems that they did not anticipated during the parking lot rehearsals, especially the fact that the highway is inclined and the shadows of the camera cranes on the ground that were visible in the frame[1][3]. To fix those various details, technical and logistical decisions had to be made rapidly with a lot of trial and error. In an interview, Damien Chazelle admits that the whole crew was very anxious after the rehearsals on location, and that at the end of day 1 he thought that the shot could be a disaster[1].

Nonetheless the crew managed to start getting things done and film takes during the first day of production[1]. Production on the second production day could not begin until noon because of fog blocking the view of the sky. During the afternoon, temperature rose to a point where a heat notice was release by Los Angeles. Dancers had nonetheless to dance on the very hot cars’ roof. Clothes had to be regularly changed between takes as they rapidly filled with sweat[1]. At the end of day 3, all the necessary production shots to assemble the final shot had finally been shot.

Filming La La Land Opening

Filming La La Land Opening

Filming Production Shot #2. The camera starts with the whip pan transition.

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA87ALHli3s
  2. https://www.thewrap.com/la-la-land-opening-scene-how-they-do-that/
  3. 3.0 3.1 https://ascmag.com/articles/la-la-land-city-of-stars
  4. This article mention that the rehearsal day took place a Saturday, one week before the actual shooting that took place a Saturday and a Sunday of August 2015. In the making-off in Reference 1, Damien Chazelle mentions that the second shooting day was the hottest of the year and that there was a heat advisory, which matches the week-end of 29 and 30 August according to this article