ImageMovers, Paramount Pictures, Parkes/MacDonald Productions' Drama directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Denzel Washington "Whip Whitaker", Don Cheadle "Hugh Lang", Kelly Reilly "Nicole", John Goodman "Harling Mays", Bruce Greenwood "Charlie Anderson", Melissa Leo "Ellen Block", Brian Geraghty "Ken Evans", Tamara Tunie "Margaret Thomason", Nadine Velazquez "Katerina Marquez", James Badge Dale "Gaunt Young Man", Garcelle Beauvais "Deana". Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Walter F. Parkes & Laurie MacDonald, Steve Starkey, Jack Rapke. Executive Producer: Cherylanne Martin. Screenwriter: John Gatins. Director of Photography: Don Burgess, ASC . Production Designer: Nelson Coates. Costume Designer: Louise Frogley. Visual Effects Supervisor: Kevin Baillie. Editor: Jeremiah O'Driscoll. Art Director: David Lazan. Set Decorator: James Edward Ferrell. Composer: Alan Silvestri. RELEASE DATES: 13 FEBRUARY 2013 (FRANCE) / 2 NOVEMBER 2012 (USA)
IN-FLIGHT TURBULENCE - SOUTHJET FLIGHT #227 Setting the film in motion – literally - is a harrowing flight sequence that follows Captain Whip Whitaker as he successfully pilots a passenger jet through an increasingly dangerous list of flight difficulties, starting with severe turbulence and culminating with a massive mechanical failure. Moments after a successful passage through the worst of a bad weather pattern, the JR-88 (the film's fictitious plane model) passenger jet inexplicably loses it hydraulics, pitch and vertical control, and begins an uncontrolled rapid descent. To gain control of the plane, Whitaker must rely on his experience, intuition and unique skill set to attempt some very risky, unorthodox, maneuvers, including inverting the plane into a glide. Screenwriter Gatins says that the sequence in the script came from an actual accident he learned about in his research. "A professional pilot I consulted pointed me towards a past incident in which the wing on a plane's tail snapped and was in a fixed position that pitched its' nose down. They tried everything to right the plane and at one point had to invert it and flew upside down. They knew that their only shot of landing the plane would have to be a stable inverted flight, and then descend the plane close enough to the ground. Then they could turn the plane over and take their chances by bellying the plane on the ground, which is what Whip does in our movie." Pre-visualized and meticulously planned in pre-production, the frightening sequence required the combined talents of the film's special and visual effects and stunt teams, along with some creative camerawork, utilizing the latest in film technology. First came the plane itself. Coates worked with Robert Zemeckis for several months, developing an identity for the plane - everything from its logo to its in-flight magazine, setbacks, to its unique cockpit. His team modified several existing aircraft to create the SouthJet plane depicted in the film. Coates explains, "We wanted to it feel very familiar and yet, because of the nature and sensitive subject matter of the story, we needed to have our own manufacturer, our own airline company." Many of the practical airline sets - the jet way, the cockpit, galley, and passenger cabin segments of the film's jet - were erected on multiple platforms and motion based rigs on Stage 5 at Atlanta's EUE/Screen Gems soundstage complex. To make the plane unique to the film's fictitious SouthJet Air Company, Coates created a custom jet influenced by several planes typically used in regional airlines, such as the MD-80 and 737 series. For much of the sequence, the plane was situated on air mattresses that could simulate the high frequency rocking motion of turbulence. Each corner of the SFX-rigged air mattress featured three-foot springs that could extend or contract to move the plane up or down, side to side, or port to starboard, controlled by the special effects technicians operating the rig. Meanwhile, cinematographer Don Burgess and his team used a wide array of camera cranes, mounting heads and other special equipment to film these technically complicated scenes: a Technocrane, Felix Crane, Libra Head, mini head, and a 360 roll cage, among others. For the portion of the flight in which Whitaker inverts the plane 180 degrees so he can gain some control, the cabin segment of the plane was positioned inside a "rotisserie rig" – a term the filmmakers used due to its functional resemblance to the rotating cooking device - a circular ring that could spin the cabin 360 degrees. The custom-designed rig, had to be strong and secure enough to hold the 11,500-pound weight of that section of plane and its passengers. With the aircraft fit into steel rings and rollers, the film's special effects technicians were able to control a section of the plane and actually roll it around and invert it. Since the rotisserie rig couldn't handle the weight of a full-length, fully loaded plane, the cabin segments were filmed in two 14-row sections, each with 25 passengers per segment, and then married by the visual effects team to create the extended entirety of the plane interior. "We custom designed the three hundred and sixty degree roll-over rig to achieve the plane flipping upside down and all that action that takes place while the plane is inverted," says award-winning special effects supervisor and longtime Zemeckis team member Michal Lantieri. The effects supervisor and his team had to design the rigs to support the weight of the plane - the cabin section of which was fashioned from an MD-80 airplane weighing 7800 pounds – in addition to the weight of the passengers. The design of the revolving rig also required that the cabin be open on both ends to allow for a camera crane to flow in and out while the cabin rolled around it. During the days of inverted plane filming, the passengers – mostly stunt personnel – were fully inverted many times for up to two minutes per take. Charlie Croughwell, the film's stunt coordinator, compares filming of the flight sequences to "a roller coaster ride." He states: "We had to find people that could handle a roller coaster ride for eight hours each day, who could handle being upside down all day long, day in and day out - and make it exciting." Since the flight is a short regional trip from Orlando to Atlanta, it was essential to the believability for the stunt personnel to look like regular people. "The biggest challenge was that Bob Zemeckis did not want stunt guys that looked like your standard stunt people," he adds. "They should be just a wide variety of people that look like they just came from Disney World." The professional stunt personnel were not the only ones who endured the inverted plane sequences. Croughwell notes that Denzel Washington did too. "Denzel is great – he wanted to do his own stuff," says Croughwell. "He doesn't want to have someone else in there doing his stunts, and it's great that he approaches it from that point-of-view. Obviously if we felt something was going to be too dangerous for him we would talk with him about it and work through it, but he was a trooper." To make sure his ordinary-looking ensemble of stunt people could endure the days of filming, Croughwell and his team conducted several pre-filming safety tests. "We tested with people hanging upside down to see the lengths of time that was safely possible, and to note the effects that hanging upside down can cause," he explains. "All the blood rushes to your brain. And after sitting on a plane for eight hours, there are all kinds of circulation issues you have to deal with. So we had to deal with all those physical issues." Suspending actors, stunt people and sets in gravity-defying positions while also placing cameras and equipment was a tricky bit of choreography that had to be accomplished in lightning speed. Preparation on every level became more vital than usual. "We actually hung everyone upside-down by their seat belts. I think the safety advisors said we could hang people that way for a minute. So we shot everything we could in 60 seconds and then we had to turn everybody right side up again. Then we would turn the plane upside-down again and do it all over. Everything had to be done in pieces and of course we didn't want to hurt anybody. Those sequences were very complicated and the Pre-Vis was essential so we knew where to to put the cameras and what we were looking for. And we really studied what would be the best angles to give the illusion of the plane turning upside down and, and diving. We needed to give that illusion the plane dropping through the sky with a camera inside the cockpit. A lot of that is camera work to make it look exciting. And hanging people upside down a minute at a time," Zemeckis says. John Goodman is Harling Mays in FLIGHT, from Paramount Pictures. Photo credit: Robert Zuckerman. © 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Paramount Pictures commemorates the 100th anniversary. ™ and © 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Denzel Washington is Whip Whitaker in FLIGHT, from Paramount Pictures.
© 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
™ and © 2012 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
FLIGHT ImageMovers, Paramount Pictures, Parkes/MacDonald Productions' Drama directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly.
VISUAL APPROACH: LENSING THE FILM "Flight" required a cinematographer who could seamlessly handle the film's wildly kinetic, effects-heavy plane crash sequence, but also hone in on an intimate character study and personal drama. Director of photography Don Burgess, ASC, has collaborated with Robert Zemeckis as cinematographer on all of his live-action films beginning with "Forrest Gump." "Flight" is the first film that reunites them since "Cast Away." Despite the passage of time, Burgess states, "It didn't take us long to get back in the groove!" After all these years, Burgess still finds the experience of working with Zemeckis exciting and challenging." He is truly one of the best directors working today." Working with a budget more modest than films they had done was both challenging and liberating. Burgess recalls, "Bob and I had an abbreviated prep; we were under the gun from the get go. We had also had a very tight shooting schedule. Every day of the schedule had to be worked and re-worked to solve all the logistical problems of complicated airplane scenes, actors availability, set construction and the most important, trying to shoot as much in continuity as possible." Understandably, over the course of a 25-year partnership, Burgess and Zemeckis have developed a synchronicity that helped the production moving at a rapid pace. To highlight the scenes where the characters are in an altered drug-addled state, Zemeckis and Burgess decided that the camera should be "floating," accomplished via Steadicam. All other times would be filmed more traditionally, mounted on dollies, also reflecting especially Whip's state of mind. "First we needed to talk concept and style, which comes from the journey of the main character," Burgess says. "Bob wanted to use the camera as much as possible to keep the audience connected to Capt. Whitaker. When Whip is sober the camera is fairly steady and when he is intoxicated the camera tends to move to the level of his high. We varied focal length from wide to extremely wide and used different camera speeds to help the effect in those situations." Burgess has recently embraced digital cameras, and for "Flight" he decided to utilize the RED EPIC camera, noted for its small size. This was especially useful for the plane sequences where the camera would need to have room to maneuver inside the narrow cabin. During pre-production, Zemeckis put together a pre-visualization of the plane crash and then sat down with Burgess for a long time to discuss how they would create the illusion of a plane flying upside down, where the camera should be, the movement, whose perspective it would reflect. In those early stages, it became clear the RED EPIC was perfect for the job. Burgess recalls, "Very early in our prep I felt we need a camera that we could use on a Steadicam, shoot hand held, shoot high speed, be small enough to fit in the cockpit of our plane and also have the 5K of resolution for our wide screen release. I felt that the RED EPIC would be the best choice and I'm very pleased with the results. We shot the entire movie with that camera. We even mounted three of them on the front of a helicopter to shoot aerial plates, which were stitched together and used at the front windscreen of our plane. There isn't one film or digital camera that can do all of that except the RED."
FILM CLIP #1 "Uncontrolled Dive" (VO)
FILM CLIP #2 "Harling Visits Whip" (VO)
FILM CLIP #3 "Life In Prison" (VO)
TV SPOT #1 "Impact" (VO)
TV SPOT #2 "Hero" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #1 Denzel Washington "Whip Whitaker" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #2 Kelly Reilly "Nicole" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #3 John Goodman "Harling Mays" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #4 Bruce Greenwood "Charlie" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #5 Melissa Leo "Ellen Block" (VO)
INTERVIEWS #6 John Gatins (Writer) (VO)
INTERVIEWS #7 Robert Zemeckis (Director) (VO)
INTERVIEWS #8 Nadine Velazquez "Katerina Marquez" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #3 Denzel Washington "Whip Whitaker" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #4 Robert Zemeckis (Director) (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #5 Bruce Greenwood "Charlie Anderson" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #6 Kelly Reilly "Nicole" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #7 John Gatins (Writer) (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #8 Brian Geraghty "Ken Evans" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #9 Nadine Velazquez "Katerina Marquez" (VO)
LOS ANGELES PREMIERE #10 Garcelle Beauvais "Deana" (VO)
FEATURETTE #1 "Paris Premiere" (VOSTFR/VF)
BONUS FEATURES #1 "From: Anatomy of a Plane Crash - Denzel Washington doing his own stunts on the plane" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #2 "From: Anatomy of a Plane Crash - The plane in rotating steel rings used fior the crash scene" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #3 "From: Origins of FLIGHT - Denzel Washington comments on his character being a great liar" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #4 "From: Origins of FLIGHT - Judith Gatins comments on his first meeting with Denzel" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #5 "From: Making of FLIGHT - Director Robert Zemeckis comments on Flight´s powerful screenplay" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #6 "From: Making of FLIGHT - Denzel Washington comments on working with director Robert Zemeckis" (VO)
BONUS FEATURES #7 "From: Making of FLIGHT - Creating the plane crash site for Flight" (VO)
FEATURETTE #2 "Zemeckis In The Pilot Seat" (VOSTFR)
FILM CLIP #1 "Cause For Celebration" (VOSTFR)
FILM CLIP #2 "Life In Prison + The Only One" (VOSTFR)
FILM CLIP #3 "Just A Normal Day" (VOSTFR)
FILM CLIP #4 "Whip Under Microscope" (VOSTFR)