The cinema is like magic, it is full of tricks. When we watch a movie we make a pact with it: we accept all the cookies and we say: “ok, here I am, what do you have for me?” Some will have tears, some will laugh, and some will surprise you at the most unexpected levels.
By making the pact with the film, we somehow promise to believe its fiction. Next, I’ll break that pact briefly, because I’ll reveal to you how some of the scenes that have impressed me the most in Hollywood .
# SpoilerAlert : Although it seems obvious that we will make a spoiler because we are going to talk about how these scenes were made, I may warn you.
Exist different types of tricks . This time I will talk about three, which I decided to call like this so that the post is round: engineering tricks, choreographic tricks, and post-production tricks. I’ll show you examples of each one, with a bonus for whoever reads to the end.
Table of Contents
- Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) – The Engineering Trick
- Kidding Ep3 S1 (Jake Schreier, 2018-2020) – The choreographic trick
- Icons (Gray London, 2014) – Other choreography
- Contact (Robert Zemeckis, 1997) – The post-production stunt
- Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)
Let’s see, then, how these scenes were made:
Loved by some, hated by others, Inception is a film by British director Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Loaded with visual illusions, this film plays with the beholder’s eye at all times. I could make an exclusive post of the making of from Inception and its impossible scenarios, but I will focus on one scene in particular whose realization is mind-blowing.
If you already saw the movie, you will remember a sequence in a hotel in which gravity is a fundamental factor. There are scenes in which the characters float, others in which the center of gravity of the rooms moves from the floor to the ceiling, from one wall to another.
The creativity of filmmaking has developed numerous techniques and technologies to achieve the effect zero gravity and the case of Christopher Nolan is no exception. To record this sequence, a vertical corridor was built that replicated the original horizontal set.
To shoot the zero-gravity scenes, the actors and stuntmen were hung at the top of the corridor with harnesses and many security measures, to then be lowered to the ground, where the camera was located:
The actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt told that the biggest challenge in filming this scene was controlling every muscle in her body to appear relaxed that people who have experienced real zero gravity say they feel.
These descents, in which the actors could be “easily” walked through all the corners of the corridor, they achieved a very realistic zero gravity effect, which keeps the viewer constantly wondering how they did it. Nolan also constructed the scenes of the sequence with very different shots to mislead the viewer, removing any possibility of feeling that he had discovered the trick.
Great wizard that Nolan. It will go far, without a doubt.
#Insight: The tricks that I call “engineering” tend to be gimmicky and bombastic. Whoever makes the film wants to dazzle, without deceiving, while saying: “No, that’s not what we did. You can’t even imagine it ”. Or something like that.
This series created by Dave Holstein, reunites the actor Jim Carrey again with the French director Michel Gondry, a duo already known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004).
If you know Gondry’s work, you know that he likes to play with all the possibilities of the staging , and although the French did not direct Kidding, you can see their style.
The making of The sequence shot of EP3 S1 went viral on social networks due to its incredible performance. This scene narrates the transformation of the character of Shaina, played by actress Riki Lindhome, over five years.
Such a scene is only possible with highly rehearsed choreography, in which each participant knows and performs their part to perfection. Accuracy is a must.
In appearance it is very simple. That is the magic of the choreographic trick. But if you look closely: BOOM ! The question appears: “HOW THEY DID IT?”
The work of the 50 members of the team that assembled, disassembled and reassembled the set that Jake Schreier posed as a tribute to Gondry, it had to be fast, precise and almost, almost invisible. Each member of the team was given a specific task for each moment of the scene : move a plant, move a sofa, bring a puppy. Such was the speed needed that Lindholm had to have a double twice. The level of detail is enormous.
It took two weeks of preparation and a full day of shooting to get the almost two minutes of the sequence shot. It was definitely worth it.
In the same choreographic spirit of Kidding , I can’t stop mentioning this commercial from the English newspaper The Sunday Times , called Icons .
In a spot 50 seconds, the Gray London agency portrayed six icons of western culture: The Thinker, Forrest Gump, Mad Men, The Creation of Adam, Reservoir Dogs and Daft Punk .
A choreography with fewer elements than Kidding , but just as well executed. My respects!
In this film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s novel of the same name, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, Jodie Foster finds irrefutable evidence of extraterrestrial life and is chosen to be the first to contact them.
In a scene that recalls the childhood of Dr. Arroway, played by Jena Malone, we are presented with the death of her father, from whom she inherited her love of astronomy.
Director Robert Zemeckis decided, for this scene, to prioritize the reaction of young Ellie, which is why the father never appears in the shot.
What happens is this: the girl calls her father, who is on the ground floor of the house, and gets no answer. He decides to go down to find out what is happening and finds him, as we can guess, collapsed on the ground. Given this, Ellie runs off to get her father’s medication, who suffers from heart disease, and that’s when the magic happens.
The girl runs up the stairs and into the hall to the camera, where a slower effect is incorporated into the videotape to add more drama. But it is when he reaches the bathroom and reaches out to open the cabinet that the film leaves us speechless.
Where is the camera? Where did that mirror come from? Am I in the movie and I didn’t know? Calm down, people. The effect here is post-production because this scene was actually shot in two parts.
The first part is Ellie running towards the camera , right up to the moment he reaches out. The second part is the reverse shot of that moment , with the camera positioned behind Ellie. And the mirror? Well, there is no mirror, but a blue screen. Sight:
Here the trick has its secret in post production, where the blue screen is replaced by the first part, that of Ellie running towards the camera. The effect is impeccable, and considering that this film is from 1997, the end result is undoubtedly admirable.
For those who read this far, and also for those who cheated and came straight to the bonus, one last scene. For me, this trick has a separate category and I’m going to baptize it as if it were a chapter of Friends : “The one when it is cheaper to buy the plane and crash it against the building than to send it to be done in CGI.”
Yes, this is how you read it.
In this thriller , the British director presents the story of a CIA agent who wants to prevent World War III.
In one of the most incredible scenes in the film, the characters crash a plane into one of the airport hangars . The first thing you might think is that it is a digitally made plane and that the actors were on a closed set painted all blue.
But when you are Christopher Nolan and you tell your team that you want a plane, then your team gives you a real plane in a real airport .
And so, with the maximum security measures, Nolan crashed his 747 and achieved a scene that, to put it in some way, could not be more real.
I hope you liked these movie-loving curiosities. Knowing how things are done in Hollywood can give you many ideas for your own projects. Although these scenes are truly impressive, what brought them to life was the initial idea and that reminds us of what is most important: do, do, do!