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Arts and Entertainment

Video: An Exclusive Look At How They Shot That Crazy Opening Sequence From 'La La Land'

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Making a movie set in Los Angeles often has certain (boring) iconographic requirements: palm trees, drone shots over downtown, the Hollywood sign. When La La Land came out, it was clear the filmmakers wanted to eschew a stereotypical look at our fair city. This meant Grand Central Market, Angel's Flight, Watts Towers, and the Colorado Street Bridge all got the chance to shine.

Besides showcasing some of the best locations in the city, La La Land spent plenty of time exposing Los Angelenos' favorite thing to hate: traffic. The movie opens with a tongue-in-cheek "WINTER" title card over a shot of a sea of cars sitting under the beating sun. It's a freeway interchange everyone knows well: the 110/105 connector. The ramp is officially known as the Judge Harry Pregerson Interchange, named after the longest-serving judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (he's relevant to the freeway because he negotiated on behalf of women and minorities during the construction of the 105 freeway in 1993). La La Land incorporates it more for its location and elevated view of the city, making it the perfect backdrop for a spontaneous eruption of singing and dancing on the freeway.

How in the world did they make the scene work, though? We already knew how they shut down the freeway to film it, but what about the actual filming logistics? Navigating a long take with dozens of bodies moving in, around, and over cars is a logistical feat in and of itself, but there's also the time constraints that come with shutting down a crucial piece of transportation infrastructure.

The filmmakers had one rehearsal day before their weekend of shooting. This meant learning how to control the crane's speed to get great shots and still keep everyone safe, while also making on-the-spot decisions of how to adapt to the ramp's slant and constraints.

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Here's an exclusive look at the process with interviews from director Damien Chazelle and choreographer Mandy Moore:

The above video was excerpted from the upcoming La La Land DVD and Blu-Ray releases. The film will be out on Digital HD on April 11, and 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on April 25.