Podcast: LETS TALK...With ThisFunktional

May 28, 2020

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in 7500, coming to Amazon on June 19


When terrorists try to seize control of a Berlin-Paris flight, a mild-mannered young American co-pilot struggles to save the lives of the passengers and crew while forging a surprising connection with one of the hijackers.
 
Gordon-Levitt took the role in part because he was intrigued by Vollrath’s decision to film the movie as an improvisational exercise, treating the script not as gospel but as a guide, the emphasis on spontaneity and emotional authenticity. He was a fan of the naturalism in Vollrath’s “Everything Will Be OK” and he found Vollrath’s long takes helpful in terms of putting him in the character’s increasingly anxious headspace.
“He explained how it involved a lot of improvisation on the part of the actors as well as on the part of the camera,” Gordon-Levitt said. “And letting the camera roll for 20, 30 or even 40 minutes at a time and just letting the actors become the characters and live the situation.”
In casting Gordon-Levitt as the co-pilot Tobias, Vollrath said he was looking for a talented actor in his 30s, who was an Everyman. 
“I was very much looking for not Bruce Willis,” Tobias said. “Not a Special Forces-trained guy who can use all his abilities to solve the situation. Tobias is an everyman who never expects to be in a situation like this and hopes he never will be — and then it happens. So he’s as overwhelmed as you or I would be. He had to be someone the audience likes from the moment he enters the cockpit. So we’re on his side even when he has to make some incredibly difficult decisions.” 
Fortunately for Gordon-Levitt, the plane’s pilot, played by German actor Carlo Kitzlinger, actually flew planes for Lufthansa for 20 years. So Gordon-Levitt had a seasoned technical advisor by his side all the time and the duo spent two weeks in flight simulators prior to filming, including the one Lufthansa pilots train on regularly.
 
The improvisational nature of the movie extended to DOP Sebastian Thaler (Falling Ugly). He went all in, even prior to principal photography, filming in the cockpit of an actual commercial airline flight, capturing footage that would serve as a visual reference for all of the departments on set. Especially handy in that they would be filming in a real aircraft, purchased to become the set, albeit cut into pieces.

Like the actors. Vollrath encouraged improvisational camerawork – tricky business in such a small space.

No written dialogue except for the technical aspects – no marks, no blocking, no rehearsal, it all unfolded “live” in front of Thaler who had to capture it in real time.

To do that, all of the camerawork was handheld and ONE camera, due to the limited space.

Lights were placed throughout the cockpit and turned on and off by a lighting operator on the fly to avoid the any unwanted shadows. 
 
Almost the entire film was shot in the studio, using front projection and green screen for whatever takes place outside the plane’s windshield.

The only exception was the film’s final scenes, for which the cockpit was moved to an actual airfield and the outside action was filmed live. 
 
Production designer Thorsten Sabel (The Reader, Rush) created an authentic airplane set based, as mentioned, on a real Airbus bought for the production.

The segment of the aircraft used for filming included the front galley (food-prep area) and the first eight rows of seats, but it had no flight instruments, so the art department had to buy or rebuild those – and found a legion of airplane collectors who were happy to oblige.

Sabel and team became expert airplane mechanics – they build some pieces from scratch like like the door-lock button, relying on the the Airbus website that offers a 360-degree view inside a cockpit.

The airplane segment filmed at a studio in Cologne where it was positioned about 12 feet above the ground on a pneumatic rig that allowed it to be shaken by hand to simulate the plane’s vibrations as it encounters turbulence or makes steep ascents or descents. 
 
Vollrath, like his mentor Austrian director Michael Haneke, chose a naturalistic soundscape in lieu of a score.

The only sounds were generated by the aircraft and its inhabitants but within that were some musical non-instrumental sonics.

The challenge for supervising sound editor Daniel Iribarren was to create a dynamic soundtrack with a limited sound palette set against the airplane’s almost constant ambient noise, all the while protecting the dialogue.

Like Thaler, Iribarren went to the source to capture genuine airplane sounds – he gave small digital recorders to pilots who agreed to capture the in-flight sounds.

Those recordings were combined with sounds created digitally using BOOM Library’s Turbine plug-in software to create the roar of the jet engines.

Those are then varied in pitch and volume depending on the speed and trajectory of the plane at various points in the film. 
 
He also worked closely Carlo Kitzlinger, the pilot turned star of the film and technical adviser, who helped Iribarren ensure the interior sounds generated by the flight system — many of which were recorded by the foley team on set — were true to the specific Airbus model, lest the Airbus “experts” hear a false note.

7500
To Release On June 19 on Amazon

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