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Oscars 2017: La La Land in Los Angeles

La La Land observatoryDamien Chazelle’s musical drama La La Land filmed across Los Angeles and enhanced its locations through set dressing and lighting to convey the film’s mood.

The movie tells the story of the burgeoning romance between Ryan Gosling’s jazz musician and Emma Stone’s struggling actress, with an array of dance numbers punctuating the comedy and drama.

La La Land was nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

Several parts of the city were thought of by the production as ‘main’ filming locations when they occupied more than half a day’s shooting or different spots were used in the same locale. This included the Warner Bros. lot, where we first meet Stone’s Mia working as a barista. Altogether, the team filmed 48 separate places in just 42 days. 

“There were a few locations that were already written into Damien’s script (the Griffith Observatory, The Lighthouse jazz club in Hermosa Beach) so choosing those were just a matter of confirming each was agreeable to our shooting schedule,” says Robert Foulkes, the film’s location manager, in an interview with KFTV. 

“Pretty much every other location involved lots of discussions and scouting in vans with our director of photography [and other crew] to help narrow down which places spoke best to specific scenes and moods."  

La La Land monitor checking

“Our wonderful production designer (David Wasco) and I were hired onto La La Land several months before production began to help get a jump on some of the key locations, and I utilised other scouts at various times during this pre-production phase," Foulkes says.

Specific colour palettes were used to enhance the visual appeal of each location using a mix of wall painting, lighting and set dressing, like Los Angeles’ iconic – and suitably romantic – street lamps. 

One of the main challenges was filming the movie’s technically-ambitious opening dance number Another Day of Sun, which involved closing down a freeway section for days in a row. The six-minute single-shot sequence shows seemingly dozens of Los Angeles commuters stuck in freeway gridlock, but who break the tedium by dancing across their vehicles in song. 

La La Land jazz club“Music playback in residential areas is always a challenge but being able to explain what a unique and special project this was often helped in creating enthusiasm amongst neighbours,” Foulkes says of the broader production issues.

“Overall, with enough planning and a positive attitude, filming can and does run very smoothly throughout Los Angeles – well-oiled filming machine that it is.”

Los Angeles has not been a popular filming location for bigger-budgeted features in recent years because of its limited incentive support, but shooting elsewhere would have been “counter-productive” for the La La Land production team.

“Every page of Damien's screenplay called for the real Los Angeles and its myriad options of wonderful locations and settings,” says Foulkes.

Disney’s big-budget feature A Wrinkle in Time recently secured California’s largest incentive payment in years. Indeed, movie location filming days in Los Angeles rose by almost 25% in the last three months of 2016.

For more on filming in Los Angeles see our production guide.

Images: Summit Entertainment