I have in my possession a DVD of short Harvard student films. I appear in two of them. The students were all shooting from the same skeletal script, and if you watch the shorts, you’ll see very different films, but, at the end of the day, a bunch of typical student films. EXCEPT. Except there’s one shot that stands out: a crazy swerving zoom in to the moment when the poison I’ve administered does her in. The setup for that shot kept us up quite late that night, like 4am. Maybe later. It was a lot of work for that one shot. But Damien had a vision, and he made it happen, like no other director on that DVD.
While watching the opening scene of La La Land, I immediately saw a connection with the elaborate camera work, and I laughed. Sure, I laughed in delight for the music and dance and love and all that goodness, as I’m sure many audience members have also laughed in sheer delight. But I laughed, too, to see the connection to the film we shot at Harvard, and the fact that he’s still doing it, with the zooms and the setups that are off the charts, be it for the meager resources at hand, or off the charts for the history of film. A lot of work went into that crazy awesome freeway shot, and boy does Damien’s vision pay off.
Mr Chazelle, I look forward to what you’re going to do next!