Tight (Very Tight) Shots: Cameras in the Cockpit for “7500”
The tense mid-air disaster movie “7500” was shot almost entirely in the cockpit of an Airbus A320 airliner. Cinematographer Sebastian Thaler explains how it was done.
“7500” stars Joseph Gorden-Levitt as Tobias, an American co-pilot on a routine flight from Berlin to Paris. Shortly after take-off, the plane is hijacked, leaving Tobias and his pilot Michael to fend them off while trying to make an emergency landing.
Apart from an introductory series of shots from the perspective of airport terminal surveillance cameras, the directorial feature debut of Patrick Vollrath, takes place entirely in the plane’s cockpit. This stylistic exercise recalls Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” or even Joel Schumacher’s “Phone Booth” that used claustrophobic locations to squeeze maximum dramatic tension.
“For ‘7500,’ Patrick wanted to achieve a documentary-like approach. All the dialogue was improvised save for some of the technical air traffic commands and we keep the camera running for long uninterrupted takes.”
Similarly, Vollrath decides not to shoot any material from outside the cockpit looking in. “The camera was to always stays locked in with the actors,” Thaler says.
Thaler’s fly-on-the-wall camera work is unobtrusive and all the more remarkable since there were at least three actors, and at times more, with him in the confined space of the cockpit for takes up to 50 minutes in length.
“The most important thing for me, was to give the actors the confidence that they can move freely in the cockpit without being disturbed by the camera,” Thaler reports. “At the same time, I had to make myself as ‘invisible’ as possible despite the spatial confinement in order to allow the actors the space for emotional development.”
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