Zemeckis Talks Flight and the ‘Digital Stew’

Robert Zemeckis talked with me about his return to live action with Flight and his evolution with virtual production for my TOH/Indiewire column.

While “Flight” marks Robert Zemeckis’ return to live-action, he rejects the notion that he spent the last decade wandering in the virtual woods with performance capture. In fact, the Oscar-winning director likes to quote Francois Truffaut in explaining that his movies have always been about “truth and spectacle.” In Flight, we get both, of course, with a harrowing plane crash, and a riveting performance from Denzel Washington as an alcoholic airline pilot forced to confront his personal demons when his heroics turn against him. Indeed, Zemeckis maintains that the real spectacle was navigating the dramatic ambiguity of Washington’s crucible.

“It’s like everything I’d been doing the last 10 years was the perfect setup for doing Flight in every discipline,” asserts Zemeckis, who made the movie because of the ambiguity of the premise. “But Flight has 300 digital shots and we did the movie for $30 million, and so the exciting thing is that ‘the digital cinema’ is just getting cheaper and cheaper. Obviously, you have to know what you’re doing and you have to have some pretty good artists, which I’ve been able to put together.”

Yet one of “Flight’s” most suspenseful moments is a close-up of Washington being tempted by a tiny bottle of vodka in a hotel room. And Zemeckis amps up the Hitchcockian moment with hyper-real stylization, shooting with great depth of field and at 48 fps.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, Tech, VFX

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