Through the eyes of a lighting designer

The “movies” – a billion dollar business. Every year you can watch hundreds of them – all kinds of genres, addressed to various audiences. But, from these myriads of films, what makes a great one? The one movie that will engage you, make you really pay attention, feel enchanted, make you remember it, long after you watched it…

I’m no expert, but the one film that revealed its wonders before my eyes was the much-coveted La La Land. I can name hundreds of reasons why I fell in love with this particular movie, but, here at Nulty, we adore all things “light”…and this is one of the reasons why this film will stay in my mind forever.

It’s widely known that irrespective of where it is used – be it architecture or cinematography – good lighting has the ability to create an amazing atmosphere and result in a beautiful visual composition. The wonderful thing is, when lighting is extraordinary it creates emotions – they’ll flow through your body and you’ll feel as though the film’s been created just for you. When light is employed skilfully, it creates magic.

La La Land uses light masterfully – it uses it to create drama, movement, pause, focus, nostalgia, intimacy and connection. It’s a film that through the use of colour and light makes its audience dream. Both artificial and natural light is utilised as paint – scenes are transformed from something pretty to something uniquely special, thanks to the brilliant cinematographer Linus Sandgren.

A number of scenes were filmed after sunset, during the blue hour, because during this particular time of day, colours of the sky make surroundings seem ethereal – like a modern fairytale.

La La Land Lighting

One of the most intense moments, undoubtedly, is when Mia sees Sebastian performing on the piano. Everything is paused as she only looks at him – nothing else matters. It might sound cheesy but light did it all, it intensified the moment. The background goes completely dark, everything ceases, and she is standing there, looking only at him. It was that moment that defined everything and lighting highlighted it sublimely.

During the piano scene, when they’re creating their song, light was employed to show “connection”. Warm white light merges with soft green to convey that two worlds are coming together, united.

La La Land Lighting

La La Land Lighting

La La Land Lighting

La La Land doesn’t just use light to create a spectacle. It uses light as a medium to tell an intense story and it does it, oh so beautifully.

I could go on and on about how wonderful this film is but instead I suggest that you go and see it – to experience the magic for yourself. Yes, I might sound a bit obsessed, BUT I have 14 Oscar nominations to back me up!

If you’re interested in reading a little about the creation of this beautiful movie, then you can read the interview of cinematographer Linus Sandgren here.

Here’s to all of us dreamers!

La La Land Lighting