A STAR IS BORN
About The Production (Cont'd)
Crash through the surface / Where they can't hurt us...
It was important to Cooper that the film's cinematic style have a first-person
the hope of giving the audience the ability to experience the intoxicating
energy of performing live
before a crowd. To achieve this sensation, Cooper and director of photography
chose to film all performance sequences from the perspective of the performers:
that meant the singers'
and musicians' immediate POV and onstage interactions with each other. No wide
shots of concerts
from the audience perspective; the lens would live inside the performance.
Gerber states, "Bradley took a very specific approach with how he told the story
There are certain angles from traditional concert movies you'll never see in
this film. Instead, he and
Matty put you in the middle of what it feels like to start becoming famous, what
it feels like to have
been famous for a long time, and what it feels like to lose that. It's very
Libatique has shot his fair share of music and concert videos as well as feature
films. "He's an
artist," Cooper states. "I got to meet him through Darren Aronofsky, who he has
done many films
with, and we hit it off right away. I told him we wouldn't have a lot of days
and we'd be moving fast,
here's the color palette I see, here's a little about the opening composition,
and he just got it."
Libatique incorporated various shooting techniques, including handheld,
tracking shots following Jackson Maine from backstage to onstage, and so on,
frequently keeping the
focus extremely up close and personal on its subjects. "Thank God for Matty and
his crew, they were
incredible," Cooper emphasizes. "And our camera operator, Scott Sakamoto. I
found myself watching
him operate, he's like a dancer. One of the greatest of all time."
To complement the visuals, sound mixer Steve Morrow worked to architect the
in a manner that allowed a seamless transition from backstage to center stage,
as musicians do, without
any audible breaks. He elaborates, "In more traditional music movies, there's a
sense that when the
music starts, you're in a different world, audibly, and Bradley and Stefani
wanted to avoid that.
Audiences are increasingly more sophisticated, they notice certain things. From
my view, the worst
thing is to be pulled out of the movie because of a playback track. Bradley
didn't want audiences
standing outside of this world, watching it take place. He wanted them to be
fully on the inside."
With that goal in mind, it was critical that the vocal performances were
recorded live on the
day of filming. Therefore, what is seen and heard vocally in the film was all
recorded on the day.
"There something about the purity of a live vocal," Cooper asserts. "And all the
vocals in the film are
live, nothing's pre-recorded, and I think that is how we captured the truth in
The pre-recorded musical tracks were only heard by the performers through small
band pantomimed their playing while Cooper and Gaga sang live. In addition to
microphones on stage, Morrow and his team planted an extensive web of sensitive
on and around the stage at each venue. "It isn't normally done like that," he
acknowledges, "but we
wanted to provide as much raw material as possible, so we took the added steps
to achieve what Bradley
was looking for."
If the camera and sound recording processes could be that authentic, so, too,
locations. "We had explored the idea of doing certain things on soundstages,
because there's certainly
a lot more control in terms of noise, lighting, things like that," recounts
Gerber. "But it just so happened
that we started finding great locations, and the venues were incredibly
cooperative and supportive of
us filming there, so there was no reason not to go do it in the real places
these things happen. It's a
bold way to start production, but it turned out to be surprisingly less
complicated than we initially
The production worked closely with AEG and Golden Voice to plan and execute the
Principal photography commenced in Indio, California, where the crew spent the
first week filming on
the extensive grounds of the Coachella Music Festival, between the two festival
potential complexities of shooting there were made exponentially easier by the
fact that the festival
headliner was none other than Lady Gaga.
Utilizing the multiple stages, equipment and infrastructure already in place
gave the production
the ability to capture large set pieces that couldn't have been easily
duplicated. "The equipment,
lighting rigs, and backstage areas already existed, so we were able to go into
that environment and
shoot it as-is," explains Howell Taylor. "Going into real venues gives the movie
the kind of legitimacy
that, even if you had all the money in the world, couldn't be recreated in the
For the raucous Jackson Maine performance that opens the film, Cooper and a
took over the mainstage of the Stagecoach Music Festival to film a brief
performance between the sets
of Jamie Johnson and Willie Nelson. Without an introduction or audible track
heard through the
speakers, the performance scene was already over by the time the unsuspecting
crowd caught on that
actor Bradley Cooper was on stage performing.
The trick was later repeated at a massive European music festival. "Oddly
states, "Kris Kristofferson played the summer we were there, and he was kind
enough to let us take a
couple of minutes of his set.
"Now, singing live in front of the crew is daunting, but 20,000, or even 80,000
continues. "I have to give a shout out to Steve Morrow because every time, right
before we did it, I'd
say, 'Maybe I should just lip sync,' and he would say, 'What are you talking
about? You gotta sing
live!' And I did. And in England I got to perform on the stage where I'd seen
Robert Plant, Jack
White, Thom Yorke... But the best part about it was, after it was over, I got to
say, 'Ladies and
gentlemen, Mr. Kris Kristofferson.' Then he walked out. I'll never forget that."
Other large performance spaces used during filming included the Shrine
Auditorium, the Greek
Theater, the Regent Theater and The Forum. Filming in large venues that house
presented creative challenges to the production. So, rather than bringing in
thousands of extras, the
production team found a way to fill the seats by utilizing a priceless resource:
Lady Gaga's dedicated
Affectionately referred to as her "Little Monsters," Gaga's fans had the
participate in the filmmaking process as audience members. Tickets were sold for
each of the venues,
with all proceeds benefiting Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, and the
from the genuine enthusiasm of her fan base. And while having a live audience
for filming provided
the visuals and energy needed, those lucky enough to have stayed until the end
of one particular night
at The Greek experienced a once-in-a-lifetime, private, impromptu piano
performance of two of Lady
Gaga's hit songs-her way of thanking her fans for their time.
Because of the shooting style and artist-oriented perspective, each location was
various ways and played as different venues. "It was clear that Matty was going
to shoot a lot of handheld,
which provides viewers the ability to see everything in great detail, from the
dressing rooms and
bowels of a theater all the way to the stage," notes production designer Karen
Murphy, who was
intrigued by the idea of visually representing the journey of an artist. "As
with every other aspect of
the movie, from the beginning it was always about authenticity and perspective.
Bradley and I spoke
of how important it was to see the rise of a pop star from her own point of
view, being on the inside of
fame when it happens quickly and experiencing everything for the first time."
Murphy, who is not from L.A., drove around quite a bit to get the look and feel
of several of
the locations. "Los Angeles has so many beautiful areas and they're all very
different, which, to me,
as an outsider, was unique."
She discovered a house on Kensington Road in the Angelino Heights/Echo Park
became the house where Ally lives with her father, a limousine driver who
operates his business from
home. "It needed to feel like a family lived there but not be a mansion, and I
liked the homes in that
area. It's high, it overlooks downtown Los Angeles, which gives it an
interesting outlook from the
street, and we were going to utilize the outside as well so we'd see a view."
By contrast, Jackson Maine's house is secluded-even his brother Bobby has
it in the woods. "I didn't feel like an L.A.-style mansion was appropriate for
Jack," Murphy notes.
"He had roots in Arizona, he's a very earthy guy, his music is earthy...I just
wanted to find somewhere
that felt like him without thinking about scale or a fancy address, but
somewhere isolated where he
would write and make beautiful music. I think he's essentially lived on his own
for a long time and he
would need a warm, centering place, this guy whose life is somewhat amiss."
Murphy incorporated a lot of wood in the non-concert environments. "I didn't
want things to
pop too much. I watched a lot of music documentaries that include the places
where artists are making
their albums, just to get insight into their lives and to see what they've got
all around them in general.
It was rarely about fashion or color or any one thing in particular, just real
environments, and you can't
always choose a palette in a real environment. You just fill it with their
stuff, the things they would
That's not to say his isn't a lovely house. "It's beautifully dressed, very
warm, very lovingly
put together. He has this rich life, but everything is from his life on the
road-posters from his tours
over the years, that sort of thing."
To capture the experience of following artists on the road and onto the stage,
Murphy says, "I
thought it was important to have an actual tour manager work with us-with the
art department, the
set dressing department-because we were setting up for real concerts. The
producers found Eric
Johnson, who has worked with Neil Young, and he became part of the team, a great
Costume designer Erin Benach faced very different challenges for her work on the
notably, she says, was "trying to foresee fashion that would not be out of date
two years down the road,
ultimately creating a timeless look; I knew all eyes would be on Stefani and it
was important to let her
character be the main focus."
Like her fellow designers, Benach explored at length the characters' histories
leading up to the
start of the film in order to determine where they would be when the story
begins. "We loved the idea
that Jack would have a very small closet and a silhouette he rarely ventures out
of. We called it a
uniform, actually. He's not trying to impress anyone anymore. You can almost
imagine he doesn't
think about his clothing, that he has three pairs of pants, four shirts, one
jacket and an air of nonchalance
about him. You'll never see him picking out his clothes."
With such a short order, it's surprising that all of Jack's clothes were
created. "We built all of
Jacks clothes. You might not think of his wardrobe as completely bespoke-but it
assures. "All of his jeans had to be the right line for the boots. We built his
leather belt, his shirts,
which were kind of a hybrid of a '70s shirt and a modern-day shirt. All the
fabrics have a heavy drape
to them to make him look a little gaunt, a little messy. He feels a bit like
he's in his own world, so it
was important not to connect him to anything specifically recognizable."
Ally, on the other hand, goes through a transformation that is reflected very
strongly in the
clothes she wears. "When the movie opens, she's a waitress at a hotel, so we
have that uniform, and
she performs at the drag club, which is really her creating another character,
so she wears a slinky slip
dress that she probably wouldn't in her real life. For that, we see her in her
jeans, t-shirts. Her own
sense of style, on a budget."
When she begins joining Jack on stage regularly, Benach says, "We see she's
adventurous. We did a lot of vintage shopping downtown and in Long Beach,
finding the gems that
would work for her."
Once she begins to emerge as an artist in her own right, Ally evolves," Benach
"Stylists start to bring her things, she starts to dress for events, she dyes
her hair. She's becoming a
pop star. Of course, Stefani had great ideas and was really helpful in guiding
us in the right direction."
Benach was then able to incorporate high designers into the mix. "We contacted a
lot of brands
and received a wonderful array of options."
One gown that Ally wears was designed and built by Benach and her team. "Without
too much away, for one of our most serious moments of the film, when Ally is
singing at the height of
her stardom and we needed to convey an elegant seriousness, I designed a robin's
egg blue dress that
I think captures the beauty of her stardom and the emotion of the moment."
Benach also had to take into account the fact that Gaga would be
in her wardrobe. "The best way to understand how to design clothing for a dance
performance is to
watch the dance moves! This was possibly my favorite part of the job, getting to
watch Stefani rehearse
with her choreographer. It was invaluable because you can read the attitude of
the moment perfectly
well in the dance moves and the music. Once I had that I was always able to hit
my drawing table for
ideas!" she says.
Gaga could certainly relate to the evolution of her character. Just as
everything around her
grows bigger when Ally's career takes off, Gaga says, "Once I said okay, no
piano, I decided I was
going to have dancers. Then I started designing my own costumes and building my
own stage props,
and it became a bigger show. But at the heart of me, when I first started, it
was just me and a piano."
We're far from the shallow now.
When production wrapped, Cooper retreated to his home with his editing crew to
cut the film.
"I have to say, my editor, Jay Cassidy, and his first assistant, Mike Azevedo,
we spent God knows how
many months of 16-hour days putting this movie together. They were essential to
getting this done."
As Cooper was working on post-production, most of the cast and crew moved on,
but the time
spent together making "A Star Is Born" had left an indelible mark.
Gaga, who continued throughout post to help see the soundtrack through to
"So much of this film resonates with me still. I think a lot of people will
relate to the themes, and the
story will be something profound to them. And the music really tells this love
we all took very seriously and believed in. We all saw Bradley's vision and we
all wanted, to the very
last second, to make it just perfect."
"One thing I've learned is that when you're creating any kind of art, if you're
in the moment,
you trust your instincts but can be flexible, too, you can make something that
might shift someone's
way of looking at their world a little bit," Cooper reflects. "And when your
whole crew goes there
with you? That's a wonderful feeling. That everybody trusted my vision was
exhilarating and, I think,
gave me the confidence to keep at that daunting task every day.
"This has been a three-year journey and the experience has been amazing, and if
enough that anybody allows me to do it again, yeah, I absolutely would," Cooper
"There's a line in the film that Jack says to Ally, 'If there's one reason we're
supposed to be here, it's
to say something so people want to hear it.' I hope that's what we've done."
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