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Up in the Air: Opening Sequence

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 11, 2009 at 9:06AM

One of my favorite opening sequences from a movie is Jason Reitman's for Up in the Air, which sets the tone perfectly for the movie. It's a swinging cover of "This Land is Your Land" and was designed by Shadowplay. It was devilishly hard to shoot. I asked Reitman about this; his full answer is on the jump (and the full interview is here).
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Thompson on Hollywood

One of my favorite opening sequences from a movie is Jason Reitman's for Up in the Air, which sets the tone perfectly for the movie. It's a swinging cover of "This Land is Your Land" and was designed by Shadowplay. It was devilishly hard to shoot. I asked Reitman about this; his full answer is on the jump (and the full interview is here).

JR: I have always enjoyed opening title sequences, all three of my films have prominent ones. I like there to be a separation between the commercials and the movie. The opening title sequence, in general, has gone by the wayside, because many directors like the movie to end with ‘directed by me,’ an ego kind of thing. Anyhow, I have a team called Shadowplay who were short film makers at the same time I was. They did the Smoking and Juno titles, and came up with this idea of vintage moving postcards, the most complicated element of which was getting this aerial footage that seems like film. I figured you put a camera in a plane, you put it up in the air, you point down, you get aerial footage, right? I really thought it would be that simple. It was so complicated. Every time you see aerial footage in a movie it’s from a helicopter at 12,000 ft. To get it from 25,000 ft, first we went up with a jet and we had a camera that was going through this bubble system, except the optics weren’t good enough and atmosphere was giving us trouble. Then we went up with a propeller plane and the pilot had to wear an oxygen mask to get up that high; we took a camera out on a wing, we went digital instead of film, and then the camera would not go straight down, so they’d have to put the plane into a dive to get the camera to go down. I mean it was just like unreal how hard it was to get this footage. But I’m really happy with the results and of course it made for fun opening titles.


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.