Damien Chazelle on Filmmaking, Big Screen Survival – Deadline

Damien Chazelles Babylonin his story of how talkies disrupted the silent film era is undoubtedly a metaphor for the streaming revolution affecting the film industry today.

We dive deep into the subject today on Crew Call with the Oscar winner la la country Filmmaker and his Babylon Producer Matthew Plouffe, a former Focus Features executive who first heard about the director’s dream of making a feature film set in 1920s Hollywood about 13 years ago after meeting him.

“If you want your film to be on the big screen, you have to grab it, you have to claim it,” says Plouffe of the survival of original films on the big screen.


“I think filmmakers embrace that: what’s going to bring people to the screen? How can I reach this audience? I hope this inspires you. That’s what inspired me when we were making this film.”

“There has to be a fight,” says Chazelle of the survival of original images that are not banned from streaming. “I am an optimist, but there is still a lot to do.”

With Babylon, Chazelle tried to “capture what that time was really like” about the “out of joint and wild and brilliant people who started the industry”.

A sequence in the first act of the picture shows the Margot Robbie Clara Bow-inspired character Nellie LaRoy arriving in a huge silent movie set in the middle of the desert where several movies are being made, from rough comedies to war movies. Cacophony abounds with orchestras playing amidst the dust along with broken cameras and riotous tramp-like extras.

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A few scenes later, Nellie is learning to adjust to the strict “quiet on the set” mode of the sound era, when actors had to watch their decibel levels on a studio set given the sensitivity of the microphone.

There’s another scene in there Babylon where we witness a cinema audience dancing in their seats in a merry uproar as they experience a talkie for the first time.

“There’s a disaster movie, there’s a darkness,” Chazelle noted as he studied the shift in the era of “start and small player suicide rashes.”

Chazelle and his wife produced Olivia Hamilton and Plouffe Babylon to Paramount, where Wyck Godfrey was then president of the Motion Picture Group. Godfrey was a producer at Chazelle’s first man

“He responded to that and became this champion. He fought hard to get the film into the studio,” says Chazelle. “Without him, I’m not sure it would be a Paramount film.”

Babylon Production was originally scheduled to begin in March 2020, but the pandemic hit as filming in Santa Clarita didn’t start until July 2021. The area remains a hotbed for Hollywood shoots dating back to the silent era when Charlie Chaplin was filming modern times on the high plateau 26 miles north of LA. The late western star William S. Hart’s mansion served as the home of Brad Pitt’s movie star Jack Conrad.

Plouffe says, “It was important for us to make the film the way films were made in the ’20s, in the places where they made films, and not to fake that.”

Listen to our conversation below:

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