WAMG Takes FLIGHT At Los Angeles Press Conference

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WAMG recently attended the FLIGHT press conference held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. The great thing about press conferences is that you really get a nice glimpse into the creative effort that goes into any given film. For FLIGHT, we got to hear director Robert Zemeckis, screenwriter John Gatins, star Denzel Washington, and other cast members talk about their various approaches and experiences with FLIGHT.

For Zemeckis, FLIGHT marks the return to live-action filmmaking. The innovative director has spent the past decade directing and producing films that utilize motion capture technology and indeed Zemeckis has long been on the forefront of special and visual effects technology in films. However, strong characters with compelling emotional journeys anchor all of his films, including FLIGHT.

Gatins extensively researched real-life air disasters. At that time, the legendary US Airways “Miracle on the Hudson” river landing accomplished by heroic pilot Sully Sullenberger, was still ten years away. However, with the help of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and interviews with pilots, eventually, Gatins drafted a 35-page outline of what ultimately became “Flight” – which became more than a mere disaster film when he also wove in some of his own history.

Washington also took great pains to let pilots know that the movie wasn’t an indictment of them.

“I wanted them to know that the movie was not trying to knock airlines or pilots. It’s not so much about flying as it is about addiction, at least as it relates to my character. So he could work in a post office but flying a plane is the most heightened dramatic situation.”

Ultimately, FLIGHT combines several Zemeckis touchstones – advanced film technology, big, compelling characters on life changing journeys, themes of recovery and discovery – or, as he puts it:

“My thinking is this: There’s a wonderful quote by Francois Truffaut which I subscribe to … he said that a movie that works is the perfect blend of truth and spectacle. And whenever I can find a screenplay that has both of those aspects, those are movies that I gravitate to—and I think ‘Flight’ is that kind of movie.  I mean it’s a hopeful, redemptive human story that’s wrapped in this very dramatic and intense spectacle.  And to me that’s what movies are all about,” Zemeckis says.

Also, listen in the audio clip as co-star Bruce Greenwood talks about a real-life air disaster that he was part of!

On a mid-Autumn morning, SouthJet 227 departs Orlando, Florida for what should be a routine trip. Captain Whip Whitaker is at the helm of the Jackson-Ridgefield 88 Passenger Jet along with his young clean-cut co-pilot and first officer Ken Evans, who is Whip’s polar opposite in every way. The flight soon encounters heavier-than-anticipated turbulence as they fly into a massive storm. Not a problem for Whip who steers the plane into the clearing, albeit in an unconventional and eyebrow raising way, to the relief of the flight’s 96 passengers and six members of the flight crew.

But that’s when things start to go really wrong. Abruptly, the pilots encounter a series of inexplicable mechanical malfunctions, causing the plane to rock and dip and shudder like a rollercoaster. As these breakdowns began to multiply, causing the plane to spiral downward and seemingly out of the pilots’ control, Whip decides that his only recourse to maintain a level altitude is to maneuver the 50-ton plane into a barrel roll and complete inversion, which will allow it to glide without its engines until he can right the plane and land it. Within minutes, unable to make it to the airport, flying the plane just a few hundred feet off the ground, Whip finds a patch of nearby land adjacent to a church where he can attempt his landing. At 140 miles per hour, he inverts the aircraft and brings it down. The impact is shattering, but Whip, in an incredible, ingenious stroke, calmly manages to land safely enough to save all but six of the one hundred and two souls on board.

For his miraculous landing, the media hails Whip as a hero. But, there are lingering questions. The cause of the crash isn’t entirely clear to his superiors and particularly to the NTSB, although Whip is quite sure had he not been in the cockpit, the plane would have nose-dived and all its passengers would surely be dead. Nonetheless an investigation ensues.

As the query drags on, Whip is literally grounded as he struggles with his considerable demons. Convinced that his actions saved the passengers on-board, he is equally certain that his personal issues are not all that extraordinary and certainly had no bearing on the crash. Old and new allies rally around him. His friend and union representative Charlie Anderson takes on his case, as does the canny, sincere lawyer Hugh Lang. Whip’s droll pal Harling Mays is also around for support, if not always the moral kind. Along the way, Whip meets a kindred spirit, Nicole. A down-on-her-luck photographer and recovering substance abuser, Nicole may be just what Whip needs. If only Whip could figure out exactly what that is.

FLIGHT tells a harrowing story about one man’s amazing, heroic feat and how, in the process of defending himself, he discovers his true grace and valor.

FLIGHT will land in theaters November 2, 2012.

Paramount Pictures presents FLIGHT, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Produced by Parkes/MacDonald Production’s Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald, and ImageMovers’ Robert Zemeckis, Steve Starkey, and Jack Rapke. The executive producer is Cherylanne Martin. Original screenplay by John Gatins. Director of Photography is Don Burgess, ASC. Production Designer is Nelson Coates. Costume Designer is Louise Frogley. Special Effects Supervisor is Michael Lantieri. Visual Effects Supervisor is Kevin Baillie. Edited by Jeremiah O’Driscoll.

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