Study Guide

This Is Spinal Tap Production Design

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Production Design


This is Spinal Tap cost about three million dollars to make, most of which was financed by famed producer Norman Lear, creator of Reiner's sitcom All in the Family. Reiner shot 50 hours of footage, and edited it down to 82 minutes. It was shot on handheld cameras on 16 mm film, later blown up to 35 mm (source). The scenes were laid out, but the dialogue was totally improvised.

When you talk about the moviemaking technique with regard to this flick, you're usually talking more about the style.

The documentary style was nothing new, but it certainly wasn't the norm for fictional stories. Other comedies that came out in the same year as Tap included Ghostbusters, Splash, Beverly Hills Cop—all funny movies in their own right, but absolutely nothing like Spinal Tap in terms of tone or presentation. No characters speaking directly to the camera. No throwaway scenes that didn't push the plot forward. No musical interludes lasting up to a minute at a time.

The laughs the film generated might have been familiar, but the movie up on that screen was one-of-a-kind. Not that the guys didn't draw on "rockumentaries" that came before; those were the inspirations for the film. But no one had done it with a fake band before.

And then there was the matter of scouting locations that would feel just as real as the performances. Strangely, even though every member of the band is British, every scene takes place in the States, since that's where they're doing their current tour. That scene at Elvis' grave? That was the real deal. All their concert performances were filmed at the Raymond Theater in Pasadena, California, but they're filmed in such a way that you can totally believe they're going down at a dozen different venues.

The hotels, the rooftop pool—it all feels very, very rock and roll. Many bands were floored at how the filmmakers nailed all the details about life on the tour.

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