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Waiting for the Flight: Building 'The Terminal' (2004)

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Documentary | Short

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23 November 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Espera en el aeropuerto: La construcción de 'La terminal'  »

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This short is featured on the Two-Disc Special Edition and the Three-Disc Limited Edition DVD for The Terminal (2004). See more »

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References One from the Heart (1981) See more »

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Where the weather is much better and the food is so much cheaper.
12 December 2016 | by (Rijswijk, ZH, Netherlands) – See all my reviews

If you just can't get enough of sped up footage of builders constructing a set (accompanied by John Williams music) you're in for a treat with this 12 minute documentary. And lets face it, that kind of stuff never gets old. Director Steven Spielberg and production designer Alex McDowell are the stars of this short, documenting their second collaboration (after 2002s Minority Report) Before production, the former told the latter that the terminal (the setting of practically the entire film, not the title) couldn't disappoint anybody.

Alex pleased Steve by coming up with a look that combined a 1920's retro look with with that of a modern departure lounge. Design and approval, as well as making a detailed maquette took 3 weeks, then during a further 18 weeks the set was built while Steven spent the entire summer studying the model with a tiny camera - just like in those famous pictures of him photographing a tiny representation of the desert set from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The fake terminal was build as a real piece of architecture with steel walls and granite floors. Only the light plastic roof wasn't weathered proof. According to Alex, it was the first movie set - except possibly the one from Coppola's "One from the Heart" - to incorporate actual working escalators He gives a small tour explaining where the various shops that feature in the film, like Borders, Starbucks and Hudson News are located. Also of note was that supervising graphic designer François Audouy collaborated with Dutch airport signage innovator Paul Mijksenaar, who's revolutionary Wayfinding system, originally developed for Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport had recently been introduced at New York's JFK airport.

A separate hangar at Palmdale housed the set that served as an unfinished wing that was being used as storage in the film and became the lead character's makeshift home. Both sets featured the most amazing backdrop (with moving lights) Steven had ever made use on during his career till that time. Subsequently, they crew also shot footage in Motreal at an actual working airport for the opening scenes at the immigration's.

But back to the star of this documentary, the big terminal. We hear Spiel say he wanted to memorize the set before starting the movie and Tom Hanks exclaim that he never wanted to leave it. But despite of his knowledge, the director didn't plan any scenes beforehand, so that each day upon entering the terminal, it would stimulate him anew each and inspire him with new angles every day. In typical Spielbergian style, he ended up using ever square inch of that set during production.

Next stop: a three part behind the scenes feature collectively known as "Boarding: The People of the Terminal"

8 out of 10


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