Getting Soul Plane To Fly
For debut feature director Terrero, first-day jitters quickly faded once the cameras began to roll on a scene that featured comedic veteran D.L Hughley. "Since this was my debut, I was a little nervous coming into the first day of shooting," admits Terrero. "I didn't know how Hughley was going to relate to me and listen to my creative ideas. I have to thank him because he was so reassuring and turned out to be such a calming presence, which really helped me get through the first week of the film."
Terrero's transition from music videos to film was one he had been preparing for a long time. "Many of my music videos have been narratives," he says, "and I always incorporated some sort of dialogue in them so I could do a little coverage and work with actors. The hardest thing in making the leap to features is that in a music video, the song itself can save you as a director because it's all about the concept. With features, you are really trying to pull out performances from actors."
With much of the film taking place in an airport and onboard a plane, the filmmakers faced the challenge of finding practical locations that could double for the airport and the Soul Plane itself. "It's impossible to shoot in the main terminals of airports because of security restrictions," says Terrero. "We had to find a location to double for LAX, and we were able to do this very successfully at the Anaheim Convention Center. It was the first time a production had used the location to double as an airport, but several films have gone there since and done the same."
Principle photography commenced on June 23, 2003, and the filmmakers, cast and crew were all impressed with the purple-and-chrome plane that would become NWA's flight #O-69.
"The plane is going to knock people out," says Kevin Hart. "The cockpit is hysterical, with its bumping stereo system, headrests and X-Box. They really went big with the look of the plane, and it provided all of us a great backdrop to work with."
"Our plane is hip-hop," laughs director Terrero. "It has everything hip-hop culture embraces, but I also wanted to make a film that was more about class. Most of the jokes in the film are about class, so we really fought hard to make each of the plane's cabins distinctively different."
Terrero brought production designer Robb Buono onboard the project, with whom he'd worked on music videos. A celebrated video production designer, Buono has created unforgettable images for many of today's top hip-hop artists, including Puff Daddy, 50 Cent, Missy Elliot and Snoop Dogg.
"Buono is a genius," says Terrero. "He is the reason Puff Daddy and a lot of hip-hop artists look as cool as they do. Robb is passionate about what he does and was my only choice for Soul Plane."
"When the project was green-lit, Jessy called me to meet with the studio," says Buono. "I was in Miami doing a video, but I jumped on a plane and started doing rough shorthand sketches of each set. Jessy told me to imagine if Puffy owned a plane, what would it look like?"
Buono began creating the centerpiece of Soul Plane, an aircraft that would provide an urban traveler with all of the comforts and eccentric style missing on conventional airlines. "The initial challenge was how to take the interior of a normal aircraft and give it a stylish feel while still keeping it looking like an airplane," says Buono. "I knew from conversations with Jessy that a lot of the humor in the film would derive from the plane itself, so I really wanted the sections of the plane to be completely different in their design and feel. We used the interior of a 747 plane and took it apart into different sections, beginning with first class.
"I really wanted first class to be slick and pleasing to the eye," he continues, "so we built oversized custom white leather seats with the NWA logo embroidered on them. We chro
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