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Achieving Flight
One of the more important meetings the actors had was with Airmen Roscoe Brown and Lee Archer in Nate Parker's hotel room. Roscoe and Lee sat in chairs in front of the actors, and gave them low-tech flying lessons.

"They took us through the take-off, the flight maneuvers, the fighting, using a stick and then through a landing," Parker recalls. "We spent a good hour going through how everything worked and what looked realistic and what didn't, how much power you had to put into jamming the stick when you go into a dive or a roll. When I look back on that, I get the chills - us sitting in chairs holding an imaginary stick, leaning one way and then leaning another way and then pulling it back. It was like a synchronized dance. It was amazing."

In addition to this hands-on training were flights taken on actual P-51s by the cast at the Planes of Fame in Chino, CA. "It was the most exhilarating experience of my life," Oyelowo says, "in terms of the speed and the acrobatics that these things are able to perform."

Such experience was essential in order to perform realistically when in the simulated cockpit of a P-51 Mustang. The actors would sit in a gimbal-mounted cockpit, rocked back and forth by crewmembers, photographed one-at-a-time in front of visual effects green screen.

"Doing green screen is like your first day in acting class," Parker says. "You feel like the worst actor possible. David described it like someone putting you in a room and saying, ‘Pretend you're deep sea diving.' You just have to sell it. You have to believe that all of this stuff is happening around you, and the only way to make it work is to have a childlike imagination."

Advising Hemingway on how to capture the footage necessary to integrate into complex visual effects of piloting scenes was Lucas, who set the hard-to-beat benchmark for such scenes in the Star Wars movies. During the film's lengthy pre-production period, Lucas had envisioned the dogfights, first in his mind's eye, and then realized in low resolution computer graphics developed by animatics artists. This formed essential blueprints in shooting the gimbal action, and developing the amazing visual effects sequences in Red Tails. "George gave me some really great ideas about how to move the camera to achieve the really big, epic feel that I was trying to achieve when the planes were dropping away," Hemingway recalls. "I hadn't thought about that at all and it was awesome for me to have him there. It was educational, but it was also really supportive, because I knew we were putting this thing together as a team."

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