If you’ve watched the beauty that is Hamilton on Disney+, you may be curious to know how it was filmed. Was there a live audience? Was a camera on stage? Well, how Hamilton was filmed for Disney Plus included all of the above.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Disney+’s version of Hamilton was filmed way back in 2016 just after the show won 11 Tony Awards, Best Musical. The original cast—which included Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Leslie Odom Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs—were set to leave for other shows. But before they did, the cast came together to film Disney+ #Hamilfilm.
So how was it filmed? Well, this may come as a surprise, but Disney+’s version of Hamilton wasn’t just one recording of a live show. Instead, it was multiple recordings edited together to make the magic that is #Hamilfilm. Per The Chicago Tribune, Disney+ version of Hamilton was filmed via nine cameras throughout New York City’s Richard Rodgers Theatre, where Hamilton has been performed since its premiere in 2015. Those cameras—which were placed in the overhear and from the rear of the stage—made sure that the show’s 10 principal actors and 11 ensemble were covered, even as they roamed and performed choreography in the show’s two-story set.
Two full performances were filmed with live audiences, while 13 numbers from the show were also recorded without ticket-holders. The audience-less performances were filmed via a Steadicam, crane and dolly between ticketed shows, so that Disney+ version of Hamilton had close-ups of the cast that may not have been possible if the #Hamilfilm had only used full-stage shots. The cameras were apparently so close to the actors that the director could see the cast members’ sweat. Each number also included individual audio tracks from the microphones of each actor and orchestra instrumentalist—the drum kit alone had seven separate microphones, according to The Chicago Tribune.
However, as complicated as the filming setup sounds, #Hamilfilm director Thomas Kail told the newspaper the filming was easy. What was hard was the editing. Kail told The Chicago Tribune that a first cut of #Hamilfilm was finished at the end of 2016, with another cut edited in 2018. It wasn’t until earlier in 2020 when Kail and his editor, Jonah Moran, returned to the edit room for the first time in 18 months to recut it with “more stylized moments” to make the Broadway show seem more cinematic and for the screen.
“Theater disappears every night after the curtain call, and then you have to go and make it again,” Kail said. “That’s the beauty of it, but that’s also the challenge. There was something about this moment where we thought, ‘No matter when this comes out, let’s honor and preserve the moment we have with this extraordinary cast, assembled all in the same place at the same time.'”
Though the musical was filmed for the screen, Kail told the newspaper that the performance for Disney+ was the same performance that the Hamilton cast had been giving audiences for months. “No one was ‘turning it on’ for the cameras,” he said. This is exactly the same performance they were all giving people every single night. It was always that remarkable and it was always that true.”
Hamilton is available to stream on Disney+.
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