• 02.21.15

This Floorplan Reveals The Claustrophobic Choreography Of “Birdman”

The creators of Interiors Journal are at it again, with a look at the increasingly cramped theater in which Birdman was set.

This Floorplan Reveals The Claustrophobic Choreography Of “Birdman”
Michael Keaton in BIRDMAN

We’ve already seen the insides of sitcom houses and those of some classic movies. Now, a new floorplan mock-up reveals the layout of the singularly claustrophobic setting of Oscar frontunner Birdman.

Zach Galifianakis as “Jake” in Birdman

The technical feat of Birdman most viewers rave about is that the entire film occurs in what appears to be one continuous shot. This device would not be possible, however, if the film’s action weren’t restricted to a single location–with occasional trips to surrounding areas within a one-block radius. Birdman is set in New York’s St. James Theatre in Times Square, which is where director Alejandro González Iñárritu actually shot part of the film, during a one-month break between the theater’s productions. Perhaps this hard deadline lent an urgency to the shoot, which certainly comes across onscreen as the camera follows Michael Keaton through some rather intense pacing. Keaton’s character–a former superhero actor staging a comeback play on Broadway–seems trapped within a prison of his own making throughout, and the new floorplan, created by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian of Interiors Journal, shows exactly why.

Above you will see the scene that Ahi and Karaoghlanian’s floorplan corresponds to. They selected the scene in which Keaton’s character finds out about a cover story on his play in the newspaper, in which Edward Norton’s pretentious counterpoint actor appears to take credit for the whole production. The two have a confrontation that takes them through much of the back stage area. Although the clip ends before the scene finds Keaton going back to trash his dressing room in a huff, it is a representative scene for showing how the limited space works as a pressure cooker in the film. Writing for Arch Daily, Ahi and Karaoghlanian break down the scene as well as some of the techniques used to create a unique spatial illusion within the movie, beyond what you can see in the floorplan below.

Graphic: Courtesy of Interiors Journal

Let us know in the comments below anything you may have noticed about the use of space in Birdman, and whether it deserves to sweep at the Oscars.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.