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SYFY WIRE Don't Look Up

Turns out that viral editing 'mistake' in Netflix's 'Don't Look Up' wasn't a mistake after all

Director Adam McKay is clearing up one eagle-eyed viewer's discovery.

By Matthew Jackson
Don't Look Up Still

Movie and TV productions are big, complicated things with lots of moving parts. They require dozens of people (or more) all working in tandem to capture a series of individual moments that are then strung together into what's hopefully a cohesive story, and that means that sometimes, mistakes are made. Whether it's a cardboard cutout left in the background of Three Men and a Baby or a coffee cup on the set of Game of Thrones, these little mishaps eventually go down in pop culture history thanks to the efforts of attentive viewers. But sometimes, what looks like a mistake can actually be a little moment of intentional chaos. 

That's apparently the case with an apparent editing mishap that surfaced over the past week in Don't Look Up, the new Netflix original sci-fi satire from writer/director Adam McKay that arrived on the streaming service over the Christmas holiday. 

Don't Look Up follows a pair of scientists, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, who discover a comet hurtling toward Earth with the potential to wipe out all life on the planet in six months. Desperate to warn people, the scientists take their discovery first to the White House, and then to the media, only to find that a combination of complacency, ignorance, and just plain ridiculous contingency planning gets in the way of saving humanity from certain doom. Over the weekend, filmmaker Ben Köhler posted a video to his TikTok page revealing that, amid the fictional chaos of Don't Look Up, some real-life chaos slipped in.

At about 1:28:10 into the film, as Lawrence's character Kate Dibiasky has given up science and is instead hanging out with a skateboarding slacker played by Timothee Chalamet, Köhler noticed that the camera not only got a little shaky, but actually spun around to reveal the entire crew for that day's shoot, standing in their positions with masks on, watching the action on the set. They're only onscreen for a couple of seconds, but they're very clearly visible, and you can still go see the moment on Netflix right now. 

Naturally, the goof went viral enough to merit a story at E! News about the mishap, and word eventually got back to McKay (pictured with Lawrence in the photo above), who clarified that the "mistake" was actually something he chose to leave in as a kind of commemoration. 

"Good eye! We left that blip of the crew in on purpose to commemorate the strange filming experience," McKay tweeted Tuesday. 

Making movies can often be a bit surreal, but it probably feels especially surreal right now, as crews head back to work in masks, with testing equipment always at the ready, to make films amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And it was probably even more surreal back in late 2020 when Don't Look Up was actually filming, in the days before everyone on the set had access to a vaccine. Plus, just as a piece of fiction, Don't Look Up is a very wild, self-referential ride, so it makes sense that McKay would feel like showing the crew for a few seconds might fit right in. 

Don't Look Up is streaming now on Netflix.