Thursday night marked the first ever SF Honors awards ceremony from the SF Film Society, with the prize for 2016 awarded to La La Land, a new movie musical from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle. The film centers on the romance between a struggling jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) in modern day Los Angeles, and Chazelle has created a love letter both to the city and to movie musicals of the '50s and '60s — SFist will have a full review when the film is released in San Francisco next week, but suffice it to say it's a daring, technically brilliant, and moving piece of work.

As announced last week, Stone and Gosling came to SF to appear live on stage with Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz — who was Chazelle's roommate at Harvard — and they were briefly interviewed Thursday in front of a sold-out house at the Castro Theatre, discussing their involvement with the film in conversation with director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). John Legend, who costars in the film and wrote one of its songs, was scheduled to appear but did not attend.

Emma and Ryan Gosling at the San Francisco Film Society (December 8, San Francisco) #emmastone #ryangosling #lalaland

A photo posted by Emma Stone News (@emilystonenews) on

Stone said that while she grew up doing musical theater in school, it was something she gave up when she realized she didn't really have the singing chops to go pro. But Chazelle convinced her, after seeing her play Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, to do La La Land. "Sally Bowles is a part that was written for not the best of singers — Liza excluded," Stone said. "And Damien said 'I really want to shoot the songs with all the flaws, make it more human.'"

Gosling was asked how they prepared to shoot dance sequences like one on a hill in Griffith Park, in which he and Stone have to do their best Fred and Ginger and execute a whole scene in a single take. His answer, in a nutshell: "We rehearsed a lot." Also, he says, Chazelle created a "boot camp" for rehearsal where Gosling could practice his piano (that is actually him playing in the film, and he could play already), and where they could rehearse scenes and dance numbers.

The onstage conversation was cut short by the fact that the stars were delayed in a car on the Bay Bridge, and there was still a two-hour movie to screen. (The Daily Mail has pics of their coordinated red carpet looks here.)

Chazelle revealed that he had nixed a musical number in traffic that opens the film from an initial cut of the film and only put it back after some test screenings. And below he discusses the Griffith Park dance sequence, and the stress of trying to shoot it within a half-hour window, "the magic hour," during an LA sunset.

Previously: Ryan Gosling Comes To SF Next Week For Special Screening Of 'La La Land'