Monday, November 10, 2008

Location, Location

Yes, I know I'm posting a lot over the last couple of days. Just scroll down and you'll catch up. Please leave any comments you might like to. I just happen to be in between long term employment right now and I have to fill up the time somehow (since I haven't saved up for the hangliding lessons yet) Let's talk about locations and tough conditions. I love 'em. I love being in a mudpit with 400 lbs of steel in a driving rain on 60' of track (ok, "love" is a strong word). I do tend to like rather extreme locations though and I don't really know why. I did a movie a couple of years ago where they played a mountain just outside LA as Afghanistan where two soldiers were marooned in the snow. The special effects dept. snowed in a large chunk of the mountain and a valley also. Rigging grips had built a bridge and a scaffolding to allow access and construction had built a deck bridging between two mountains to even out the canyon floor. They cranked up the ice chipper and spewed frozen goodness for a square mile. We then wrestled a Hybrid and a freaking Phoenix crane, and 50 feet of aluma beams up through the middle of all of it. It was awesome and extremely tiring. Oh yeah, it was all nights too. I like to think that's when we earn our money, doing things most people would balk at, or at least complain a lot. Swamps, caves, mountain forests at night, that gets me fired up because it's a challenge. I would rather do that than do circles on dance floor on stage all day.
Tell me your most extreme location stories,and the crazy things you were asked to do in them.
Mount a Giraffe crane to a deck on the front of a tractor trailer and haul ass down a mountain road with a knife in your teeth so you can cut your safety harness if it all goes terribly wrong? Been there. Bounce around on the open ocean at high speeds balancing on a boat deck in the rain while wrestling a Phoenix arm? Done that. I want to hear about danger. The things you somehow ended up doing and suddenly looked around and asked, "How did I get here? Which way do I jump if it gets out of control?" No matter how much we emphasize safety in this business, we all sooner or later end up in these spots, although now it doesn't happen as much as it used to. So tell us some stories.


Anonymous said...

Hi D !
Posting frenzy !!
More about the flipped crane in the picture! or is that a random picture?
I have had some pretty hair raising experiences on the job. One was on The Bourne Supremacy, where I was on the weight bucket end of a Giraffe on the back of an insert car doing a POV of Bourne's car as it plummets over the side of a bridge into the river. The day after we shot the actual car going in we came back to shoot the rest of the intercuts on the bridge. The idea was the insert car comes screaming down the road and swings towards the edge of the bridge at which point I swing the arm with Libra 3 over the edge. The insert car driver swung the car in too early, and as we swung the arm around , we slammed the crane into a lamppost that we should have passed. The arm was hit at about 60 - 70 Kmph, and slammed back into me and my best boy who was on the front end of the crane. Luckily we escaped with bruises and sore ribs. The crane was pretty much written off.
I have also lugged the Giraffe crane to almost 18,000 feet in Ladakh in the Himalayas. The Remote head malfunctioned in the cold, maybe the batteries were sucked dry by the temperature, so we went ride on. It was a little higher than Everest base camp, and building the crane was a hell of a job. I burst some capillaries in my eyeballs from the increased blood pressure from the heavy lifting at that altitude. Not a pretty sight !! check the picture out

Unknown said...

Whoa, awesome picture Grip Works.
D, I also love any location work that is something I never would have done otherwise. Adventures keep me sane.

Anonymous said...

Lessee...How's standing in a testing chamber outside Munich in front of a Eurofighter prototype that was secured to the ground by it's tailhook as the afterburners kicked in? I was swinging a crane over the cockpit. There was an exhaust fan removing 70 m² of air a second, and I had to wear a pressure suit to be in the room. The plane made a slight little jump forward when the 'burner ignited. I'd do it again. Did I hit my marks? Yes. Did they use the shot? Do I really care?

"Life is on the wire. Everything else is waiting" - Karl Wallenda

D said...

Great stories, all. The photo was just a google image I pulled up. Thanks guys, you're all my heroes.

Azurgrip said...

I've done a little traveling with work, been on both sides of the country - oddly enough freezing my ass off in Alaska and in the Bay of Fundy.

I've got two quick stories: First one was swinging a crane around in a train maintenance building - where the legal speed limit was 3 mph, but the director insisted on "pushing" the envelope by having the train engineer drive through at 40 + mph without lining up any shots. A little unnerving when all three camera crews looked at each other with "WTF!???" in their eyes as the director screamed "TURN OVER!!". To this day, it's the only job I've ever quit.

The second story happened last year while working on "The Incredible Hulk". Six of us were on a Kawasakai Mule (decked out for filming) with a 15' Technocrane driving on sidewalk for a distance of about 8 - 10 blocks, paralleling a path taken by a Russian Arm / Ultimate Arm ML55. Special FX techs were triggering propane "poppers" based on the ML's travel and we were bonus footage. Long story short... we ended up going through the fireball of one of these poppers. If it wasn't for our driver, we would have ended up in a store front. Sorry to say, he was the only one hurt when the flames got under the safety glasses he was wearing and singed his eyes. He was released from hospital later that night. All good. Footage from our shots did make it to the movie.

Anonymous said...

Love those stories. I think we all (even juicers...) get a kick our accepting the physical challenges that come with film work, and the satisfaction of doing a difficult job well. Remember, though, had luck not been with you, any one of these stories could have ended badly. In the end, even Karl Wallenda couldn't beat the odds, and fell off the high wire to his death.

Of course, he was 73 years old at the time...

Still, be careful out there...

Anonymous said...


GF came home from 2nd Unit night shooting for Shaft and said, "We broke a building". (Stunt man rolled the car a little too enthusiastically...and about 20 yds. further than planned.)

Another job, the DP wanted to shoot the passing train from as close as possible. Railroad guy set a limit that would include any sway the train did. Too bad it wasn't far enough for the metal latch that was wide open. The Key Grip saw it in time, grabbed the operator's collar and yanked him back onto his ass. The lens took a bad beating, though...and yes, dailies were uber-cool.