I Get to Work on a Real Movie - The Hunt For Red October
Back in the late 80s I was asked to go help work on a second unit crew that was shooting some plate shots for the up coming movie The Hunt For Red October. Knowing really nothing about what to expect I went along to see what was what. Besides I needed the money.
The shot we were getting was for the end of the movie were Ryan and Ramius were standing on the conning tower of the submarine at night as they moved up a river somewhere in New England to hid the stolen Russian Submarine.
The footage of the actors was shot on a sound stage in front of a blue screen and our job was to shoot the back ground of the scene. Which was actually located on Bainbridge island Washington, not new England. Here is the shot
Here is the kicker. The company that was doing the effects for the film, thus this shot as well was Boss Films. Now Boss Films was Richard Edlunds company. Before the days of Computer generated effects or CGI, special effects were done in the real world. There were a number of techniques ranging from simple things like Hanging Minitures and Minuatures to comples blue and green screen process shots to what Boss was famous for, Motion Control. See Richard Edlund was the guy who developed the computer controled camera movement that made the shots of the Millenium Falcon flying through the asteroid belt in Star Wars V possible.
I was working for These Guys!!!
Richard was not on set nor did he ever show but the guy in charge was a fellow by the name of Thaine Morris. He was and still is one of the top pyro guys in Hollywood. Remember Die Hard? he was the guy that blew up the helicopter at the end of the movie.
He had 4 other guys with him from LA and we had about 5 or 6 locals including a UPM and production coordinator.
So this was kind of a big deal. We were going to set up a 275 foot elevated dolly shot that was going to support the camera and a computer rig (286 rack mount state of the art) that were going to match the movement of both the submarine up the river and the pan, tilt and zoom of the camera from the process shot of the actors.
What this amounted to was about 5 days of really hard back breaking work. But man was it worth it.
So here is what we did.
first we were located on the beach on a small bay off of Country club road on Bainbridge Island.
Right about here
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So they drew a line parallel to the beach about 20 feet off the water and we set up a single run of your basic scaffolding. About 275 feet in length.
Next at each connecting point we had to stabilize the scaffolding by running a guy wire to a 3 foot steel grounding stake called a bull prick. Because hey this is mens work and that is what it looks like. Now granted it did not matter what the ground was like, you had to put the stake in directly off the upright on the scaffolding. Rocks, sand, asphalt, did not matter that is where the damn thing was going to be pounded into the ground. So yeah I spent about 3 or 4 days swinging a sledge hammer pounding in 3 foot steel stakes. and a road and been laid there in the past so..yeah lots of asphalt.
Now there was an old grip they brought up whose name is believe was John. A crusty old cuss that had more mad gripping skills in the skin he left on the sledge hammer handle than in all of the greater Seattle area. he did not say much but I learned a lot about just shutting up and getting the job done.
They fed us well and one day during lunch it was raining so we were hanging out in a trailer they had there. It was really cool to listen to these guys talking about doing things like wrapping the spine of a helocopter with primer chord, packing it what napalene and gas and blowing it to little bits and a big ass fire ball. You remember in die Hard when the Helicopter blows up? Yeah that time.
So anyway we eventually get the guy wires all pounded in and then it was on to the next step in the process.