Taking the Wheel
SNITCH was filmed on location in Shreveport, Louisiana, chosen both for its generous tax incentives for film production and its relatively neutral terrain. "We were looking for a nonspecific sense of Middle America and the community was very accommodating," Executive Producer Becki Cross Trujillo explains. "The film required a lot of road work, so we needed a user-friendly city that would block off sections of roads for days at a time. When we met with the film commissioner, she said that there isn't much traffic in town and that they could give us roads
and lock them up without causing much disturbance."
The single word heard most often on a Ric Roman Waugh set must be "authentic." From the settings to the acting to the costumes, everything must pass the director's unrelenting standard of verisimilitude, says Production Designer Vincent Reynaud.
Reynaud had worked with Waugh on his earlier film, Felon. "I think I know his directorial style pretty well.
He likes everything to be genuine so the audience will feel a part of it. It's not a polished world, with smoke and blue light. We had to make sure that all of our locations felt real and true to the characters who were in them. We can all do great sets with big budgets, but to find actual locations and give them real strength and identity is a bigger challenge.
"For example, Joanne Keeghan is all about numbers and quotas," Reynaud adds. "We wanted to show
that she's a hardliner with very little compassion. Her office is little bit sterile, just like her personal life is."
For Agent Cooper, he designed a surveillance space that is practical and tactical, easily set up and broken down. "It's all about results. He's a chameleon and he camouflages himself. He can get in and out in about five minutes."
The jailhouse scenes were filmed in an actual prison. "That is challenging on a different level," the
production designer says. "Access is quite limited because of security. But, fortunately, Ric and I did another feature in a prison, so we've learned how to do things efficiently."
Kimberly Adams, the show's costume designer, was given a similar mandate by Waugh. "Ric's biggest concern was that everybody look real," she says. "I love when I get to do that kind of character work. For Dwayne we created a whole closet that a man like John would have in real life and dressed him from there. The biggest challenge was that most of his clothing had to be custom made. There's not a lot out there in his size. John Matthews wears clothes in a very different from the way Dwayne Johnson wears clothes and it was quite sweet to watch him transform into the character."
She hit her stride working with Barry Pepper to find just the right look for Cooper. "Barry is completely
character driven and that makes my job an absolute joy. I had to find real, lived-in stuff. Ric based the character on an undercover agent who infiltrated the Hell's Angels. He's got the full-on biker look, but we wanted to keep from looking costumey.
"I found the perfect biker boot for him on a random website that is all biker boots and biker jackets,"
Adams continues. "They had the most beautiful vintage Chippewas, which are the original Easy Rider boots. I assumed they were for sale, but it turned out nothing on the site was. I tried to rent them, but the owner wasn't interested. Instead he offered to loan us the boots!"
When the boots finally arrived, she faced a different kind of problem. Pepper loved them so much, he didn't want to give them back. "I was getting calls from his agent asking how to buy these boots," she remembers. "Eventually he managed to convince the guy and now Barry owns those boots."
One of the key players in the film is the 18-wheel truck that John offers the drug cartel the use of to pick up and deliver the drug shipments. While the movie truck appears to be a normal 18-wheeler, major modifications needed to be made. John's deft handling of the vehicle impresses Juan Carlos, but the stunts required were more suited to a sports car than a heavy-duty transport vehicle.
Later, as John's plan begins to go terribly wrong, the truck he's driving becomes involved in a gunfight that blows out the tires, causing general havoc on the road and ultimately the speeding truck jack-knifes and crashes. Throughout these sequences, Dwayne Johnson, as John, is behind the wheel.
As a former professional stuntman with decades of experience, Waugh was in a position to both conceive
of the thrilling action sequences and oversee their execution.
"Dwayne Johnson is in every single action sequence of this movie," says Waugh. "Long before we started shooting, we talked about how we were going to design it to include his participation. You can see that on camera. In a single shot, we move from his face to a car flipping through the air and then right back to him driving the truck. That's how we built the entire sequence -- making him a participant and pulling in the audience to share his point
Johnson gave Waugh his absolute trust during the most dangerous scenes in the movie. "He knew I would never put him in a position that could endanger his life," says Waugh. "We don't do that to stuntmen either. I've surrounded us with the best team I could get, led by Stunt Coordinator Tim Trella, and Dwayne trusted that."
To fulfill the varied requirements for the scenes, the filmmakers had several trucks on hand, including one boasting technology never used before in a movie, explains Production Designer Vincent Reynaud: "We had our hero truck -- beautiful from the outside, beautiful on the inside. We also had a second truck that was really only the cab placed on another vehicle so we could shoot scenes from the outside looking in. Then there was a third truck that a stunt driver could actually 'blind drive' from an unseen part of the cab -- an amazing concept."
Commenting on the groundbreaking use a blind-drive system in an 18-wheeler, Johnson says: "It's an incredible system set up where I'm driving, but we have an unseen stunt driver taking over when, for example, the
back of the semi actually jackknifes while I'm in the driver's seat. We have redefined the genre, in our small way."
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