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Capturing the Action on Screen
The filmmakers had one overriding goal when shooting the film: putting the audience inside the car, riding shotgun. On set this came to be known as the Steve McQueen style of filmmaking, a reference to scenes in his films where a car would pull up right next to the camera so you could tell it was Steve McQueen in the driver's seat. This was similar to the look and feel the filmmakers were going for in "Need for Speed."

Waugh needed a cinematographer willing to take risks and try new things, and after working with Shane Hurlbut on "Act of Valor," he knew he was the man for the job. Together they set out to find the best cameras for shooting the difficult racing and chase sequences and ended up testing nine. Other issues that needed to be taken into consideration were the portability of the cameras and the complex rigging required for the moving and camera cars so they could keep up with the picture cars.

"It's really complicated to shoot in a car," says Waugh. "You're just so confined. So we made sure that all the camera angles would convince the audience that the actors were really driving."

Traditionally the first unit shoots anything with dialogue and actors and a second unit shoots the stunts, but on "Need for Speed" both units were shot simultaneously. Waugh confesses, "I have a hard time delegating because I like doing everything myself."

"With my style of filmmaking I wanted to do both," he continues. "So the actors had to get used to seeing me do a massive wreck or stunt in the midst of filming their dialogue. Normally they wouldn't be anywhere in the vicinity but I think being in the midst of the chaos feeds their performance."

"It was really liberating," says Hurlbut, "because we were able to position the cameras exactly where Scott and I wanted them."

It was decided early on to shoot on digital which has revolutionized aspects of action cinematography by providing the most options for placement of the cameras. The end result is incredibly visceral footage from angles of the car never before seen.

Over 40 different cameras were selected for use during principal photography, including the Canon C500, the ARRI ALEXA, the Novo, the GoPro, the Canon 1D C helmet cam and a variety of steadicams, hand-held cameras and dashboard cameras. The C500 was used for most of the film, however, including night interiors on every car and all stage work, as it gave the filmmakers the look they wanted.

Lance Gilbert explains, "Depending on the kind of footage we were looking for, the best stabilization or the best vibration, we used a number of different platforms. Everything from handheld and bungee mounts inside the cars to cranes with hard mounts to super cars with slider rigs."

They were also able to leapfrog from one small camera platform to the next.

The camera cars worked when shooting at a car but not when shooting actors in the car delivering their lines. Car mounts were placed on the cars with camera operators sitting on a platform outside the cars as they drove and all the cars had receivers welded onto the frames so cameras could be mounted anywhere.

Hurlbut adds, "The car mounts were so important in this film because they really put the audience right in the driver's seat and right in the middle of these high-speed chases, races and accidents." Setting a Course for The De Leon

Production on "Need for Speed" commenced in April 2013 in Mendocino County, California, and while the filmmakers were busy mapping out stunt logistics and testing cameras, they were also preparing for the large amount of location work the film required. Unfortunately this meant a war against time, storms and fog and cars breaking down.

The production ended up moving across the country beginning on the West Coast in Northern California. Up first to shoot were the final climactic scenes at The De Leon where the production filmed the six specially constructed super cars attaining speeds of nearly 120 miles per hour on highways north of Pt. Arena, California. The final shot was at the Pt. Arena Lighthouse, and both locations made excellent use of the picturesque windy roads. "Those roads are the ultimate race course," says Waugh.

Next the production moved to San Francisco and locations including the Embarcadero and Nob Hill. Coincidentally one of the greatest car movies of all time, "Bullitt," was shot at Nob Hill as well.

Two months in Georgia followed, where downtown Macon stood in for Mt. Kisco, New York and the film's opening race sequence. Additional Mt. Kisco scenes were shot in Stone Mountain, where production transformed an existing auto body shop into Marshall Motors. In Fairburn the racing scenes with Tobey, Dino and Little Pete in the three Koenigseggs were shot at the 13th St. Bridge across the Chattahoochee River.

The final two days of principal photography in Georgia took place in Blue Ridge with its Swan Drive-In Theatre filling in for the Mt. Kisco Drive-In, where 100 car collectors from surrounding states showed up with their classic American cars which were used in the film.

"For the Mt. Kisco Drive-In scene I wanted it to feel like it was that old Americana in the '50s and '60s when driveins were cool and everybody brought their cars so people could check them out," says Waugh.

Detroit was the next stop, with the city playing itself for the chase scenes with Tobey and Julia in the Mustang, Joe Peck and Finn in The Beast, and Benny in the helicopter. Stunt driver and nine-time Formula Drift champion Samuel Hubinette doubled for Paul, racing around the CompuServe headquarters and through the streets of downtown.

Waugh admits going through Detroit is not the fastest way to get from coast to coast (Chicago is actually), but he felt the Mustang needed to be seen in Detroit at some point.

"This is the town where car culture and the Mustang were born and I wanted to honor that," he says. "Plus photographically the city is unbelievable."

On weekends when downtown was virtually dead, production took advantage of the empty streets to film helicopter pilot Hosking flying the craft mere feet above Brush Avenue to simulate Benny on the tail of the Mustang. In order to get the best, most exciting footage for this, Waugh harnessed himself outside the helicopter and stood on the skids to operate the camera.

As the film was nearing the end of principal photography, the production moved to its final locations in Utah. At Fossil Point overlooking the Colorado River, the cliffs made famous in "Thelma and Louise" were used for the scene where a U.S. Army Sikorsky helicopter co-opted by Benny picks up the Mustang and lifts it over the edge of the cliff. The second half of the scene where the Mustang sets down was filmed at the Bonneville Salt Flats on the last day of production, a fitting location to wrap principal photography.

"The Bonneville Salt Flats, like Detroit, are emblematic of the car culture as it represents pure speed," says Waugh. "Five major speed events for cars, trucks and motorcycles take place there, and most land speed records have been broken there."

Additional scenes were shot in Moab, Utah, the site where Tobey and Julia flee the Hummer dispatched by Dino and the Hummer's subsequent crash. For that stunt a crane was used to force the vehicle up in the air to make it appear as if it had smashed into the sheer walls bordering the highway.

With "Need for Speed" Waugh's ultimate goal is for the audience to feel they've entered a world they could never be a part of and actually become a part of it.

"This is an epic journey that these kids go on, and hopefully everyone will leave the theater tired and wet from sweating," Waugh says.


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