NEED FOR SPEED
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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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