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DEATH RACE

Designing The Near Future
While Anderson, the producers and production designer Paul Denham Austerberry wanted to create a decaying world that reached slightly into the future, there were aspects that came into focus only when they settled on location. The solution was found in Montreal, which offered a prime space for Terminal Island in the now-defunct Alstom train yards in the Pointe St. Charles district. The yards served as primary exterior shooting locations and offered a grimy, industrial warehouse in which to house production. Alstom also had enough room to build sets for the island's interiors. With much of the infrastructure gone, the crew had to rewire and replumb the space to make it usable.

Offers Anderson: "The locations look almost like they've been built for the movie, but they were found; they give Death Race great production value. The movie wasn't written for these locations, so I had to go back and rewrite the script to tailor them to these fantastic places we found.”

The team envisioned the death-trap racetrack to run between the disused warehouses in Alstom. "The big straightway with the gantry cranes on either side was a fantastic race straightway,” says Austerberry. "It looked, at night especially, like you were on some other planet. As soon as we saw it, we knew we had to make it work. The key was trying to create a full racecourse.”

The crew felt constructing the desolate hellhole of Terminal Island and the racecourse was like assembling a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. Because Anderson wanted to use actual locations versus a computer-generated island, the production designer had to create separate sets that would—when put side by side on film—create a contiguous world. Anderson storyboarded the entire production, and he and Austerberry used a large-scale foam-core model to help the special effects and stunt teams, the DPs and the various units visualize the scenes for which they were prepping. "It took about a week with a huge crew of us going through the script bit by bit,” explains Austerberry. "You could physically locate elements on our foam-core model well in advance of actually prepping the locations.

"Repeating certain bits of Alstom to be different parts of the racetrack, we pieced it all together,” he continues. "We created a model, which sits in Hennessey's office. When we shot a scene inside her office, half the crew looked at the model and said, ‘Oh, now we get it!' They could really see the whole lay of our fictitious land.”

This systematic jigsaw-puzzle approach allowed them to choose which elements they needed to create the racecourse and prison on an oppressive island. "There were silos in the Old Port in Montreal, which had beautiful industrial architecture and surrounding water,” says Austerberry. "The key was selling the fact that we were on Terminal Island.” Coupled with Anderson's notes to director of photography Kevan to shoot low angles—with just enough wide shots to suggest a menacing, overwhelming environment—the design offered a bleak war zone that crushed prisoners.

Another piece of the puzzle was found in the Bleeker Tunnel, a wide space that gave new depth to the Death Race. When he tied together visuals of the silos in the Old Port and the straightway in Alstom, Anderson had his behemoth racetrack.

For exterior shots of the Terminal Island prison facility, the team lensed at an abandoned, turn-of-the-century prison, St. Vincent de Paul. Though closed more than a decade ago, the massive exteriors and interior courtyards were exactly what was needed for the penitentiary. In fact, the jail reminded many in the production of the look in Franklin J. Schaffner's seminal prison film Papillon.

Tyrese Gibson comments that locations were so realistic it felt as if they were in jail. "No acting was required,” he says. "You just had to look around, see the<

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