BRINGING OUT THE DEAD
About The Production
Filming began on September 18, 1998. The narrative of "Bringing Out the
Dead" is played out over the course of three nights, and the first two
months of principal photography took place virtually on a nights-only schedule
with the crew filming exteriors from dusk until dawn.
Locations were primarily the streets of Hell's Kitchen. Director of
Photography Robert Richardson devised elaborate lighting techniques and camera
rigs for the long dialogue scenes that took place inside the speeding
ambulances. Some of the setups were so complicated and technically precise that
they required hours of preparation before the first scene of the night could be
shot. Once the ambulances were up and rolling, the usual traffic laws had to be
observed, and that often posed a challenge: How do you film a scene of an
ambulance speeding through the city streets without killing anyone? Paramedics
are not known for respecting red lights, particularly if they are rushing to
save a life. Time and again during driving shots, the actors had to try to
finish their scenes before they ran up against a red light. "The
anxiety!" remembers Scorsese with a laugh. "Were we gonna get that
scene and that dialogue before the light turned red? That was rough!"
As technical advisor, Joe Connelly was present for all scenes that involved
ambulances, paramedic equipment and first-aid procedures. "When I became a
writer," he says, "I was hoping to stop working nights. But there I
was - back again at four o'clock in the morning out in the New York
streets!" Having spent ten years as an EMT, Connelly knew the techniques
involved in performing life-saving procedures, but he found himself in the
position of having to adjust his coaching to how each particular character would
perform his duties. "These characters are outside of the proper way of
doing it," he explains. "So we needed to change the proper way of
doing everything according to how the character would do it. Now, Marcus is not
going to go in there and do everything the right way -he's gonna do it his own
way. And so is Frank. So I couldn't go in and say, 'Well, the CPR has to be done
exactly this way.' I mean, John Goodman does CPR like no other person, you know?
But it's great. It works perfectly for the character of Larry."
Working on a night exterior schedule made for a grueling couple of months for
both cast and crew. "The advantage to filming in New York at night,"
says Barbara De Fina, "is that there's less traffic, less congestion. You
don't get in the way of normal day-to-day life. The downside is the physical
question. People weren't meant to work all night and sleep all day. That's
stressful. It's difficult for people to stay on a night schedule and to
function." Marc Anthony, who plays the role of Noel, swears that nothing on
earth could have prepared him for such a physically demanding experience.
"Certainly nothing in my background as a musician could have prepared me.
Concert tours can be grueling, but they're nothing like lying in a frozen pool
of water all night for fifteen hours being hit with a baseball bat from every
conceivable angle, or being drenched in stage blood and running up the street
half-naked in the cold. But it's one of those experiences I can now look back on
and say 'Wow - that was fun, great fun."
Of all the film's principals, Marc Anthony required the most extreme costume
design. Most of the principals in "Bringing Out the Dead" wear
specially-designed EMS uniforms as their costumes. Because of the abuses EMS
uniforms are subjected to, massive duplication had to take place. On some
nights, Nicolas Cage would go through as many as ten shirts for various takes as
his character was repeatedly splattered wit
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