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Fire, Crime and Time
Intensifying the human drama of Frequency are a series of exciting moments that range from fighting an out-of-control blaze to chasing a serial killer to having a ham radio conversation across the time barrier.

Hoblit utilized these moments to heighten the psychological thrills of Frequency, using innovative methods to bring the audience closer to the action. For example, Hoblit came up with an unusual method of shooting the dialogue scenes between Frank and John Sullivan over a ham radio in the same room on the same day separated by thirty years. Instead of shooting each actor individually and cutting them together, Hoblit shot the ham radio scenes like a live, multi-camera television show, complete with four different cameraman communicating via headsets.

"It's not the way one would normally shoot a dialogue sequence but this is not a normal father-son conversation," notes Hoblit. "We had both guys sitting at their respective ham radios and we shot it with four cameras in real time as if it were actually happening."

The results were exactly what Hoblit was looking for: electrified realism. "The outcome was amazing," he says. "Dennis and Jim just started to feed off each other as if in a stage play. All the anger, the sweet emotion and the wonderment of what was happening to the characters just came pouring forth. It was bigger and more exciting than anything I had ever anticipated."

In addition to creating a sense of belief in the reality of parallel universes, the production had more conventional earthly action sequences to forge, including several blazing fire sequences. Just as scientist Brian Greene was brought in to consult on the physics of time travel, crack firefighter Thomas Ryan, who served in the high-rise fire unit of the Manhattan fire department, was brought in to consult on the mechanics of raging fires and the behavior of firefighters such as Frank Sullivan.

Ryan began his work by technically analyzing each of the film's fire sequences, but he also found himself unexpectedly conducting historical research. "Fighting fires in 1969 was a different affair than fighting them in 1999," he explains. "We had to research the clothing, the equipment, the mechanical apparatus and make them completely authentic, which turned out to be a real challenge. What was really exciting for me was not only engineering realistic fires for the film but having a chance to help the actors understand the firefighter character and behavior -- the mentality of needing to rescue the world."

It was Ryan's suggestion to use real firemen rather than extras to fight the film's blazes, adding another layer of authentic realism to Frequency. He also designed the blazes to show the whole gamut of firefighting techniques including the use of aerial ladders, portable ladders, axes and forceful entry. Ryan worked closely with special effects heads Martin Malivoire and Steve Kirshoff to coordinate the infernos and choreograph the firefighting efforts.

"Tom Ryan was invaluable to us," summarizes Hoblit. "He helped me to take fire and firefighters to a new level on film, with extraordinary detail to the mechanics and realism of it all. We shot in a working Manhattan firehouse and we built our own fires. Simply put, we got the real thing."

The filmmakers, under the aegis of Martin Malivoire and Steve Kirshoff, used a 25,000 gallon propane tank and an extensive network of pipes to siphon in gas and create height-variable fires that could be turned on and off at will. "It looks like an out-of-control, exciting fire on film, but nothing is left to chance," explains Malivoire. "ThereĀ“s no question where every last flame is going to be."

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