21 July, 2011

Captain America: Preliminary Report

Alrighty, Captain America comes out tomorrow, so I wanted to post a few things about my time on set and share in the excitement for what's coming. I'm not going to say much in detail due to confidentiality and whatnot, but here's some general stuff. 

                                                          Set Report (November 2010)
I arrived on set around 10am and met up with one of the ADs (assistant director; the people who are busier than most, I think. They know what's going on in every corner of the set at any given moment. I was rather in awe of them). We went back to the AD office, a trailer amidst a sea of trailers (about 20 of them), parked between two sound stages.  

After procuring my visitor's badge (for which I had to sign my first born away), another AD took me over to the set. We walked into the soundstage and there was a reconstructed train car inside a green-screened wall. The train was made out of plywood, and was made to look like a 1940's water car (grey interior, no seats etc, :50 into the clip below). The train was also on something called a wimble, which permits the set to move like a train. It lifts it gently up and down as well as side to side.  The outside was all plywood, the inside painted (as the outside will not appear on film).  The set was huge! I really enjoyed the attention to detail, and the movie making magic evident

And just for the record, Chris Evans was a total sweetheart.  SCore one for the Massachusetts boy! He was always ready, he was very passionate about his performance and would run between the shot and the director's screens to look at his performance and chat with Joe Johnston about how to try something different (director), he'd tap people on the arm to say hey and ask how their day was, and he texted the AD I was with when he arrived on set just to give her a heads up (very considerate move). Plus he looked pretty awesome in that outfit.

Cool bits: The Captain's costume. I think it looked a bit cheesy on the press photos, but it was pretty cool. Boots were made of rockin' dark brown leather, with a big butt-kickin' big heel, a strap around the ankle, and a strap around the calf. The trousers were denim or herringbone that were super tough, and a cross of like a jodhpur or a soldier trouser.  They looked slightly super-hero like in that they had a plastic effect if you know what I mean.  Not in a bad way, very cool and purposeful. The top of the outfit had leather, I think, ab and muscle areas, leather belt, scuffed star on the chest, and seatbelt like straps on his shoulders that crossed in the middle of his back around a metal star, and fasted to his belt.  The cap was good too. It's hard to make a cap as cheesy as that look decent, I think.  It was leatherlike, if not leather, navy blue, with a 'A' on the front and was basically like a batting helmet that fit close to the head, but with raccoon eye loops.

The Shield. Oh girl, the shield. You can see some great photos of it here.  Like most films with hero-elements, they had a few for different points in the film.  I saw two up close. One was in perfect condition, shiny, cut into steal, the colors were bright, and the other a bit scuffed up, as if it had seen action in the war. Sweet.

It was awesome seeing the shoot, and the details that go into getting one seemingly simple shot. Will expand on that in another post, but I'm not giving anything away :)

On my second day, the shoot started on the same stage as the previous day. They had a few shots to make from the day before that they didn't finish so they went straight into those.  Both were interiors of the train, and they also shot a bit of running through the vestibule bit.  As they only made one car for the stage, they film the running over the vestibule bit and connect it to the other end with the help of green screen and they can loop it, so to speak, so it looks as if they are running through a larger train.  While watching this I got into a lovely discussion with the dialect coach, a really lovely woman, and with the director's assistant who was also a law student, and who was getting into directing and writing. We talked about my work, how we all got into this situation, how its easy to be annoyed about how long shoots can go, how cold and tired you can get, how tired you get of the same food over and over... but at the end of the day it's such a great job.

So once they finished the train shots, we moved to another sound stage-- which was dressed like a plant; power, water, some power-plant. It was HUGE. It's the biggest stage at Shepperton, easily the biggest set I've ever been in and also the coldest! It was like a big fridge. The stage was split in half, with the front half as storage where big heaters were set up to warm up the extras (20 or so of them, who were playing soldiers and guards, plus there were two dummies that were the dead guards-- it was fun watching those get dragged around. They looked wicked heavy), and the back space as the shooting stage. 

Taking up one entire wall was the hydra plant which consisted of the ground floor, two levels of stairs (the top level only leading to a landing, as they can loop that as they did the train cars), and a walkway that spanned the whole width of the stage.  They shot Bucky and and the captain running up and down the stairs, Bucky's leap from a falling beam onto the railing and then Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan (Bucky) spoke to about 20 people from Sega games about the shoot (Chris was in chill street clothes; comfy, jeans, converse...), and then they were done. 

The crew, however, was not done... not by a long shot.  They shot a bunch of different shots on the guards and soldiers coming into the plant as things are exploding. There were only about 30 extras total, but they made it look like 100 or more. There were shots of them running from all three doors, as well as on top up the stairs and across the walkway, then shots of all of them coming out each door from different angles so they can cut it together and it will look like tons of guards coming from every aspect of the plant. Very cool. We also got to take a look at the rough cut of the trailer (finished below) which was cool. I like seeing shots before the special effects are in place; it looks strange, but you can also see how actors earn their paycheck.  There's that shot of four guys shooting flame thrower guns with the Captain in the middle, and they really make it look like they're fighting with fire, even though they're fake guns with no fire. Impressive.

I'm wicked excited to see it live, all cut together and shiny. The movie-making is always interesting, but the finished product is the awe-inspiring moment. Look for a post after viewing! 

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