The Power of a Stuntman in Need for Speed: No CGI Required
- January 15, 2014
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
In this and in a series of articles, I will be going into how Need for Speed was made. It will be a peek behind the curtain, so to speak and reveal the artistry of our director, Scotty Waugh, and his incredible team of co-collaborators in pulling off his vision, which was all based in reality. The photography was done practically without the existence of CGI cars, planes, helicopters or virtual worlds. This vision was possible with the use of an elite group of professional drivers and extreme risk takers that put you in the driver seat at 180 mph.
“It Starts With a Vision”
Imagine a script that included not one action beat in it. Why? This is how Scotty creates his action. It is with a team consisting of his Stunt Coordinator Lance Gilbert, his production designer Jon Hutman and his Director of Photography. We find locations and design the action beats based on the locations. We did not try to find locations in what had already been written. This is the way we made Act of Valor and I have to say, I would never approach a movie differently. It makes so much more sense. I have been on films that you scout for months trying to bring the elements together to pull off what was written in a location that existed in the writer’s mind. Scotty uses more of a reverse engineering process that has success written all over it.
Our stunt coordinator, Lance Gilbert, has to be one of the best I have ever worked with. His energy and passion to think out of the box fell right into place with the way Scotty and I work together. He is always open for suggestions and his creative ideas for action are pretty incredible.
We had a huge action sequence that involved an epic crash and it was at a turning point in the film. Everyone saw it as a CGI sequence, but Lance saw it practically. He came to Scotty and me to show us his plan. Scotty and I were both on board.
Lance, with his amazing team of fabricators, special effects wizards and stuntmen and women, devised the plan to launch a super car into the air while showing the pull of the emotional connection to our actor. This plan delivered a sequence that sits you back in the chair saying “Oh My GOD!”
I will share a video with you that shows the power of Lance’s vision and his unique skill set. It illustrates who he is as an artist, as a stuntman, and as an action designer.
“Honing the Actor’s Driving Skill Set”
Lance did not stop there to deliver Scotty’s vision. He wanted to do the stunt old school where the actors had a huge part in pulling this real, practical stunt spectacular off. Scotty loves classic films like Bullitt, where you saw Steve McQueen in the driver’s seat, sliding past camera, burning rubber, doing his own stunts.
I feel that this style of filmmaking engages an audience. While CGI has become the first option before doing it for real, it is refreshing to work with a director and stunt coordinator who use the latest in stunt and special effects technology instead. This combination immerses both the audience and the actor, practically. You are hearing me say this word a lot. The reason is that CGI is a creative choice that is the easier way out. It puts most of the responsibility on the Visual Effects Group, not the filmmakers.
Lance also put together a driving school to hone Aaron Paul‘s and Dominick Cooper’s skills as street racers. It was so nice to be able to turn to Aaron and say, OK let’s have you power slide right into a close up and get out of the car and run off. Having that confidence that he would deliver, hit his mark and have that skill set made our job as immersive storytellers much easier.
Here is the shot that I love from the trailer as Aaron slides full speed into camera. It is at a pivotal moment in the film and this shot and style were the best way to show his emotion and intensity.
“How Was It Done?”
Lance turned to one of the best driving instructors in the country, Rick Seaman, to help Aaron Paul get his racing legs on.
Lance and Rick put Aaron through all the stunts that Scotty wanted to be able to tie him into just like the Steve McQueen film. They worked on breaking to avoid a camera, power sliding, drifting corners and driving high speed backwards. After this full day of testing, I think Aaron showed that he has a natural gift for driving and that Need for Speed.