KFTV Exclusive Report: Alternative Production Services

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Whether it’s cruise ships, ants or Roman soldiers, production service companies and international repairers tell Adrian Pennington about the weird and wonderful things they’ve bought for their film and television clients. television.

Each production is a unique challenge or, as Maria Fernanda Cristo, head of production services at Colombia-based Dynamo puts it, “a little monster in itself”. The filmmakers all want to avoid repeating something that has already been shown. They will go the extra mile to design a new plan in a new location, even if it only appears on the screen for a few seconds. But these demands cannot be met without the expertise and specialist knowledge of production service companies and repairers.

“As a company, we have to adapt to everything that happens to us,” says Cristo. “It’s about working with the client and local agencies to realize their vision.”

Dynamo is both a production services provider for international productions – including Netflix’s Narcos and Ang Lee’s Gemini Man – and a producer, with 18 TV shows and 40 feature films under its belt, including Monos and Tarumama.

For Peter Berg’s thriller Mile 22, starring Mark Wahlberg, Dynamo organized a drone shoot above Bogota’s main square, near the presidential palace. “It’s like asking to fly a drone around the White House,” says Cristo. “No one had done this before.”

It was a request that took time but they pulled it off with the collaboration of various government agencies. Dynamo also found other locations in and around the city to dub a storyline set in Southeast Asia. Berg even allowed then-President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos to try shooting one of the film’s action sequences.

“Every time we do something new, whether it’s working with the military or the mayor of a local town or importing specialized theatrical weapons, we all learn something new. This paves the way for production growth in the country,” says Cristo.

animal magic

The old adage might advise never to work with children or animals, but in the case of wildlife, that suggested unpredictability doesn’t necessarily hold true, says Chris Brown, director of Tooth n’ Claw, a UK-based company. Uni which provides animals for productions. global.

“What you do is take what an animal normally does and understand its behavior to put a camera in the right place. It’s not about animals doing tricks. You get them from A to B usually with food incentives. A defined environment will be a huge stimulus for the animal – it’s play time.”

Brown likens the job to being given the punchline for a joke and having to figure out what the setup would be. “We rarely get the full script, just a sequence in storyboard form,” he says. “So that’s a problem to solve.

“You put the same effort into throwing an animal as you would a human,” he continues. “It’s about having a believable character to sell the story. If it’s a dog on a leash then not so much but if the dog needs to look in a certain direction then even if CGI is applied to make the dog talk the head, eye line and posture should be correct . ”

Animal expert Chris Brown during the filming of a commercial

For the Fox/Canal+ War Of The Worlds adaptation, the filmmakers wanted a sequence set in a crashed bus with hundreds of ants. “We filmed this with a macro lens on a tabletop miniature and provided a nectar line to draw the ants from side to side,” Brown recalls. “They might be insects, but you still need due diligence – you can’t just sweep them away after every shot.”

Aside from insects, the use of animals will incur a flat fee (depending on the species), usually tied to the number of training days required.

“We’ve provided almost every type of creature, but it’s often the situation, not the animal, that’s weird,” says Brown. “For a Bollywood film set in the 12th century, we had the lead actor on two horses in dressage formation with a falcon on his arm flanked by 20 elephants.”

Ships oh

Marine Coordinator Jason Martin can provide anything from sailboats to freighters, as well as a flotilla of support boats to film from. The former South African navy diver is now sent on missions that resemble covert operations. “For the second season of Jack Ryan, Paramount took me to Colombia where I put together a team of South Africans, Americans and a local band,” he says. “Based on the photos of the craft that the producers were looking for, I contacted shipping agents in places like Panama, Cape Town and London with vital vessel stats and the dates we needed them.

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Frog Squad bought boats for the Jack Ryan S2 from Amazon/Paramounts

“It’s hard to get a working vessel,” continues Martin. “Few, if any, will stop working for a film. Even tuna boats will make more money than a production can offer. Cruise ships are the most difficult in this regard, so most boats docked or disused. Sometimes we dismantle and convert them for the duration of the shoot.

Martin also has a database of crews, able to navigate and dive but also to work underwater. “It’s easier to train a diver to operate a camera than a cameraman to dive and not drown while trying to hold the camera steady,” he says.

His South African-based production services company, Frog Squad, is busy servicing One Piece, Netflix’s big-budget live-action adaptation of a popular Japanese manga about pirates. “The biggest pitfall for producers is taking shortcuts and not talking to the right people,” he says. “We have the experience to know what is needed for an oil rig movie or a shark movie. The production will end up saving money because we have already done R&D on how to crash a plane into the sea or capsize a ship.

Filming in the open sea is “prohibitively expensive”, he suggests. “Part of my job is to find a balance between visual effects and in-camera shooting. VFX comes at a cost, but doing it for real also because you have to manage everyone’s health and safety across multiple There is a distinct shortage of water tanks and those that are not occupied are not necessarily located in the right place with the rest of the venues a show might need nearby.

Guns and drill

With two decades of armed service in the United Kingdom’s Parachute Regiment, UK-based Paul Biddiss is now a military technical adviser who develops bespoke training programs for actors and extras, advising on what kind of weapons to use for period projects – and which companies supply them. — to assist the director, costumes, VFX and art departments.

“My job is to coordinate the battles, advise the director and the AD, train the actors, the stunt team and the extras, and be on the director’s shoulder to guide them through any problems” , he explains.

“The military council is 60% research; the rest is your experience as a soldier. The mindset is almost always the same whether the character is Special Forces or a Roman Centurion. The actual drills, the way you walk and move, will be tailored to the weapon.

For the Apple TV+ Foundation, Biddiss designed a unique drilling system. “The guards were supposed to be like stormtroopers but had very bulky armor. The drill is part Roman, part Napoleonic and part modern. I combined all of this into a move you’ve never seen before and only these guys have ever done.

The use of weaponry on set has been a significant issue since the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins while filming Rust West late last year. As a result, greater attention than ever is being paid to the handling of weapons on set.

“You never mix live with blanks in the military, let alone in the movie business,” says Biddiss. “The rule of thumb is never to leave guns unattended. I don’t care if you’re an A-lister or an extra, the gun always stays by your side.

While there are some very professional gunsmiths and theater firearm trainers out there, he says not all producers do enough checks. “People should always do their due diligence on everyone from extras claiming to have military experience to people like me to make sure they are who they say they are.”

For a scene in Joe Wright’s Cyrano, soldiers had to swing guns and swords – the kind of action you might see on ceremonial screens.

“Teaching people to do this kind of continuity exercise normally takes a lot of time,” says Biddiss. “What I learned on Cyrano is that dancers are the best people to teach. They had it in about an hour.

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Military Technical Advisor Paul Biddiss supervising a rifle drill for Joe Wright’s Cyrano




Case Study: Building a Bear

For an upcoming BBC and Netflix documentary (working title “Our Universe”), Tooth n Claw has been tasked with finding a hibernating brown bear to pair with footage shot in Alaska.

“We designed a bear cave with four movable sides for camera access in an LED (virtual production facility) volume,” says Tooth n Claw director Chris Brown.

The animal itself, an 8-foot beast, was rented from a caretaker in Hungary with whom Brown had previously worked.

“First, the European bear resembles the one in North America. Second, it is a creature that was bred in captivity and not in a small zoo enclosure either. It roams in an area of ​​forest half the size of a football field, he’s very used to human interaction –– even I could walk in with him and feel safe.

Plus, we could stage the shoot in a nearby studio so the production kicked in and not the other way around. Animal welfare comes first. If we have to compromise, we won’t.

The stage itself was surrounded by a cage for the protection of the crew while Brown and the bear handlers were inside. The camera was on a crane outside the cage that could be dropped off at any time.

“Everything went surprisingly well,” Brown concludes.

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