Saturday, November 13, 2010


The other night I went to the crew screening of "Unstoppable." It's been nearly a year since filming completed and I've just been through the whole experience of working on "Transformers 3", so seeing all the crew members and watching the finished film brought back memories and stirred feelings, all good. 

Every film job is a unique experience and working on "Unstoppable" was just that, a unique experience. It was filmed in freight yards, railroad tracks, on moving freight trains in the rolling countryside of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York State from late summer, through beautiful autumn into winter, under the direction of the great Tony Scott. I say "great" not only in reference to his ability and career as a director, but also to who he is as a human being - magnanimous, caring, considerate, loyal, protective, loving and so much more.

Many people on Tony's crew have been working with him on and off for decades and want to always do their best and be there for and with him on his missions.  And it shows on the screen.  Tony's films are visual, sensual and tasty, down to details of gesture, palette, sound, movement and dialog, brimming with energy and everyone's passion, care and professionalism.

As I said, everyone gave their best on this film.  From production, to locations, to spfx (John Frazier and team) who did an unbelievable job recreating full size trains, to the AD department and the loyal pa's who stood watch all day long in the middle of nowhere along a ten mile stretch of country road, to the grip, electric and of course the camera department (led by DP Ben Seresin):  with his bank of monitors and through intercom, Tony talks with care and passion to each of his camera operators during the takes, referring to them by his affectionate nicknames: "That's it Chief," "Go Skotch," "Brilliant Marscher!" and more.  I could cite each and every deparment here and I know I'm leaving out some key ones, but they're all there.  Transpo, catering, crafty, the railroaders (professional railroad people who moved the trains for us on command), the chopper crew, the Pursuit vehicle, Gabriela the amazing, caring publicist, makeup and hair, wardrobe, so much more! Oh, and Gary Powell and his stunts team - amazing! And of course Denzel, Chris, Rosario and the entire cast, producers, office staff, the list goes on and on. The sound department, Bill Kaplan the wizard, getting clean dialog on a freight train moving 45 mph on the tracks in the rain.

Each morning and at the end of the day, Tony, our general, would stand by a makeshift table, a plywood plank on supports, in the middle of a field wherever we were, and, using miniature trains and helicoptors, would plot out and choreograph the day's movement of trains and choppers in relation to the moving trains.  The movements of these tiny trains and choppers in Tony's hands would then come to life in full-scale realization across miles of rolling countryside.

One time, while I was standing at the roadside near Eldred, PA, waiting for the train, choppers and police cars to round the bend, a large black bear emerged from the woods about 200 feet away from me.  It went and put one paw on the rail, as if to feel if a train was coming, paused, looked at me, then turned and went back into the woods.

Often, at the end of a long day's work of humping over rail tracks and climbing up on freight trains, which for me, because of my disabiltiy, was quite challenging (here again, thanks to fellow crew members who where always there to help me)then having to drive thirty or more miles back to the hotel through the rolling, tree-lined roads at dusk or even nighttime, i'd light up a cigar to help get me through the long ride home, and in honor of Tony Scott, "mon général."

All photographs are by Robert G. Zuckerman and are © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, All Rights Reserved.

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