High-Flying Stunts: On the Set at Raynham Park Filming, Special Effects Come Before Stars
September 30, 2011
by Matt Stout
With filming for "R.I.P.D." apparently finished for the week - and no reports of actors Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges or any other stars at the former dog track - spectators were left with stunt men dodging falling cars and the occasional small explosion. It's the norm for the less flashy work of the second unit, devoid of cast but not a hand in crafting a film, film experts say.
For big budget movies, there can be more than 100 scenes. They are filmed over the span of anywhere from 45 to 65 days, include hundreds of extras, assistants and behind-the-scenes crew, and can travel to more than a dozen locations to film.
"Then, if you're talking about something gigantic like ‘Avatar,' I couldn't even begin to tell you," said veteran film and television director Paul Schneider.
How big a piece Raynham Park will have in the supernatural action adventure "R.I.P.D." remains to be seen.
But with filming for the film apparently finished for the week - and no reports of actors Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges or any other stars at the former dog track - spectators were left with stuntmen dodging falling cars and the occasional small explosion.
It's the norm for the less flashy work of the second unit, devoid of movie stars but not a hand in crafting a film.
"Let's say there was a scene outdoors where there was a riot," said Schneider, chair of Boston University's film and television department and director of more than 30 movies for television and TV episodes.
"The first unit would do all the material with the main actors," he continued. "Then there has to be a collection of shots with background people fighting. The second unit would do that."
Surrounded by Reynolds and Bridges look-a-likes - both real and mannequin - the second unit, led by its director, controlled the Raynham Park set this week with a heavy focus on stunts and special effects.
"R.I.P.D.," which has an expected release date of June 28, 2013, stars Reynolds as a murdered cop who is looking for his killer and is enlisted into a group of "undead" police officers called the Rest In Peace Department.
Second units generally don't shoot any dialogue, but in the case of an action film, they will include stunt coordinators and special effect supervisors to help bring to life the film's story board, Schneider said.
It's also possible for the first unit, with its star cast and director, to follow a second unit at a set, said Ron Leone, associate professor of media and film at Stonehill College.
"I don't think it's very uncommon for the second unit to come out ahead of time to shoot what they call ‘establishing shots'," said Leone, who lives outside Providence, R.I., where he said a second unit for "R.I.P.D." was also shooting scenes recently.
"Then the first unit comes in," he said, speaking generally, "and the stars come to shoot their scenes."
A publicist for the movie has said filming will continue through next week and include cast on some days, but she couldn't confirm which actors will be on set or when.
Tom Clifford, property manager of Raynham Park, said he's been told the film schedule generally runs from Saturday to Wednesday each week.
Raynham Fire Chief James T. Januse said firefighters are not scheduled for any more on-set detail work this week. But they will return Monday through Wednesday, he said.
Working in six-hour shifts each of the last three days, four firefighters staffed the set for 10 to 12 hours starting at 6:30 a.m. Januse said it's a change of pace for his department, and he's been there a few times to take in the set.
"We're not in it," Januse deadpanned of the movie. "Just to stand by for safety (reasons).
Raynham Park owner George Carney said he hasn't been told many details of the filming and he's elected this week to keep his distance from the crashing cars and explosions.
"I have enough headaches," he said.
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