Behind the Scenes of a Hollywood Production
My last trip to Detroit was in December this past Christmas. This is the place we grew up, myself and the other chiefs at Zerosun. We were raised in the metro Detroit area, our families are here and so is much of our childhood inspiration. When I returned home at the beginning of July, it was a trip that felt long over due. The team at ZSUN had been working on overload in the past seven months to take the company to new heights. We moved into a new office space, solidified our connection with Devon and Andrew, and some how managed to add seven interns.
While business was thriving, however, I was not. There seemed a lull in my daily routine. I was stressed out beyond belief, my girlfriend of four months walked out on me, and I was left with an incredible yearning for escape. I needed to re-group, I needed to get away for a time in order to rekindle the drive.
My grandfather wrote Freaky Deaky in 1984. This is his favorite book out of 46 novels. It was a story written in the eighties, when Elmore would drive down to the homicide unit at 1300 Beaubien St in Detroit. He did this for ideas, and to learn how local police officers spoke and acted around each other. He did this to learn the little things … like why do cops wrap duct tape around the butt of their pistols? (Because it prevents the gun from slipping under their belt.) This is a book about dynamite, money, seduction and betrayal.
Charlie Matthau, son of Walter Matthau, met my grandfather about eight years ago and has been working to get the production of this film off the ground ever since. It is interesting when you watch the way Hollywood production works when compared to the boutique style we have grown accustom to at Zerosun. The Hollywood crews have teams of people, limitless equipment, and millions in budget.
When I returned to Detroit my purpose was all about getting on set for this movie. I had been on the phone with Charlie for months leading up to it. Then finally I got the okay. I drove out to Rochester, MI and watched, pulling up to a little drug store on the corner of main street and fourth. When I arrived, Christian Slater was starring in the scene where his character is robbing condoms from a 1970′s convenience store. It was a very well written scene, taken just like it was in the book.
I managed to hang out for ten hours the first day and saw things I had never seen before. I met the Director of Photography, John Connor, who has worked with Steven Spielberg, and David Fincher. You can find his name in such films as E.T., A.I., Fight Club, Man on Fire, Maverick, etc. I also met the Script Supervisor, the head Electrician, head of Audio, the Dolly Grip, Line Producer, Art Director, etc. I sat behind Charlie Matthau and watched the way he handled the set, the way he interacts with the crew, and counted how many cups of coffee he drank.
At the end of the day the Producers invited me to return any time that I wanted and so I made the decision to remain in Michigan a while longer. Since that decision I have spent nearly sixty hours on set, meeting the crew, observing the action, and watching how it is done at this caliber. Christian Slater now points at me when he walks on set (I am still not sure why) and the rest of the team looks excited when I show up. Judd Rubin, one of the producers, tells me that I am getting my PHD in film.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
In just over a week I have spent more time on set then at any single point in my life. I am being exposed to the daily challenges of a high caliber, Hollywood film crew. In the coming days I hope to learn even more about the process, the chain of command and organization that goes into pulling something like this off because at Zerosun I know we have this goal in mind.
In 1996, Phil, James and I started making movies with a family camcorder and we did this for a reason. As I step out of Denver, I am reminded of our purpose and our eventual goals, and yes I have certainly re-discovered the drive that was lacking.
- Tim Leonard