Polly Morgan BSC ASC / A Quiet Place Part II

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Polly Morgan BSC ASC / A Quiet Place Part II

AT THE HEART OF THE ACTION

Polly Morgan BSC ASC breaks down an action-packed scene from A Quiet Place Part II and the bespoke car rig, teamwork, and kit that made capturing the first-of-its-kind, tightly choreographed sequence possible.

When John [Krasinski] and I discussed the prologue – when the creatures attack – we decided the rhythm should be different to the rest of the movie, with a slower pace to begin with. We conceived the scene when Lee Abbott is in the grocery store and then walks to the baseball field as longer shots with no coverage. You then see the first signs of the creatures arriving and we wanted to build the energy from there. We talked a lot about how the film would be cut, how much coverage we needed and how to affect people’s emotions with the push and pull, slowly building the tension.

The scene that follows sees Evelyn, Marcus and Regan Abbott trying to flee from the creatures in a Volvo. It was a sequence John and I felt very passionately about and fought to shoot the way we envisioned. The scene is in tune with the energy and overall concept of the movie as we wanted it to be subjective from the characters’ viewpoint. We wanted to be in the car with them and to highlight what it would be like to be there and to share their experience. We didn’t cover the scene in any other shots except the one in the car with them.

The roof was cut off the Volvo, reinforced and a 10-foot PowerSlide motorised power slider from Cinetools was installed
Noah Jupe, left, and Emily Blunt on the set of Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place Part II.

When we revealed our plans to have three actors in the car (two of them minors) with stunts happening for real in front of them and a bus careering down the hill, the reaction was, “That’s so crazy, you can’t do that practically”. But John and I believe the best effects are the in-camera effects, so we always pushed to make this happen.

We referenced the amazing oner in the car from Children of Men which was achieved by cutting off the car roof, adding two sliders on two axes with a small remote head and a dolly grip pushing and pulling the camera on top of the car. When we looked into the system they used we discovered it didn’t really exist anymore and it also wouldn’t quite give us what we needed because I wanted to move the camera back and forth inside the Volvo and start low, focusing on the car radio, booming up in the shot.

The Scorpio Head was used to give the operator freedom to pan and tilt with the action of the actors

So we cut the roof off the Volvo, reinforced it and put in a 10-foot PowerSlide motorised power slider from Cinetools. This had the CMOCOS attached to it – a motion control robotic arm dolly grip Sean Devine suggested we use, having seen it used for car work on Transformers: The Last Knight. A Mini Scorpio head was attached to the end of that, which was the first time this had been done.

We then programed points on the motion control arm and had the power slider operated remotely, all timed out carefully with each other on a countdown. We used the Scorpio Head to give freedom to the operator to pan and tilt with the action of the actors.

The Biscuit Rig 

The engine was removed from the car and we used a Biscuit Rig, Jr drivable platform with a stunt driver controlling the car from an attached pod. The camera was all controlled wirelessly, giving the camera and actors freedom to move as we followed in a van.

This scene was one of the few times in the movie we didn’t shoot on film. Weight was a big issue with the CMOCOS, so we had to shoot with the ARRI Alexa Mini and Dan Sasaki at Panavision manufactured a special 20mm spherical prime lens which had close focus, so I could focus on the dial of the radio at the top of the shot. Everything was set and programmed ahead of time, which was wonderful. It took us a couple of days of rehearsal in a big car park, timing the action of the car and bus with the different points on the motion control head. We only did the shot twice because the days of rehearsals meant it all came together really well.

On the set of Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place II.

This sequence in the car was one of the biggest set pieces in prep. It was exciting but it took a lot of planning. One reason I love my job so much is because you read something on the page and then you have an idea that no one has done before. We put our heads together and slowly a plan started taking shape. Once we had the camera figured out, we then realised we would need more space inside the car. We asked the special effects department to take the front seats out of the Volvo and put them in as close to the doors as they could. We also had to put Marcus’s headrest on a magnet so he was leaning forward at the top of the shot and then as the camera came past him that would kick back and click into place. It was like this weird dance and that’s the wonderful thing about filmmaking. Camera, grips, special effects, stunts all came together – it was a mammoth and fun scene to choreograph.

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