MATRIX: How did you break into location work?
PETER: I have thirteen years of experience, mostly with features. I was working as a PA and a friend of mine, who was a Location Manager, asked me if I wanted to head up to Northern California and look for tree lined roads in the middle of nowhere. It sounded like a good job, and that was about 13 years ago.
MATRIX: Outline some of the projects you have worked on.
PETER: Clear and Present Danger, Three Kings, Message in a Bottle, Virtuosity. I do a lot of scouting as well, a lot of conceptual scouting for projects that haven’t actually been green lit yet.
MATRIX: When you are asked to find a remote road lined with trees, what would be the process of scouting?
PETER: As far as scouting goes, aside from reading the script and the scene, you’ll sit with the Designer and with the Director, and really try to get an idea of what they are looking for. Often, the way things are written in a script, they don’t actually exist that way, so you’re looking for the next best possibility or what make sense. A lot of times you’re given a little autonomy to use your own creativity to bring new things to the table. The process is basically finding out what they want and then you head out scouting. You take a lot of pictures and do a lot of presentations. Sometimes they don’t know what they want, so the idea is to bring them a lot of choices – you bring them a lot of things that don’t work, a lot of things that do work, and you bring them things that jog ideas. Once you’ve locked down on something, you get people to come look at it and sign off on it, then the process starts for making a deal, working out the logistics, and doing the contracts. Working with Larry and Andy, there were a lot of crazy ideas that came out in the beginning, so there was a lot of scouting in a lot of different directions, and I got a chance to go to some good places and to do some interesting things.
SEQUEL LOCATION SCOUTING
MATRIX: What are some of the interesting places we’re not going to see?
PETER: You won’t see Chicago. Larry and Andy wanted to shoot in lower Wacker [Drive], but unfortunately there was a major five year renovation set for that area, and we could not postpone that. We wanted to shoot there for the first week of filming, and the mayor was the one who ultimately had to say, “I’m sorry, we can’t help you; although I’d like to.”
MATRIX: Do you meet some people who just don’t want to deal with film?
PETER: Absolutely, and then you have people who have seen THE MATRIX 25 times who will do whatever they can for you.
MATRIX: How long have you been with the production?
PETER: I started helping Larry and Andy [Wachowski, Writers/Directors] in August of 1999 – they needed me to find a building, which actually wound up being a think tank for the film. It was a place where a lot of conceptual work was done, it was the place the artists came to work. The film started pre-production late in ‘99 and I’ll be done in another 2 months, so it will be two years I’ve been with the production.
MATRIX: What kind of building were you asked to find?
PETER: What they were looking for was very much on the cutting edge of what production offices are now, which is high speed everything; the capability to basically do everything within one building. We can do editing there, a lot of the visual effects and conceptual art was designed there, and it’s set up for video conferencing. Basically it’s the place where the film was conceived. The more people that are close to help collaborate, the better off the situation is.
MATRIX: After finding the production building, what was the next location needed?
PETER: They were looking at finding a practical freeway to film the car chase on, which was going to be about 6 to 7 weeks of shutting down a major freeway. It was originally thought that they needed 4 to 5 miles of super highway in both directions. We sent scouts out around the world: we had people looking around Kuala Lumpur, people looking at Bangkok, people looking at the autobahn in Germany, and I personally looked through the northern United States. I don’t think we left a stone unturned, and we wound up with a freeway in Akron [Ohio], but due to scheduling and weather we ultimately decided that was impractical, it would be better to build it.
MATRIX: In the past I’m sure you have commandeered roads; how difficult would it have been for this production?
PETER: This was massive. You have to realize that people are not standing in line to let you shut down a major artery to their city for a month and a half to two months, although there were some places that were willing to do it. After watching what was filmed, it was pretty obvious that, for control purposes, the right decision was made. Ultimately, we couldn’t have done what we did here any place else.
MATRIX: Did the Locations Department have much to do with the building of the freeway?
PETER: As far as the building of the freeway went, I secured the property and the actual runway. Half of the runway is divided by a wildlife refuge which has the California Least Tern, an endangered bird that nests there between July and August, so we needed to secure the permit to be able to film next to an endangered species. Part of it was that we had to be out of there by May, but we had a biologist with us, and we had US Fish and Wildlife Service people with us who monitored us the whole time and found our situation wasn’t causing a problem for the birds at all. So they basically extended us an extra two months.
MATRIX: Has there been much location shooting here in the US?
PETER: As far as the local shooting goes, we had about a week and a half in Oakland which required some major closures in downtown Oakland. There were days when we had 100 police and we shut 5, 6, or 7 blocks down. Oakland was great, we did some really great stuff there; the people were good and the cooperation was good.
MATRIX: The fact that THE MATRIX is very color conscious must have come out in location scouting.
PETER: Yes, there’s a definite palette for THE MATRIX and there are definitely colors that are unacceptable. As far as for me though, you can always change things; the color can always be changed. The big challenge, as far as location filming, is that there are no trees and there are no plants in THE MATRIX. We did a lot of removal and replacing.
MATRIX: Did the situation come up where there were trees?
PETER: Yes, in downtown Oakland I think we removed about twelve trees and replanted the same trees, as a matter of fact. We did a lot of painting out of curbs, no red curbs, no red, white and blue mail boxes, a lot of greens a lot of browns a lot of earth tones, nothing too sharp, nothing too bright, no blue, no yellow. The idea is that I’m responsible for returning the situation back to its original condition, if not better, and it’s usually in better condition.
MATRIX: Does the Locations Department play a different role on a film like this, where most of the filming is done on sets, compared to a film where it is mostly done on location?
PETER: The truth is that whether it’s a set or a location, it’s all location, you have the same things you are responsible for. This production wound up being a little bit more like stage management because we have a facility that we are running. We have 750 to 800 people here at certain times, and different units shooting all the time, all on different schedules. That was a lot of coordination to make sure each department and shooting company had what they needed – we had a big team of people to help facilitate. As far as the difference between this and regular location managing, there really isn’t, you’re responsible for basically the same things, just on a larger scale for the most part.
RECYCLING THE MATRIX
MATRIX: Is the Locations Department involved with obtaining set materials?
PETER: That’s all the Construction Department. I think there was ultimately 15,000 tons worth of material that went into building the Freeway set, the Park set, and the Cave set. When it comes time to strike everything, we are working with a company out of San Diego who is basically going to re-use everything. The wood is all going down south for housing, we have styrofoam that’s going for insulation, and we have chip board that is going for siding. We have a giant set made of painted styrofoam, and when we’re done filming the paint is going to be skinned off, and the styrofoam cut into squares and used for insulation in homes in Mexico. About 90% of it is going to get recycled.
MATRIX: Will skinning the styrofoam be a massive job?
PETER: Not really, the same type of craftsmen who actually made the Zion Temple set and cut the styrofoam to begin with will actually be skinning it.
MATRIX: The recycling that will be done on this film, is that typical?
PETER: All major studios have a recycling plan, they all do their best to recycle their sets, although I have to say I don’t think anything has ever been undertaken of this size. Everyone we’ve talked to, even the people at different studios say they all do this, but they’ve never tried to move this much material and actually found a home for it all. So that’s been challenging.
MATRIX: Whose idea was it originally to recycle?
PETER: The idea came up early that maybe we could get somebody to take the sets away – sometimes you can find people who come and take sets away free of charge. What came out of that ultimately was that there were people who wanted the material, but it needed to be dismantled, and it needed to be trucked, which ultimately costs the same as it does to throw it in the trash dump. What it came down to was the fact that the studio supported it, and the production supported it. As far as who pushed it ahead, I think I did, to be honest with you. It’s the right thing to do, we have so much material here and it’s hard to believe it would all land up in the trash, in landfills. We have people here who are very recycling friendly – our Directors.
MATRIX: Will the styrofoam be stripped here at the naval base?
PETER: Yes, we’re going to bring laborers in and the set will be skinned, loaded onto trucks inside the hangar, then shipped down to Mexico. Everything else that is not reusable will wind up going in the bin.
MATRIX: Will the cost of all the laborers and transport vehicles be with the production?
PETER: It is. The organization I’m using is a non profit organization, so basically everything they do from start to finish is a tax deduction. The way it works out is that, monetary wise, it basically costs the same to dismantle it as it does to toss it in the trash. Be that what it is, it makes more sense just to give it away. It takes a little bit more time to dismantle it, but from what I understand, we have enough material to frame and side 150 homes and from what I’m being told, their architect is already coming up with a plan to utilize the specific materials we have. As a matter of fact I think they’re building ‘A’ framed homes.
MATRIX: Do you think you’ll have the opportunity to visit the structures in Mexico?
PETER: Absolutely. Once this gets started, I will be with it till the end, so I’ll go down there to check it out. Everything is being used. Supposedly, if it works out right, 75% of the material will get reused. All the K-Rail from the freeway basically gets crushed up and turned into road base – there really will be very little that ultimately winds up going in the land fill.
MATRIX: Why is the wood going to Mexico and not staying here in the US?
PETER: There is a portion of it that will be staying here, it just happens with the company I’m using, that that’s where it goes. Another reason is there are different building standards – to re-use the wood here it would have to be re-certified. We’re actually dismantling, so the bottom line is that our building codes are different. More of it could stay here, but it’s not as usable here.
Recycling of this size doesn’t usually happen because a) it costs more to dismantle something and b) it takes longer, so you would be paying rent. I have a deal with the City of Alameda where they’re going to allow us several months free rent to allow us to get this material out of here as part of their contribution to the recycling situation. Basically everybody is doing what they can to make this deal good.
THE LAST WORD
MATRIX: What has been your most interesting experience on this production?
PETER: Actually watching the freeway being built. Going out originally and looking at the spot, just a wide flat piece of land, watching all that go up, and now being here to take it down, then watching it all go to good use. They started processing the freeway in January 2001, and it will all be gone by September 2001.
MATRIX: Was there anything particularly challenging thing about this production?
PETER: I’d have to say ultimately getting this facility up and running in a relatively short amount of time, I think we got everything going in two and a half or three months which wound up being about 5 or 6 stages.
MATRIX: This is an old naval base, has a film been shot here before?
PETER: I believe a couple of films have been shot here before. I think Bicentennial Man used a couple of stages, but nothing of this size, not even close as a matter of fact.
MATRIX: I’m sure you’re a fan of the first film; how many times have you seen it?
PETER: I’ve seen it so many times at this point, maybe 15. It’s a requirement as a matter of fact. In the development process there’s a lot of conversation, there are a lot of things that are talked about that pertain to the first film, so the idea is to know it and to know it well.
MATRIX: From what you’ve seen going on around you, are quality sequels being produced?
PETER: Better than. I think everybody is going to be pretty amazed as a matter of fact.
MATRIX: Thanks Peter.
Interview by REDPILL