How did you
break into location work?
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.
some of the projects you have worked on.
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.
you are asked to find a remote road lined with trees, what would be the
process of scouting?
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
are some of the interesting places we’re not going to see?
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
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?
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?
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?
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.
the past I’m sure you have commandeered roads; how difficult
would it have been for this production?
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
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
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
MATRIX: The fact that THE MATRIX is very color conscious must have come out
in location scouting.
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?
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?
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
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?
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
MATRIX: Whose idea was it originally to recycle?
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?
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
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.
you think you’ll have the opportunity to visit the structures
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?
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.
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
MATRIX: Was there anything particularly challenging thing about this production?
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.
what you’ve seen going on around you, are quality sequels
than. I think everybody is going to be pretty amazed as a matter of fact.
Interview by REDPILL