Picture Car Prep
A specialty service has evolved over the years to obtain, modify, paint, transport,
keep clean and keep running vehicles for filming. They are very helpful to making
a shoot go smoothly. There are many different relationships to the Production
Company, ad agency and client. The client (Manufacturer) owns some car prep
companies, some by the agency and some are free lance hired by the agency or
Production Company. I prefer ones hired by the Production Company so that there
is more control, but this is rarely the situation today.
Your relationship to the car prep crew can make a difference in how easy the
shoot goes. It is the job of the car prep crew to both protect the vehicle and
make it available for you to shoot. Keeping them informed can save them extra
work, for example if only part of the car will be seen in camera and they are
cleaning the whole car. Everything takes time and keeping them updated will
make their life easier. A schedule and any change information will be appreciated.
Including them in making the schedule can save time, because they will know
how long things should take from their side.
Don't think that your job is the only one that they have going. It gets very
crazy during car season and they have to juggle vehicles, crews, paints jobs
and parts to keep the right vehicles ready for each shoot they have going. You
may think they have a lucrative business, but their season is short and their
When I am going to work with a crew that I don't know, I like to meet with them
personally or at least send someone out to talk with them. I make a list of
special requests and call again before they leave for location to check how
things are progressing.
Your every request may cost money. Check with them and clear your requests cost
wise. Be very careful to keep things on a cooperative level and not on a competitive
level. Rigging can become a touchy situation. Some car prep people are very
good riggers. They may or may not care if you rig the vehicle, but if you do
it, you had better be good at it. If they do it, they will want to know exactly
where the camera goes and may or may not provide the flexibility on short notice
if the director changes his mind.
I have found that the really good riggers have little ego involvement in rigging
and just want to get the job done easily. I have had some car prep crews help
us considerable even though they were not being paid to do it. We also try to
make their life easier too. We worry about their fresh paint job and help keep
the car clean. Ask if it is OK to do ANYTHING to THEIR car. Make your crew respect
the car and the car prep crew. Keep them informed and updated. Willingly give
them a hand if they need it and want it.
Removing doors, windows, hoods, trunks and dimming headlights can be easy or
very difficult. Some things come off easier than they go back on. Some models
aren't as easy as others. I have had a few car prep people assure that my "no
problem" request turned out being a very big problem. "Well, you got the shot
didn't you?" didn't make me very happy about it. But I didn't get a lot of other
shots while waiting. New cars have lots of plumbing going into the doors. I
have heard of cars being driven home with the door tied to the side of the car.
Ask how long they think something will take and consider alternate solutions.
Do you really need the door off? What dolly/arm combination would avoid having
to remove the door? For close-ups does the car really have to be moving, can
the light be broken up with moving branches to simulate motion?
Larger car prep companies have different crews, some more experienced than others.
Be prepared to make adjustments if a crew that is new to you is provided. They
may be faster or slower than the last crew from the same company. Rarely do
you have a choice if the agency or client is paying their bill, but you might
have the agency request a crew that you already know.
When it comes to major effects with cars, it can get tricky. There can be problems
about who is calling the shots. I like to do a lot of listening about how things
MIGHT be done before offering my viewpoint. You should let people contribute
to a project. Hear them out before you offer a possibly better solution. If
you can let them discover your solution, it will be more acceptable. Give people
credit for a good solution. I have had to let some stubborn people fail with
their approach before they did things my way. It's not a great situation. I
have even had a car prep company tell me how to shoot the shot. Time spent talking
will make it go easier. Be humble, listen, and offer suggestions tentatively.
Thanks to Tom Ramsey and Bata of Bad Company, Sun Valley, Calif. for comments
on this section.
© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.