How They Did It: Planning a Car Crash Scene? Match Multiple Locations Into One, Says 24 Hours to Live Director

Some of the bigger challenges we had to overcome while filming 24 Hours to Live had to do with finding locations, as well as shooting the numerous action scenes, since much of the movie revolves around these two factors.

For the film’s end battle sequence, it was important to have a location with a guarded entrance that looked like a large, expensive, corporate complex, that would allow us to crash a car into its lobby, block the stairwell, and eventually end up destroying the building with bullets and explosions.

A scene from 24 Hours to Live. Image courtesy of Saban Films

Even if I had found a perfect-looking location near Cape Town (where most of the film takes place) that fit all of the script needs, the odds of getting permission to take over and destroy the place were essentially non-existent.

Use Any and All of the Tools Available

I have worked on a lot of big budget films as a 2nd unit director/action coordinator, and have extensive experience in both the practical and digital/green screen end of things. So, I knew that the only way I was going to get the end result I was looking for was to use any and all of the tools available.

We ended up finding a location in which the two side buildings were practical, but the exterior of the taller building at the end of the long corridor had to be completely computer generated. All shots looking towards the building ended up being done with a green screen at the end of the corridor.

This proved tricky for some of our action sequences. For instance, in the lead up to one of the big crashes, the SUV we were filming would have to race towards the green screen and come to a full stop just before hitting it.

We used cameras on multiple levels of the side buildings along with hand held cameras, mounts and a drone to capture this.

Once in post-production, all gunfire in this scene had to then be computer-generated.

A scene from 24 Hours to Live

Matching Multiple Locations Into One

The actual crash into the building was shot at a completely different location: an old building that was going to be torn down and just happened to have a stairwell just inside the glass entry doors.

At this location, the lead up to the old building was only 60 feet and the ground was uneven, but it was going to have to do. We once again placed large green screens outside of the building in order to make the place match with the other location (later inserted in post-production).

While the stairwell that the SUV ended up crashing into was real, the elevator in the scene, and the post-destruction, was later added through visual effects. We completed the sequence by doing practical explosions with a separate camera in order to achieve a larger and closer blast that would be safe for the stuntmen while shooting. We also shot a real explosion up an existing non-functioning elevator shaft located inside the tear down building.

Cast and crew on the set of 24 Horus to Live

We were fortunate that our interior scenes were less delicate to shoot. For Morrow’s (Paul Anderson) office, we found a very practical location in Cape Town. It had large windows that wrapped around the corner and allowed us to establish the building as part of the South African city, without the added cost of post-production exteriors needed.

For Wetzler’s (Liam Cunningham) office, we moved to a stage and Colin Gibson, our production designer, built a set to match the look of the existing building used for Morrow’s office. This setting gave my Director of Photography, Ben Nott, the ability to control the light. It also gave the special effects team, led by Cordell McQueen and Tyrell Kemio, the ability to completely destroy the set.

The crew of 24 Hours to Live readies the set for an action sequence

For these scenes, the Cape Town exterior was inserted into the windows in post-production, as were the graphics on the glass screens. The elevator that Morrow came out of into his office was a set piece.

In the end result of 24 Hours to Live, the different locations match seamlessly into one. While the production took a lot of planning, I was able to achieve the scripted sequences in our time frame and budget. MM

24 Hours to Live opened in theaters December 1, 2017, courtesy of Saban Films. All images courtesy of Saban Films.

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