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High on Hollywood

Articles - Directing

When I talked to Steve Wright recently
he was negotiating a deal for a used helicopter from New Mexico.
"How much do one of these babies go for?” I asked. "New?
Between six and seven hundred thousand, usually." Steve’s company,
Fly Wright, rents out helicopters to construction companies, the
forest service, the military, as well as movie studios. The job
is definitely not without its glamour. Fly Wright copters are rigged
for film and video cameras. Volvo, Disney and Universal Studios
are a few of the companies who have shot commercials using Fly Wright’s
services. They were the first local company to shoot aerial footage
using High Definition TV equipment for a video called Wings Over
Washington
. They were also hired to do aerial shots for the
Goodwill Games broadcasts. I talked to Steve about his involvement
with the soon-to-be-released Steven Seagal picture On Deadly
Ground
.

MM: How did you first get involved
with
On Deadly Ground?

SW: We’d worked for Warner Brothers
in the past.

MM: Why do they choose to rent something
like that here?

SW: It’s too expensive to fly helicopters up
from California.

MM: Where was the movie filmed?

SW: Valdez, Alaska. And Leavenworth.

MM: So this is a Steven Seagal movie.
Is it violent?

SW: During the filming I was standing behind
the camera and a helicopter swooped down and guys disguised as mercenaries
fired machine guns directly into the camera. They used blanks, but
it was loud. Really wild.

MM: Was it safe?

SW: With plastic explosives going off everywhere?
I think the media has gone overboard with violence.

MM: Do you feel like you contribute to it by renting
out your helicopters to productions like this?

SW:   It’s like when we leased
our helicopters to the R.J. Reynolds Company. We don’t support tobacco,
but we needed the revenue.

MM: What is Steven Seagal like?

SW: Very large ego. Difficult to get close to.

MM: Any star fits?

SW: Seagal rode a horse in the movie, but they
had to use different ones throughout filming. The main horse was
black, so they had to paint the other ones to match, for continuity.
Seagal had an expensive buckskin coat and got horse paint on it.
He sort of threw a fit and wanted another coat.

MM: How were the helicopters used in
the movie?

SW:  They used one helicopter to film with, and
one was actually in the movie. Our director of maintenance Joe DiMarco
was co-pilot and actually appears in the movie (if he doesn’t end
up on the cutting room floor.)

MM:  Did they alter the helicopter?

SW:  They coated it with this floor wax-type
substance, then put a pigment over it to match this helicopter model
they made. For one of the special effects they blew up the model.
When they were done they took the pigment off our helicopter and
it was back to normal.

MM: Any dirt on Warner Brothers?

SW: They’ll nickel and dime you on one end, and
then on the other end, money is no object!

SW:  For example, they wanted to make one of
the helicopters look more high-tech with an infrared system. Not
for use, just for looks. So instead of making a mock-up, they actually
bought a $100,000 infrared system. MM

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