Filming explosions and informing the neighborhood?
November 10, 2006 9:55 AM   Subscribe

What do film crews and/or movie companies do to warn residents of their pyrotastic filmings in the neighborhood?

i recently watched Die Hard with a vengeance. Early in the movie, they blow up an area in (what seems to be) downtown New York. Got me thinking that in these days, they probably wouldn't be allowed to film that for fear of the police & fbi being flooded with "omg terrrrrrists!!!" calls.

So how DO the movie people make sure that truly, really, everyone in the vicinity is informed that they're only filming a movie?
posted by slater to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Movie explosions taking place in supposedly occupied areas are virtually always shot in miniature on a sound stage, or composited in post-production. No explosions would actually be occurring in a big (or small, I'd assume) city. I would guess that the liability for blowing something up in a city like NYC would be too great for either the city or insurance company insuring the production to allow.
posted by ScottUltra at 10:13 AM on November 10, 2006

they can't make sure everyone is informed, of course, but at least for the city of los angeles (and most cities where filming is frequent, i suspect) they are required to notify nearby residents and businesses. and presumably the local authorities (police, fire, etc) are well aware when things are going to be blown up.

i live in downtown los angeles, so i see these frequently for smaller shoots in nearby buildings (even when they aren't blowing anything up), and shoots with a bigger impact (like the transformers movie, for example, which blew lots of stuff up) they post notifications even further out.

FilmLA is the local quasi-governmental agency that facilitates permits for productions and handles notifications.
posted by jimw at 10:20 AM on November 10, 2006

and yes, they really do blow stuff up in the middle of a major city. it's not all smoke and mirrors.
posted by jimw at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2006

A couple times in San Francisco I received mail notices about street closures when they would film. (The Rock was one I think.)

If the explosions are"practical" (not done with miniatures) they're a lot different than what you see on the screen. They make very little noise and are mostly a quick fire, with possibly some soft (foam/rubber) debris thrown out of air cannons.

And for safety they block of a large area.
posted by Ookseer at 10:23 AM on November 10, 2006

I used to work at a very photogenic pier. Lots of filming happened there, and they did blow stuff up now and then. The film crews were courteous, to a fault, about keeping us informed. They generally coordinated with the police and fire people, too, and just off camera would be a HPD cruiser.

Having film crews around is pretty interesting and they would always invite us to their luxo catered lunches or dinners.
posted by jet_silver at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2006

Once we get our permits, we have to mail people within a certain mile range of the explosion, and we have to do it several times. We make up a flyer with a description of the effect, the date and time of shooting, our permit numbers, and the name and phone number of the production manager in case anyone has any questions. We also take handbills around door to door, placing them in mailboxes or stormdoor handles in the area closest to the location, to make absolutely sure everyone has been notified at least once before we blow stuff up. Inevitably, someone will still call 911, but with proper permits, emergency services already know about the shoot (and are probably on set for safety anyway,) so it's not a big.

Of course, you could always accidentally pull a Smallville and overdetonate in a residential area, but that's pretty rare.
posted by headspace at 10:42 AM on November 10, 2006

Not everything is done in miniature, and sometimes they get carried away. They made a boat go boom in Blown Away. Shattered windows for blocks around the set.
posted by Gungho at 10:48 AM on November 10, 2006

"The filming of the big warehouse scene caused something of a panic in Baltimore. The fire was visible from I-95 and the Baltimore Beltway, so Good Samaritans kept calling the fire department to report it. So many people called that the fire department ended up calling radio stations to confess that the scene was being filmed and to request that people stop tying up the emergency lines"

From IMDB about the movie "Ladder 49".

There are often police vehicles & an ambulance on outdoor movie sets with explosions/pyrotechnics. When people call into 911 and report it, the 911 dispatchers are often already aware of it and inform the caller of such.
posted by drstein at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2006

thanx guys! curiosity satisfied! :)
posted by slater at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2006

Well, here in Vancouver... things can be a little less courteous than what is mentioned above.

While they were filming X-Men3, there was a number of *very* large explosions around 3am - they sent notices *after* filming was completed to the densely-populated area surrounding the set.

(Think the opening sequence of the movie, for those who have seen it).
posted by Vantech at 12:00 PM on November 10, 2006

Regarding Ladder 49 - one of the warehouses that they were filiming out was right by the toll plaza along I-95. My family was heading south on 95 and saw the fire and helicopters flying around and it was very alarming. We made sure to tell the toll booth attendent and that's when they told us that they were filming.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 12:25 PM on November 10, 2006

Sometimes they piggyback on a scheduled implosion.
posted by Robert Angelo at 12:32 PM on November 10, 2006

A few years ago, but post 9/11, the Defense Department decided to do a commercial shoot on the Mall in DC. They had a 747 fly up the Mall, followed by an F16 or somesuch. I suppose they cleared it with the FAA and police and those types, but they didn't bother to tell us folks who work along the flight corridor. A few folks were a bit upset by that.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:05 PM on November 10, 2006

When I lived in North Beach (San Francisco), there was a lot of filming. We'd get flyer-notices a week or so before, and there would usually be something in the neighborhood newspaper.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:10 PM on November 10, 2006

In addition to what Robert Angelo said-- for Con Air, they filmed a scheduled demolition and used it in the movie:

"The Las Vegas scenes were filmed at the legendary Sands Hotel immediately prior to its demolition in late 1996. When the production team heard about the city's intentions to raze the historic landmark, they immediately scheduled a multiple camera setup to take advantage of the rare event, which is what you actually see in the movie." (source)
posted by lou at 4:39 PM on November 10, 2006

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