Crash Deconstruction

Sarah on the roof rack
Sarah on the roof rack

Following on from my last post, let’s take a closer look at how part of The Beacon‘s car chase sequence was created, in particular the bit where Sarah goes flying out through her windscreen during the crash and miraculously lands on the roof rack of the villain’s speeding car. This ridiculous feat garnered a round of applause at the premiere, but how was it done?

The car crash was done for real, as previously explained, but clearly I couldn’t afford the stunt team and wire rigs necessary to catapult someone through the air and then composite in the vehicles below, which is how you would probably do it if you had a proper budget.

In fact there are no visual FX in this sequence at all. The illusion is created entirely through editing, using quick cuts of Sarah (LJ Hamer) leaning through the pre-smashed windscreen, a close-up of her legs being pulled out through the windscreen by a couple of crew members stood on the bonnet, a low angle shot against sky where she’s not moving at all, and a dummy being thrown at the villain’s car. The dummy was pulled together from whatever items we had to hand and looked terrible, but only eight frames of it were needed in the edit before cutting to an angle of LJ (already on the roof rack) dropping from all fours onto her front.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth at least a million. So I’ve put together a little compilation of the rushes so you can see exactly what I mean.

Crash Deconstruction

Chasing Cars

A decade ago I was editing The Beacon, my stupid Malvern-based action movie made for about £3,000. The Cardboard Chase is most people’s favourite scene, but a close second for me would have to be the car chase:

Setting up car-mounted cameras
Setting up car-mounted cameras

Pretty silly, huh?

The car chase was shot over three days, mostly on Castlemorton Common in Malvern. It was done totally guerrilla style – no permissions, no insurance, no safety briefings, no stunt co-ordinator. The red car belonged to one of the crew, whilst the blue one was purchased secondhand for the production at a cost of £120, then taxed for £90 and insured for LJ, the lead actress, to drive at £235. (This was just standard car insurance so she could drive it on the road legally, and in no way covered it for film stunt use.)

The crash was shot on private land. The white car belonged to a friend of mine who was going to scrap it anyway. Crazy cast member Si Dovey offered to double for LJ driving the blue car towards the white one (sorry, I know nothing about makes of cars so colours will have to suffice to identify them) and miraculously came out alive, despite not even wearing a seatbelt on the second take. Getting the wrecked cars towed away afterwards (which was a major hassle) cost £75, bringing the grand total for the sequence to £520.

So an action-packed car chase can be shot pretty cheaply, but of course you shouldn’t try it under any circumstances because it’s extremely dangerous and highly illegal on public land.

Additional (27/10/11): By the way, you can download the whole budget for the film, if you’re so inclined, from The Beacon page.

Chasing Cars