Location Manager JJ Hook: Challenges of filming action cinema
JJ Hook entered the production industry with a small job on drama Swept from the Sea in the late 90s. His career progressed to major action movies and in recent years he’s worked on Mission: Impossible III, Inception and Michael Bay's Transformers franchise.
“My first industry job was fetching soup and blankets for people on a beach in Cornwall,” Hook says, recalling his work on Swept from the Sea, which featured Rachel Weisz shortly before her star-making turn in The Mummy: “I was on the set for five days and then Bill Darby offered me a job as Assistant Location Manager.”
Hook has since worked extensively with renowned director Michael Bay and producer Ian Bryce. He was Location Manager on the filmmaker’s smaller-scale bodybuilding drama Pain & Gain – scheduled for global release from late April 2013 – but he’s scouting for the fourth Transformers film when TLG catches him on the phone. The movie will take Bay back to the cinematic spectacle for which he’s best known.
“It wasn’t necessarily a strategy to work on big films like this, but when you work around the same group of people a pattern inevitably starts to emerge,” he adds: “Either way, I always wanted to work on big shoots.”
He says that one of the biggest challenges of large-scale movie production is that the whole enterprise will become a “monster that can’t be delivered”. Even a scene involving a simple conversation in a street can morph into street closures and a need to buy out local businesses if the production team finds itself suddenly inspired.
Hook describes Michael Bay as having a terrific sense of creativity and talks about how the director puts his own spin on locations, as well as often moulding the script around places that really catch his eye.
“There’s obviously CGI involved with Michael’s shoots, but he also does a lot of in-camera special effects work on location,” Hook considers: “Advances in digital effects also help me in my job because elements can often be painted out of a location in post-production rather than being physically removed on location."
Los Angeles has fantastic weather and a broad range of distinctive locations within the 30-mile zone and you don’t get that anywhere else. I live in Los Angeles but I probably spend more time in every other state in the country!
JJ Hook, Location Manager
“People worry about visual effects leading to a reduction in location filming," he adds, "but there’s always a need to send out crews to film plate shots or backgrounds, even if the final frame will be mostly CGI. In that sense it’s actually creating jobs.”
Despite living in Los Angeles, Hook worked just three days in Hollywood’s spiritual home over the past year. It’s a stark illustration of California’s continuing ‘runaway production’ problem, with shoots drawn to more competitive filming incentives elsewhere in the country, such as Louisiana, New York and Georgia. However, Hook sees the situation as “cyclical” and believes California will become more popular again as a filming location.
“Los Angeles has fantastic weather and a broad range of distinctive locations within the 30-mile zone and you don’t get that anywhere else,” Hook explains: “I live in Los Angeles but I probably spend more time in every other state in the country!
“It’s always noticeable that while other states may have certain parts that are good for a few scenes, it’s always a bit limited and you quickly find that locations just aren’t exciting anymore. That’s never been an issue in Los Angeles.”
Not Logged in
You must be logged in to post a comment
There are no comments