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LIGHTS, CAMERA ...

Buckle up or else

Accidents happen in 'Zombieland'

November 18, 2009|Jill Brown | "Zombieland" second unit stunt coordinator

There was a chill in the Georgia night when "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer discussed the Seat Belt Rule -- one of the guidelines the lead character follows to survive his town's zombie infestation. Fleischer said, "I'd like to see an accident that's never been done before. Let's crash a suburban mom through a windshield and have her land a foot in front of the camera." As if that weren't challenging enough: "And we have to do it in one shot."

Huh?

George Aguilar, the second unit director and stunt coordinator, consulted with visual effects supervisor Paul Linden, and a plan was hatched.

There are rules imperative to Zombieland survival, and wearing seat belts is one of them. There are rules imperative to one's sanity, and completing this sequence meant rules were made to be broken.

While George and Paul were collaborating, I was locating a portly stuntwoman who would now play the suburban mom. We had better odds finding conjoined stunt twins. Bring in the fat suit.

George thought it would look funnier if the woman flew over something in motion. Super. Bring in the flatbed truck. Ruben wanted the woman to be chased by kid zombies who latched on the car. Wonderful. Bring in little people to play kid zombies.

We called stuntwoman Samantha MacIvor. "What are your thoughts on fat suits, core strength, bad hair, crashing through windshields and pavement sliding?" She was down with it. Bring in MacIvor.

Problems arose when we couldn't stick a hefty girl behind a wheel and fly her out safely. We'll need to lose the roof, steering wheel and front seat. Bring in the power saw.

The next challenge was Samantha's traveling trajectory. Since we had to fly her over the hood of her car and the flatbed truck, then down to the pavement and slide her 20-something feet toward the camera, George suggested the most accurate approach would be to incorporate a computer-controlled cable system. Bring in the Fisher Winches.

In the end, the marriage of Paul Linden's visual effects, George Aguilar's technical, creative mind and Samantha MacIvor's core strength (and anything-goes mind set) made for an awesome sequence. Of course, it all started with Ruben's notion of "all in one shot." Bring in . . . the end.

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