Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming "High Velocity" in the Philippines

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Filming "High Velocity" in the Philippines

Article excerpt

A mixed crew of imported (British) technicians and Filipinos skilled in the crafts of film-making shoot a rough-and-ready action feature in locales that include swamps and lush jungles

They told me there was martial law, that the temperature would be in the high hundreds, and the humidity intolerable. They told me that the local industry turned out one hundred films per year, with an average three weeks' shooting on each. They told me the beaches were white, the jungles lush, and the people friendly. So, with Ben Gazzara, Britt Ekland, Paul Winfield, Alejandro Rey, Keenan Wynn and Victoria Racino, we went to Manila, Philippines, to make the film "HIGH VELOCITY".

There are many countries reputed to provide value-for-money locations. The history of international film-making is an odyssey of American dollars chasing good deals while trying to retain executive control. Unfortunately, this quest for a filmic Eldorado has been, at best only temporarily satisfied in any one place. The dollar voyaged to Spain, France, Italy, Israel, and onwards to Mexico, North Africa and South America. Under the influence of eager buyers, prices rose, unions tightened restrictions and air fares leapt into the stratosphere. Budgets groaned under the strain of maintaining key American crews in overpriced hotels far from home.

And then came the Philippines. It is true that local labor is cheap, but more importantly, it is skilled. All very well for the cost-conscious American producer to find cheap hotels and labor in some developing country, but if he cannot find a grip, a generator, or a greenman locally, the logistic colossus of importing or building everything from filmcores to the honey-wagon easily outweighs any advantages. Filipino homegrown films are thriving, colorful, rough, ready and parochial. That a country of 45 millions, only a third of whom live within reach of a theatre, should be able to support one hundred films per year is evidence of more than low cost. Production is skillful and the whole country enthusiastically filmoriented.

First Asian Films of California contracted with Filmways Productions (Philippines) to supply local facilities and crews. With Manila virtually equidistant from the United States and Europe in terms of travel dollars, our key personnel came from all over the world, to form a truly International Unit. Our producer, Takashi Ohashi ("TORA! TORA! TORA!", "TOO LATE THE HERO"), is Japanese. Bob Paynter, our cinematographer ("CHATO'S LAND", "THE LAWMAN", "SCORPIO"), with his operator, Derek Browne, and focuspuller, Paul Hennessy, is British. Australia provided our camera assistant, David Burr, gaffers Alan Martin and Peter Clarson and our stunt coordinator, Clem Parsons. When a horse trod on Clem's foot in one particular fall, only Alan and Peter could understand what he shouted. From Los Angeles came our executive producer, Joseph Wolf, director Remi Kramer, his assistant Peter MacGregor-Scott, script supervisor Tom Moore, and sound crew of Bill Kaplan, Jr., and Earl Sampson. A polyglot crew who, despite working together for the first time in appalling heat and monsoon rain, helped bring "HIGH VELOCITY" in on time and on budget, with enthusiasm, good humor and polish.

The equipment we used was as international as the crew. Shooting Panavision Anamorphic 2.35:1, the bulk of our camera equipment came by air from the local Panavision agency in Sydney, Australia. Communicating by telex we had good backup, and on the occasions when we needed extra equipment - for example, a highspeed Mitchell - the daily flights from Sydney to Manila were extremely helpful.

Remi Kramer and Bob Paynter chose the PSR camera, with Superspeed 35, 50, 75, and 100-millimeter lenses to cope with the extensive low light levels at night in the jungle and Chinatown. Not only was the expense of extra generators and arc lights thereby minimized, as these lenses have apertures of around T/1.4, but in some cases we were able to get otherwise impossible shots, in areas where it was simply impractical to run cable. …

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