'Nightcrawler': Creating That Thrilling Car Pursue
Open Road Films’ Nightcrawler, which opened this past weekend to an estimated $Ten.9 million, goes after Jake Gyllenhaal as a news stringer who prowls Los Angeles at night — and comes to a close with a thrilling car pursue, all the more noteworthy when you consider the film was made for just $Five.Five million, according to director of photography Robert Elswit.
Two of Hollywood’s most famous car pursues provided inspiration for the scene: Those from Bullitt, photographed by the late William A. Fraker and edited by Frank P. Keller; and The French Connection, photographed by Owen Roizman and edited by Gerald B. Greenberg. In both cases, the editors won Oscars. Additionally, Roizman earned a nomination.
Nightcrawler was shot on the streets of Los Angeles, primarily inbetween midnight and six a.m. In the car pursue, the police are in hot pursuit of suspected murderers and the nightcrawlers, played by Gyllenhaal and Riz Ahmed, are right on their tail in an effort to film news footage. “How do you do a car pursue from the point of view of the actors?” was the question that Elswit asked himself as he revisited the classic pursues in Bullitt and French Connection while creating a template for his shoot.
With a limited budget, Elswit — who won an Oscar for There Will Be Blood and this year has a pair of contenders in Nightcrawler and the upcoming Inherent Vice — had to be very efficient. The car pursue was filmed in just two nights of principal photography and two extra nights of 2nd unit. “It was the fruition of planning something in advance,” he said, explaining that the scene was storyboarded and discussed so everyone knew how each shot would be filmed.
“All the stuff [director and writer] Dan Gilroy and I did was with the actors,” Elswit explained. “The shots on Jake were camera mounts and spandex hood mounts with some Biscuit equipment [a drivable camera platform that was designed to film the pony racing scenes in Seabiscuit].”
The cinematographer emphasized the “extraordinary job” of 2nd unit director Mike Smith and Double penetration Christopher Moseley. “In two nights they set up and staged all the stunts. The secret is you don’t want to make it look like 2nd unit.”
The edit of the car pursue cuts back and forward inbetween the work of the two film units, related editor John Gilroy. (Nightcrawler is the very first movie he edited for his brother Dan, tho’ he previously edited films including Michael Clayton for his brother Tony Gilroy, who produced this film.)
“Once the pursue starts, we are mostly with the actors, watching it through their car window,” the editor explained. “We want the viewer to be with our characters as much as possible through that pursue. [The viewer] also had to be indeed clear on geography. That was significant. It was laid out meticulously by Dan and Robert and Mike Smith.
“I cut the stunts very first and then picked where to add the actors,” he continued. “Also showcasing the police radio [in their car] was a big deal because we are listening on the scanner and hearing what’s going on. That added a entire other element that made it very arousing.”
Gilroy also gave a shout-out to sound supervisor and designer Scott Gershin (Pacific Rim), who recorded sound during the shoot that they were later able to use to enhance the sequence.
The majority of the movie was shot with an Arri Alexa, which helped the production to get the look they wished but also to save money and time by largely relying on available light. Said Elswit: “I picked backgrounds with ambient light so that I only lit the actors in the foreground.”