Apropos of my discussion the other day of the absurd contraption known as the "process trailer", here are two charming and telling moments, showing Julianna in the one and Andy in the other, each alone--trapped--in the car trying to figure out how best to get started. Directing via walkie-talkie is almost impossible and being out on the highway, with other cars passing and pointlessly honking at us, makes everything even tenser.

Dig Julianna and her wildly winning attitude--she is so frigging cute when she gives that thumbs up having successfully slated herself, while holding the cigarette. Julianna and I had a line we used with each other: whenever you need her to do something--even if you haven't successfully explained it--she suddenly...just does it! I complimented her on this acting fearlessness once and she said, "Yeah. I commit!" That is such a lovely thing about actors--once in the moment they are there to get un-shy, unabashed, unafraid. The better they are, the quicker they jump in. Julianna is one of the quickest (and thus best) and every time I'd see her do this, I'd say to her "You commit". One of these days (after the film has come out) I'll tell how Julianna got involved in the project to begin with--one of those by-your-seat show-biz tales that I know people love to hear, but discretion is still the order of the day.

The second clip is of Andy, similarly trapped on the process trailer and waiting for his befuddled director to tell him what the hell is going on. The process trailer truly is a weirdly clustrophobic filmic experience for all involved. My DP, Vanja Cernjul, told me that the great DP Allan Davieu told him that he once turned down a script because he could tell that eighty percent of the movie was going to be the crew and actors stuck on process trailers and there was no way he was dealing with that; the film was "American Graffitti".

 Subscribe in a reader


  1. thanks for the Julianna commentary...however, we want more more more!!!


  2. Hi Raymond,

    After reading this, I have a question for you. Why the process trailer has to be used for scenes like that? Can you attach the camera into the car and film the scene by remote control so the actor can drive? I think I have seen that before. Can you explain a little further for us please? If this is not possible, does it mean that all the driving scenes in movies have to film in the process trailer? Thanks!

  3. I can explain, to some extent:

    So much about film-making is controlling the elements around you--the elements of sound, of light, of camera angles and continuity. The light must be set so that from angle to angle it remains more or less consistent, plus the lights should of course illuminate the actors' faces so that they look their best. Microphones have to be strategically placed so that all dialogue can be clearly recorded. Plus cars are wonderful machines but not conducive to most filming. In order to film at a variety of angles, sometimes the camera must be placed outside the driver's or passenger's windows, or mounted on the hood looking straight into the windshield, etc.

    I prop-mastered a film that's coming out soon called THE LUCKY ONES (shameless plug) that takes place in a minivan for more than half of the movie. We had, I believe, five different identical vans: one for the process trailer, one for the tow rig, one with the front section completely chopped off for close-up singles on the actors, and one with a steering contraption and gas pedal mounted to the roof, so that a seperate driver could control the van while the lead actor, Tim Robbins, pretended to drive. The fifth van, the one used in medium and longish shots, was just a plain old minivan, unencumbered by trailers, tows, rigs, etc.

    The reason that actors by and large don't really drive through most of their scenes is twofold: actors have enough to worry about and concentrate on in terms of what is happening in the scene, while not forgetting their dialogue, that trying to drive safely should not be added to their itineraries; and safety--it is preferable to have a separate professional driver whose only duty is to keep the vehicle on the sound and steady, ready at any moment to respond to an assistant director's instruction or to the unpredictability of the other drivers around him/her.

    There sometimes are occasions where the camera (and cameraman) are just placed in the backseat and you just wing it with a hand-held over-the-shoulder shot. The greatest example I can provide is a black-and-white crime saga from the 1950's called GUN CRAZY--an entire bank robbery sequence is filmed from the backseat of the get-away car! It's really cool! (If you're a fan of "Bonnie and Clyde", you should really check this movie out. It predates B&C by about ten years and really pioneered the "young couple on a crime spree" genre.)

    Anyway, that's my two cents, as it were, from a prop man for over twenty years. (Yikes!)


    Prop Master, "City Island"

  4. Thanks Dan for providing that very thorough explination. I couldn't have explained it better and frankly probably don't know quite as much as you about the subject! My previous film, "Thing About My Folks" was all on a process trailer (all the car scenes, that is, which was fifty percent of the movie). Previously I shot something using trays and felt that the result looked like an episode of Adam 12--the camera and actors locked into uncomfortably immobile positions. In old movies of course, car scenes were all done using rp screens (rear projection) since the custom was never to leave the soundstage, even for exteriors. Which led me to wonder aloud on our shoot when the process trailer came into being--Vanja Cernjul speculated in the 1950's when movies started going on location more.

    Hope your shoots going well.

  5. Hi Dan and Raymond,

    Thanks for writing and the explanation. Now, I know why those process trailers are being used. It would be really nice if I could be in a movie set and witness the prcoess. Thanks again!

  6. I hope that most have seen Rays
    Marlene Dietrich clip.. they
    are superb.... It was a real treat
    for me thanks again...

  7. That look those legs ,gams, perfect
    for your friend director
    Eddie Dmytryk film.Maybe I will
    write a treatment of some kind
    with that kind of flavor to it...