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Perhaps the most challenging location for the production crew of the upcoming film ‘Savaged’ was Pyramid Dam, the west branch of California aqueduct in northern Los Angeles County. The craggy hills and valleys adjacent to the dam served as the three-day setting for an incendiary ambush between Ben and Chon’s men and the Cartel. The production was the first to be allowed to film that close to the dam and to conduct extensive stunts and perform pyrotechnics, all during high fire season. These sequences played out in August, and by the second day, temperatures soared to the mid-90s. Recounts director Oliver Stone: “There were some incredible vistas there, but we had to work at a crushing pace in very inhospitable conditions. It was tough, but everyone pulled together.”
Instead of layering in many visual effects during postproduction or splitting the scene between several locations, Stone used the geography of the roads and hills to film much of the crucial heist scene in-camera, in one place. Armed with exploding vehicles and serious firepower, from RPGs to IEDs, the filmmaker captured what he needed. As it turned out, the production team found this particular location by accident.
After they were given the wrong directions, the team convinced the caretakers to show them the location. But at the time, they were told they wouldn’t be allowed to shoot there. Producer Eric Kopeloff says that they broke a cardinal rule of filmmaking: “You do not take a director to a location that you can’t shoot at because that’s the location the director will want. Oliver couldn’t get it out of his head. We’d show him other places and he’d say, ‘No, it has to look like that place.’ With Oliver, there is no ‘We can’t shoot there’; there is ‘Go figure out a way.’ So we brought a bunch of government agencies together to entertain the idea of filming there. U.S. forestry, state forestry, fire, land management, Homeland Security, California Highway Patrol—they came together, and we went through our ideas. We wanted to do this at the height of fire season, and if we were responsible for a fire there would’ve been hell to pay.”
The intense heat, rugged terrain and number of scenes needed to lens in a small period of time proved to be daunting and exhausting for everyone except actor Taylor Kitsch. Kopeloff says: “Taylor couldn’t get enough of it. This was like him just waking up on a Saturday morning. He was in his element.”
Image Courtesy of Savages