Location scouting for Hacksaw Ridge: Interview with Edward Donovan, News

Location scouting for Hacksaw Ridge: Interview with Edward Donovan

Edward Donovan is a Sydney based film and television Location Manager, working in the industry since the mid-90s. From humble beginnings, saving parking on Police Rescue and GP at the ABC, he was recently the Location Manager on the Oscar nominated, Hacksaw Ridge, which has also been nominated for Outstanding Locations in a Period Film in the 2017 Location Managers Guild International Awards to be announced in April.


What is the first thing you do for a production?

First thing is to read the script to get a thorough understanding of the story and the characters. The next key step is to identify the locations in the script. The scouting process begins and it is the Location Department’s job to provide different options of each location for the Director and Designer to consider before making a choice.


What was the look for Hacksaw Ridge? And who were the key creatives that you worked most closely with?

Hacksaw Ridge sought a look of historical accuracy, given that it was a true story. We worked very closely with Barry Robison the Production Designer and Mark Robins, Art Director in achieving this.


How were the locations secured for the film?

Locations are sourced through a combination of one's knowledge base and a lot of legwork. A lot of scouting. Once a location has been decided on it is the responsibility of the Location Manager to secure the relevant permissions and/or permits. In the case of private land, such as the Bringelly battlefield location, we made an agreement with the landowner for access to the land and the filming proceeded with development consent from local government.

Street filming in Richmond on the other hand was a combination of public and private arrangements – with Hawkesbury Council and Roads and Maritime Service in the public sphere, and several smaller private arrangements to facilitate access to buildings for both filming and practical purposes.


Can you tell us about the battlefield and how the location was managed during the shoot?

The battlefield converted a gently sloping bucolic landscape into the bloody hell hole you see in the film using mainly heavy earth moving equipment, then fire effects and smoke.

We built about a kilometre of road to and around the location and a hundred metres or so of water line from the adjacent damn for wet downs not to mention a football field sized road base pad to accommodate the unit base and basecamp facilities and another smaller one for the essential equipment trucks.

One of the great things about the Bringelly location was that it was essentially hidden, with only one road in and out so access management was a relatively straightforward affair.


The film used Richmond as the location for an American town. How did the production turn the Sydney suburb into a 1950s American town?

The existing architecture in Richmond was sympathetic to the look we were after, cause so it was mainly changes to signage, street furniture and the age and direction of travel of the cars on the roadm which contributed to the period conversion of Richmond.


And what wasthe reaction from the locals to the film's production?

The production was broadly welcomed in Richmond and considered to be a good thing, although there were a small number of businesses who raised some objections which we were able to satisfy so that the filming could proceed. Overall, we were welcomed to Richmond warmly.


A ridge outside of Goulburn was one of the key scenes of the film - can you tell us how the production settled on that location and how did it integrate with the other locations to tell the story?

Again, it was the best of the available options and served really well as the base of Hacksaw Ridge. Mechanically, it only had to integrate with the top of the ridge, which was a set piece, built on location at Bringelly, so the art dept colour matched the location to the set piece to seamlessly integrate the two.


Were there any unique challenges you faced during the film's production?

There are always challenges on a production of this scale.

The battlefield was a big task in the lead up to the final decision to go there as we searched and searched until the last hour in case there was something that little bit better.

Richmond was a challenge on account of the scale of the shoot there.

Goulburn was challenging on account of the passing trains!


Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I feel very proud to have been able to work on Hacksaw Ridge and cannot emphasise enough the support and skill of the whole locations team including and beyond those people who are credited on the film. There were a number of shorter and longer term contributors to the final locations list and to all of these people I remain grateful.

I’m proud that I can include an Oscar nominated picture on my CV and the film is also now a finalist for a Location Managers Guild International award for Outstanding Locations in a Period Film about which I am also pleased.


Contact Edward: http://www.toptechsmanagement.com.au/ 

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