Excerpt from the CinemaReview.com article, THE DARKEST MINDS – Movie Production Notes (click here to read full article):
To bring the PSI powers from the page to the big screen, Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson closely collaborated with second unit director and stunt coordinator Jack Gill.
“Jen picks it up really quickly which was great,” says Gill. “She comes in and really is like a sponge. She wants to learn all about it and said, ‘What are the parameters? What can we do here? How can we get this to that? Having somebody that really wants to learn helps us because it makes for a really collaborative effort.”
“Jen knows exactly what she wants. And every question you ask her, she has a great answer for. So that leads us down the right path right off the bat.”
“For the Reds we use real flamethrowers. They’re flamethrowers that– kind of the same idea of the old World War II flamethrowers. It’s liquid gasoline that is propelled out, you know, at a high rate of speed, and it’s under pressure, so we can shoot it about seventy-five to eighty feet. And in the movie, you’re going to see the Reds, you know, spew out this flame and there’s going to be about a five-foot buffer between out of their mouth to where it catches fire, and that’s when the fire then takes over effect and it burns anything in their path.”
Jeff Hubbard, second unit first assistant director, filming the scene, “The REDS Breathe Fire.” Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
The REDS breathe fire at escaping stunt doubles. Summer Cain and Donte Walker, angle A. Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
“What we try to do is we want to build the action so that you don’t get the biggest action piece right at the start of the movie. So we’re building all these powers and all these actions beats so that by the time we get to the third act, we’re doing the biggest action for the whole movie. So it’s kind of a journey for all of us because the characters do build in the fact that they have to meet each other, find out what each person does.”
The REDS breathe fire at escaping stunt doubles. Summer Cain and Donte Walker, angle B. Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
“Then they find that they’re a little scared of each other because they don’t know if each one of them is going turn them in. And so it becomes their part of their trust each other. Once they trust each other, now they can go out and help each other to try and get to where they need to get in the end. But bad guys are always after them and that’s the bad part about it is they never know who’s their friend and who’s their foe.”
“One of the most challenging pieces we faced was for our end sequence in the third act we have a, a lot of flame breathing characters. They spit flame 70 feet. And so we’re using real backpack flame throwers that have real diesel and gasoline fuel that goes out of them so it takes a lot of time to rehearse it. We had a couple of months of rehearsal before we even shot the final sequence because of all the details that went into it.”
Testing peat moss explosions with Kenji Doughty. Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
Gill assembled the best of the best to assist in the off-road sequences, recruiting veteran stunt coordinator and his brother Andy Gill as well as longtime friend and stunt coordinator Gary Hymes.
Stunt driver Debbie Evans crashes her car through a guard rail and into the pond. Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
“When Gwendoline Christie had to do her car chase sequences, we made it look like she’s driving a car,” explains Andy. “But I’m driving the car from what’s called a pod. It’s up on top of the car. And it’s mounted to the roof of the car and I have steering, braking, gas and it’s all hydraulically driven through the car. She has no steering input, no gas, no brake input. Actually has no pedals in the car. She has to sit in there and act like she’s driving, so we have to rehearse over and over so she knows the moves I’m doing so she can react to those moves. Jack talks her through it and tells me what he wants me to do either, either fight with him on the road back and forth or sliding 180’s or, or turning and sliding, going off the road.”
“I told Debbie Evans to slide the rear wheels close to camera. She did exactly what I asked. Perfection.” Jack Gill, second Unit Director and stunt coordinator of The Darkest Minds (2018)
Utilizing the practices they implemented on the Fast and Furious franchises, Gill and team knew they needed to use real cars on real roads. “Once we started going back to real action, the audience member kind of felt ok, I’m part of the thing and that’s what we’ve done throughout all the other Fast and Furious movies,” he says.
“We’re using a couple of different rigs, one that is called a biscuit rig, which is a rig that is essentially like a traveling platform that has a pod driven like cage that you can drive the controls for the vehicle and place that pod anywhere on and around the vehicle. So you can look in every different direction, it’s like a flatbed but it has a monitor, steers, and then you can move that drive pod anywhere you want and it gives you flexibility on your camera angles.”
“The other rig we’re using is called the Pod, which literally looks like a go-kart that goes on top of the van and that driver is driving the van and our actors can be in it and it gives the illusion that they are driving at the same time.”
“From the camera’s perspective it looks like we are actually driving through other cars in these dangerous situations,” says Christie. “But for the most part there’s a stunt driver in a rig attached to the car driving, while we’re just acting, and on a certain level, that’s pretty scary. I mean, talk about a back-seat driver…”
“Jack Gill and his team brings just such great spectacle and experience, I think it’s gonna really elevate this film and we’re just thrilled to have him on board,” says Levine.