TRAFFIC CONTROL FOR CAR SHOOTS
There are different methods of traffic control. Use this one as a guide to develop
one for yourself. Traffic control is one of the last places for "I assumed"
or "I thought they knew....". Your method has to be fool proof. A written method
is in order. Be pessimistic, be firm and listen to everyone's concerns because
lives are in danger.
Avoid "movie language" when regular English will do. Say" to your left instead
of "camera right". Say, "rehearse the shot" instead of "block the shot". Avoid
"follow van", "wrap shot" etc. These things may mean different things to a local
policeman acquainted with non-movie traffic control.
Learn and use names to avoid confusion on the radio; Officer Bob, Camera assistant
Bob, driver Bob.
Minimum needs for traffic control for blocking traffic and shooting on a public
1. Two uniformed officers acquainted with traffic control with jurisdiction
of the area that you are working in at each end.
2. Radios for each officer on the production company's frequency. Spare batteries
for those radios. They will also probably have their own radios too.
3. Turnouts with good visibility for regular traffic for each end of the shot.
You need room to turn your group around.
4. An AD (assistant director) VERY acquainted with shooting under these conditions.
This is the last place for on-the-job training.
5. Radios in picture and camera vehicles. A radio at "Base Camp". Tell the base
camp people to stay off the radio unless absolutely necessary.
6. The required or needed safety signs.
7. Required permits.
8. Enough people at every driveway and secondary road not requiring traffic
officers. Each needs a radio in case a driver won't stop.
9. Radios powerful enough to reach all elements.
A movie shoot is interesting to passing drivers. Even if they don't get angry
about being delayed, they become distracted, and can cause an accident. They
will watch you when they should be watching where they are going. It is safest
to block all traffic from a road that you are working on, especially if there
is parallel running with a camera car shooting another car, even if there are
4 lanes, the people going the other way can be distracted and your shooting
can cause an accident. Even if you are not legally or technically responsible,
you are morally responsible if your shoot contributes to an accident.
Police traffic control is a must under almost all conditions. One, they reduce
your liability; two, people are more likely to stop for an uniformed person;
and third, they are usually, but not always, used to this kind of traffic control.
I have had a few times when the traffic control method of some officers was
not up to our safety standards. Some are, as are many "civilians", distracted
by "show biz". Many people lose what good sense that they have around a movie
Before a stretch of road is considered it must be scouted for driveways and
side roads which could allow an unexpected vehicle on a road that you are shooting
on. I have had a tractor come out of a gate in a farmer's fence. Leave someone
at every small side road or driveway to prevent a vehicle getting on the road
that you are using. PA's can often do this. Put officers at all main roads.
PA's should not fill in for traffic officers on the road. Many people will drive
around some kid with a flag. Some people will even drive around uniformed movie
cops in areas with too much disruptive movie shooting.
The road should be selected considering lighting, side roads, backgrounds, turnarounds,
smoothness, and noise if shooting sound, and length. Sometimes two or more takes
are possible if the stretch is long enough. Turnarounds take time.
The radios should be checked. Usually the police radios are more reliable between
their cars with one end using the production company's radio. Always wait for
a confirmation of any message before sending the vehicles out onto the road.
A 10 watt radio, magnetic antennae, or linear amplifiers might be considered
if long distances are expected. I have had local conditions that make 2 and
5-watt units almost useless: the Mojave Desert near Red Mountain and Mt. Tamalpias
in Marin County.
Many officers describe the last two cars let through before they hold traffic.
If traffic is light it is safest to hold all traffic until you get back to #1
("base camp" or "start")
Most traffic officers are quite pleasant to delayed drivers and can back their
request up with their authority. A PA might not get as much cooperation especially
in an area where movie production often holds up traffic. I feel that "I'm sorry
sir" works better than "you're going to have to wait".
Keeping a road open whenever possible will keep shooting possible in areas that
we use a lot. Don't abuse your ability to close a road. Keep the road open and
get off the road whenever possible.
A POSSIBLE PROCEEDURE
After police are in position and people are stationed in every drive way and
side road AND camera and everything else is absolutely ready, the AD asks the
officers to hold traffic. After they confirm that the run is clear by describing
the last two cars let through, you can, with permission of the officer on your
end, start your run. Caution: two cars traveling faster than a slow car could
both have passed a slow car that is still on the way. After your vehicles get
to #2 (end of run) and are turned around you can wait until traffic is released
and held again. If you are not shooting and are in a single line you can follow
the traffic back to #1 (start), with permission of the traffic control officers.
Let them make the final decisions to go. The AD should reaffirm any doubts.
© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.