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locations for filming explosions


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#1 mike bowers

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 08:31 PM

I am looking to film an explosion of a car done by a professional demolitions expert. I do not know where I can do it. Does anyone have experience in this or know where I could do it? I am located around Chicago.
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#2 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 02 January 2009 - 11:43 PM

I am looking to film an explosion of a car done by a professional demolitions expert. I do not know where I can do it. Does anyone have experience in this or know where I could do it? I am located around Chicago.


Usually speaking, anything that may catch on fire is not a good place to do it next to, obviously. I have worked on enough movies with burn sites. Not familiar with the Chicago area, I can only offer general advice. Lots of cement on surrounding crash sites is usually the best. Parking lots, old abandoned factories, drag strips, etc. will be your best bet. Also, dirt lots could work provided there is not a lot of underbrush or trees nearby that can catch on fire. Dousing the surrounding area with water -or fire retardant/ extinguisher -before AND after is always a good idea. For most explosions, you will have lots of burning cinders flying at high speed for a good sized distance in 360 degrees from the actual explosion site, so steps have to be taken to ensure the fire doesn't spread that way.

On every burn site movie I have worked there is a (usually required and enforced) firetruck, firemen, policemen and paramedics, standing by as the action unfolds, and very tight security. The permits and fee associated with doing by-the-books on any public space are quite high, the penalties involved for not following the rules are pretty steep.

On private property one may get away from some of the requirements, although it is pretty stupid to have a fire burning and not something BIG to put it out with, if need be. During an explosion, no more than a few seconds reaction time is what anyone will get, so the difference between life and death pass anyone by in a flash. Southern California just experienced one of the most expensive wildfire seasons in history, and many fires were started by people who were either malicious or just not familiar with the awesome power of a raging, out of control wildfire.


During the fireball-inside-the-bus scene shot for the remake of The Eye, such tightly controlled burn-site explosion resulted in an out-of-control fire that engulfed a $270K fully decked-out Panaflex, of which only a carbonized frame was left. The firemen were present, but transpo was though to be standing by with a fire hose, and somehow the ball was dropped. The mag was retrieved almost instantaneously after the initial flash, so the footage was saved. But by the time the fire was put out, maybe five minutes, the camera itself was gone. Although the fire was controlled eventually with no further damage -other than the bus, of course -there was hell to pay (no pun intended) for some people.

So a word to the wise, be REALLY careful with fire and explosions. Not only a good demolition expert is needed for this type of filming. I know of a few top-notch Hollywood special efx people who have died or have been maimed when dealing with fire and / or explosives on set.

Check your local laws. And I would seriously discourage anyone from doing it on the sly, as the consequences can be pretty devastating for all parties involved, should something were to go wrong.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 02 January 2009 - 11:46 PM.

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#3 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:06 AM

For The Dark Knight, we shot a bunch of huge fire and explosion elements at a suburban fire department- they let us blow stuff up in their parking lot. Call up the Chicago and Illinois Film Offices, and call up local fire departments. But the answer is going to depend on you as well- in our case, since we were just shooting elements, we just waited until it was dark and shot the flames against either the asphault or the outside of the building. I don't know if that would be sufficient for you- if your explosion is supposed to take place in the middle of a street, shooting it in a parking lot probably won't work unless you're incredibly clever with framing. You're just going to have to work it out with the local people.
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 01:25 AM

empty parking lot, in front of an abandoned building on a street in the industrial section of town, in a field or abandoned lot, somewhere outside the city limits on a side or dirt road? B)
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#5 mike bowers

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 01:30 AM

empty parking lot, in front of an abandoned building on a street in the industrial section of town, in a field or abandoned lot, somewhere outside the city limits on a side or dirt road? B)


I am more interested in the legality/cost of the the explosion. This is more of an online short film, and I would be willing to work frames to hide the exact location of the explosion.
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 02:27 AM

And you talked a licensed explosives expert into going along with this? :blink: With that kind of power of persuasion, you should really think about becoming a producer! I would DEFIANTLY do it outside of the city, on private land with a paved surface all around you and o nothing to burn, MILES away from Chicago, 'cause if you blow up a car in the city WITHOUT permission and the proper paperwork, you WILL be spending a fair amount of time at the Graybar Hotel and that is NOT a joke. The local constables tend to frown on car-bombs they don't know about even if they're used in artist pursuits. My advice is do it CGI. MAJOR films are doing CGI explosions and fire for safety reasons so your little web movie should do just fine with them. Don't be an idiot! <_<

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 03 January 2009 - 02:31 AM.

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#7 K Borowski

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 02:46 AM

Now, if you were to do this in my old neck of the woods, you could probably set off a car bomb on 55th and Buckeye and not even get a traffic ticket. Just kidding, but only kinda?

I'd say, that for your budget, you can forget the legal method because you couldn't afford it.

Your best bet is private property/making friends with volunteer firefighters.
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#8 Dan Goulder

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:29 PM

Now, if you were to do this in my old neck of the woods, you could probably set off a car bomb on 55th and Buckeye and not even get a traffic ticket. Just kidding, but only kinda?

I'd say, that for your budget, you can forget the legal method because you couldn't afford it.

Your best bet is private property/making friends with volunteer firefighters.

Karl... How many times do I have to tell you? There IS no 55th and Buckeye.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:43 PM

Karl... How many times do I have to tell you? There IS no 55th and Buckeye.


Dee, if we wired *your car* up to explode at this location, would you be willing to drive it down 55th? B)

Didn't think so. BTW, I cast a Dee lure into the water, and I knew I'd get a bite. Just like fishing for real violence on 5-5. Throw an iPod in a window, set up your Mitchell in a car across the street, and you'll get a bite. Gotta love 5-5, even if some people can't find the Buckeye intersection as easily as others.
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#10 Dan Goulder

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Posted 03 January 2009 - 12:59 PM

Dee, if we wired *your car* up to explode at this location, would you be willing to drive it down 55th? B)

You don't need to wire it up. It's already a bomb. (or is that the bomb?)
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