My car is playing a primary role without me in Edge of Darkness. It's ironic because when I bought my current car the one thing that disappointed me was the color. It's silver and I wanted some odd, bright color so that I could find it easily in a crowded parking lot. I didn't want a car that blends in and gets lost. Well, the very fact that it's an average color is why it get used in so many films. In EOD it has been parked right next to Mel Gibson and the action with 1st unit, generally while I sit in holding for the day or work very deep background. Lately I've been driving it in highway scenes with 2nd unit.
I am a careful and sometimes timid driver. When Boston Casting put out a request for "Precision Drivers" I figured ... "That can't be me". However at an AFTRA/SAG conservatory the folks at BC said if you've ever worked on a film driving your car then you fit the bill. Well I have been driving many nights and a few days. It's mostly fine, the most difficult thing for me is backing up (I had predicted this would be an issue). Sometimes you need to back up in a hurry for up to a block length on a road that curves with someone else in the lane next to you. I keep planning to go somewhere and practice this so I don't zigzag.
We have made the news a couple of times because they have been using major thoroughfares during rush hour. Secretly, it's kind of cool to be in this blocked off section of the highway driving as if you are regular traffic. I feel a bit safer driving this specified route and speed. Fortunately my car can go from 0-50 in seconds. It does get harrowing when they scream on the walkie "Everyone 50 miles now!" and the car in front of you is not up to speed and you know you are not supposed to put on your break lights while they are shooting. Personally, I prefer to have a PA in my car. That way I always know exactly what I am expected to do. For anyone new to driving in films. Here are a few tips: once you arrive at your set location turn off your motor (it'll be a while before cameras actually start rolling). When they say "We're about to start, turn your motors on and put it in drive" it's actually better to put it in neutral and be prepared to quickly switch to drive (this way you don't have your foot on the brakes for 10 minutes or so while they get ready for action). Always, always, always arrive with a full tank of gas (I was surprised that some people arrived with a quarter tank) even if our original arrival location is Boston you never know whether the driving will be done in another city on the highway. One night we drove well over 100 miles. Go to the bathroom more than once after you arrive for check-in because once the driving starts there may not be a break for hours.
We are each given a walkie talkie and a number to put on our visor. Then we get in our cars and follow the procession to a breakdown lane on a highway. It's at this point that things get sticky. Say you are #11 and they have said numbers 1-12 are in Tim's group. Then they give some (for me) convoluted directions about what Tim's group is to do. Next they tell you to switch to channel 9 (that's fine). Here's the weird part they tell each car, by number, what lane you are in and who to follow. When the procession left for the breakdown lane it was in arbitrary order and now we are single file on a highway so there is no way to tell where the car you are to follow is located. Once you've done the drive and returned to the breakdown lane the order is, once again, different. I like to follow directions precisely so this is stressful to me. Most of the drivers use common sense to avoid danger, but occasionally a driver from the regular public sneaks in and creates a problem. I always wonder about the cars that get in between us when we are a group of 10-30 cars driving with our flashers on. Wouldn't you figure something must be going on and I shouldn't slip in between that group?
All and all this has been a positive experience. I have grown more confidence with my driving abilities. I won't be putting in for stunt driving, but I may volunteer to drive more readily on another film. the very best thing about driving with 2nd unit is that you are not seen so you can wear warm comfortable clothing. I have a down coat and warm furry blanket in my car for overnights. I like the crew and the other drivers. This has been a lovely experience.