To celebrate the release of A QUIET PLACE on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital now, Special Effects Supervisor Mark Hawker discusses working on the film and setting up the key effects scenes.
What appealed to you about A Quiet Place?
MH: Just the story, you know, it’s the whole thing about being quiet. The first, whatever it is, half or three-quarters of the movie without hearing any dialogue or anything – I think’s really cool.
Were you worried about that at first?
MH: No, I mean, not really ’cause we’re still doing effects and stuff like that. So, yeah, the lack of dialogue was fine. The only thing I mean is, on set, which is normal I guess, is just how quiet it is when we’re shooting.
What was your initial reaction to the script?
MH: The whole concept of the aliens and everything was really cool. The farm is pretty much what I envisioned when I read the script was some place like this. And it’s a great place.
What conversations did you have with John?
MH: Yeah, Jeff Beecroft and John, I talked to them a bunch about– the main things concern were the– the safe room flooding, the– the silo set, which is, you know, really complicated, lots of steps. You know, the kid’s trapped in the corn and stuff like that. And then we had the– the pickup truck, the whole, uh, you know, the aliens bashing that up and gimbaling that. And, um, doing, uh, a blind drive forward so it looks like the kids, you know, Marcus is driving it or coasting it down the hill and stuff like that.
What conversations did you have with the filmmakers?
With John and Beecroft, the main concerns were the corn; the complexity of it, the amount of different rigs that we need and, you know, having the kids actually sink in corn. That was like probably the major one. And then we had the safe room flooding, the concepts and thoughts about how that would be. And then, the pickup truck with the aliens attacking it and Marcus coasting down the hill, building a blind drive and things like that.
What is the threat in the film?
MH: The interaction with the environment. We’re doing some of where the creatures are in the house basement thrashing about. And we’re pulling and yanking and throwing things on the ground. Then Scott Farrar comes in and does his magic by putting the creature in there then interacts with our stuff.
How is this different from your other projects?
MH: Different in the way of location and the lack of Internet and cell service. It’s just it’s a blessing and then it also definitely hurts trying to get things done and stuff.
How early did you start conversations?
Jeff Beecroft called me probably earlier in the year and just said I got this little project. It’s just a couple little things for you. There’s a silo with corn, tearing holes in the side, and then a flooded basement. Besides that there’s no other effects, is what he told me. As it is daily, things come up and change. John’s really great with coming up with some really cool things. And then we kinda try to get it done for him.
They planted the corn.
MH: Right, yeah, and that’s like months and months and months of prep on that, you know?
Take me through the quicksand rig.
MH: We just started shooting it yesterday. And we almost got everything. I like to call it the quick corn. I’ve done like quicksand rigs before, but this one was unique in a way that there was the children. And then both of them are sinking. But also John wanted them to struggle and move forward. And as they move forward they start sinking. So they travel like five feet, trying to get to each other. Usually you just have like a hole. And you have a diaphragm latex that keeps all the sand or the corn from falling. But this actually had to travel. So it was kind of one of the same rigs that we’ve done before. But then it was complicated by them having to walk and travel.
How do you allow for the kids’ safety?
MH: No harnesses or anything. I mean they’re standing on some platforms underneath. And basically they control the rate of sinking. And it was great ’cause with Emily and Marcus they had a really good time just doing it. It was like a big game for them and they really sold it. I had my effects guys do the testing and stuff. And they can’t act. It’s just funny watching them do it. But when the kids did it it’s just like, oh my gosh, that looks really good.
What materials are you using?
It’s corn and corn’s kinda heavy so we had to take that into account. It’s not like usually when we do like a quicksand rig. We don’t even use sand. We use vermiculite and stuff like that. But it’s hard to find a substitute for corn, especially as tight as they were. So we used the real corn, and it worked out pretty good.
Tell me about the water gag in the basement.
MH: Water gag in the basement was about 30 inches of water. There’s a whole sequence when she’s underneath the stairs and we got this whole sheet of water falling on them. It was nothing too complicated, but there’s always leaks and stuff like that somewhere. But we actually did really good. We had it all worked out. I think we still have to go back to that one but all in all John loved it. We had all sorts of options for them with the water drips and spraying water.
There’s a candle that came up at the last second that had the few little drops to put out the candles, just before she wakes up. It was a good rig.
Is it being done with stunt doubles?
MH: No, they were doing all that. I mean we did a little bit of shooting where we use a stunt double for the creature for the interaction with the water and stuff like that. But, no, the cast has been doing a lot of it.
How closely have you had to work with the visual effects team?
MH: With Scott Farrar, I’ve worked with him before on Transformers. We’ve got a good relationship. He just comes up and says, hey, Hawker, we need to bash the side of the truck in. So we come up with a rig to bash the side of the truck in and stuff.
Tell me about the truck gimbal.
MH: We shot in location of where the kids are in there and the aliens are attacking and bashing it about and stuff like that. John had very specific moves that he wanted to do, with the truck getting hit, with the back end swinging out one way, swinging the other way. ‘Cause in the process of the creatures attacking the truck that’s what pushes it to get it going down the hill and actually coast. And they’re able to escape.
Have you used this type of gimbal before?
MH: Yeah, this is something that I already had. And we just had to make modifications to it, to make it work.
How do you pull off the kids actually driving the truck?
MH: We have a thing that we call a rooftop drive. And basically we take all the controls from the driver’s seat and put it on the roof of the car.
Is there a rig for the silos?
MH: The exterior silo? We have fire rigs that have got the signaling where they signal to the other farmers and stuff where they light the fire. That’s a special rig too because of the proximity of Lee to it and of John to the fires and stuff like that. It’s all basically like an expensive fireplace at your house where you push a button and it just lights.
And that’s what we have up there. It’s very controlled and all that ’cause it’s pretty high up in the air. We can’t be right next to it.
What’s it been like with John?
MH: He’s very passionate about this. This is like his– his baby that he’s developed. It’s just great being part of that, trying to give him everything that he asks for and everything.
What experience will the audience get from this?
MH: I think the part about just being quiet. You know, the lack of sound.
Any other gags?
MH: Well, we did fireworks and stuff like that, which was really cool. John didn’t want Boston type fireworks and all that. But we, you know, brought in a Boston fireworks John to actually handle it. And we had a good day of doing fireworks in a dried cornfield. No fires or anything. It worked out really well.
What kind of fireworks were they?
No color scheme. It was basically kinda like what farmers would be able to get at a fireworks stand that they’ve rigged. And this was not to signal, but to distract the aliens if something happened.
Farmers are very resourceful.
MH: Yeah, and I always say that special effects guys are like farmers in a way, you know, being resourceful with everything that you got.. All the farmers from this area keep coming to us and talking just ’cause they like all the equipment that we got. There’s a lot of similarities there.
Has everything gone off as planned?
MH: Yeah, everything’s gone really well.