The Transformers films are a complete sensory overload, filled with dizzying set pieces and complex digital effects that continue to push the visual dynamics of modern action movies. For the latest entry in the series, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the filmmakers pulled out all the stops, increasing the scale of the previous films by having the Autobots and Decepticons wage war through different cities across the United States.
The movie was shot on location in Los Angeles, Detroit, Central Florida, Chicago, and Washington D.C., and relied on hundreds of crew members to help coordinate the production. This included the efforts of seven graduates of Full Sail’s Film program who worked in different departments on the shoot. Among them were Rodney Aquino, Kathryn Gersh, Thomas Haring, Jonathan Jamison, and Brian Logan Walden, as well as Brian Bourne and Jeffrey Hart, who spoke to us about their work as production assistants on *Transformers: Dark of the Moon*.
Brian Bourne joined the film in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for a week assisting the audio crew, as well as handling crowd safety around the city’s Triangle Park, which was the location for a high-speed car chase. Since the businesses in the area were open during filming, he helped make sure that the public could still move around without putting themselves in danger of the elaborate special effects.
“Doing safety was a handful because there was so much going on at one time,” he says. “They did a lot of shots with mortars and flares and all kinds of rigged explosives. They even put tempered glass in the first four floors of the Michigan National Bank building, and then had a cop car race by and blow out all the windows and rain down debris. You only get one shot at things like that, so we really had to work at crowd control to keep everyone out of the way. It was pretty unbelievable to be working in the middle of it all.”
That frenetic action is a Transformers hallmark, and Jeffrey Hart was also involved in his share of breathtaking moments during his time on the project, where he was able to travel with the filmmakers and assist at a number of different locations. Some of his most memorable days included working on a shoot at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as well as helping out during a huge action sequence on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
“The D.C. scenes were incredible: We shot at the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, but the best was when we were in front of the Capitol,” he says. “There were thousands of people watching while they staged this huge battle. There was a ridiculous amount of fire and explosions going off for hours, it was just insane. For me to be standing next to the people yelling action and pushing the buttons to make the explosions fire, you really couldn’t get any better.”
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is overflowing with epic sequences like that, which have helped make it another massive success for the franchise – becoming the highest grossing film of 2011 in only two weeks of release. The experiences these grads had during the production are the kind of once in a lifetime opportunities you don’t get in any other industry but film, and both were proud to have contributed to a series that continues to resonate with audiences, including themselves.
“I like to enjoy the content I’m working on, and it doesn’t get much better than Transformers,” Brian says. “You have all this high-end equipment, great actors, and all these creative ideas coming together. To bring that vision full circle isn’t easy, so it makes it incredible to watch how they’re able to actually do it. That’s when you’re wide-eyed like a little kid who just got a giant ice cream cone. I was really proud to be a part of it all.”
“I remember during my first day I was standing near Michael Bay’s monitors,” Jeffrey says. “He just did this shot where Shia [LaBeouf] flips over a table at a plane hangar, and it looked really awesome. After he cut it, he turned to me and was like, ‘That was pretty cool right?’ It was amazing because just a year before I was at Full Sail watching Transformers 2, and thinking that I’d do anything to be a part of the third one. So words can’t explain how fortunate I felt to be in that position on that movie.”