LMGA Awards take profession to the "next level"
Ahead of the first ever Location Managers Guild of America (LMGA) Awards on 29 March, we spoke to location manager Robin Citrin about her career to date, from stumbling across the iconic tree-lined road in Rain Man to scouting the eerie hospital for Scorsese’s Shutter Island.
You’ve just finished the Wachowski’s sci-fi fantasy Jupiter Ascending. How did that go?
What I love about my job is that’s no movie is the same. Eighty percent of this movie takes place in outer space, and was shot primarily in London. As the directors are from Chicago, they wanted to film part of the movie there and as Illinois has a tax incentive, we chose that city to shoot an aerial sequence at dawn.
We shot for 13 days, from 5am – 7am, throughout downtown Chicago. The weather was perfect, the lighting amazing, and we had the actors flying through the canyons. With tremendous co-operation from the city of Chicago, we achieved it - it’ll be an impressive looking film.
Mila Kunis in the eye-popping Jupiter Ascending
What's the most challenging movie you've worked on?
Every movie is different and has its own set of challenges. For Planet of the Apes (2001), the difficulties were making it work logistically in order capture the beauty of locations which had no sense of civilisation. We had to construct roads to where we were going, and place our tents and trucks in remote locations.
Working with Tim Burton was demanding because he’s very creative, has an amazing outlook and takes on things that are a little different than other directors, so you have to think outside the box. Shutter Island (2010) was also tough as we had to create an island and a hospital.
Walhberg and co. in Burton's take on Planet of the Apes
Which location has impressed you the most?
I scouted for Cold Mountain (2003) for almost a year and the producers ended up shooting in Romania. The location was an impressive, raw, untouched landscape that you don’t always find.
The southern states of America are impressive too. We shot Walk the Line (2005) there, in places such as Arkansas, Memphis and Mississippi - it was perfect as they had elements that still looked like the ‘50s.
2005's Walk the Line
What location are you most proud of finding?
The hospital for Shutter Island. It was a closed down state hospital [Medfield State Hospital in Boston] and with the incredible talent of the production designer, Dante Ferretti, it was transformed into this gothic looking, creepy hospital that worked great for the film. It became a really strong feature of the movie.
I’m also proud of the tree-lined road in Rain Man (1988). By coincidence we stumbled upon this location in Kentucky which happened to be the road leading to a convent we used for Dustin Hoffman’s character’s care home. The location became so iconic it was used in the film’s poster. We were supposed to be in Ohio at the time and had the film commissioner with us – I don’t think he was very happy we were bragging about a location in Kentucky...
The iconic movie poster for Barry Levinson's Rain Man
You worked on the period feature Gangster Squad (set in 1949). What was that like?
It was tough. We filmed it in LA and everything is modified there. We had to remove parking meters, street lamps, parking lines on the street – we had to remove pretty much everything.
We also closed down Hollywood Boulevard for four nights for a big shoot-out at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, however due to an unfortunate real-life shooting incident that happened in a movie theatre we had to reshoot the scene in Chinatown.
You’ve filmed several movies in Las Vegas. Is it difficult to film there?
21 (2008) was difficult. None of the hotels wanted to be associated with a story where you counted cards in a hotel room, so we had to approach independent hotels like Planet Hollywood.
With a movie like the Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz rom-com What Happens in Vegas (2008), which was extremely commercial, the doors flew open. So it just depends on the content of your script. Jump several years and you have actors hanging from rooftops in The Hangover Part III.
Shooting. Literally, in 2013's Gangster Squad
How important is the LMGA for your career?
A lot of people don’t know what we actually do; there’s not really that level of understanding – we don’t just finding the bathroom and let everyone know where the nearest exit is. So the fact we have an organisation that address the efforts of location managers to the industry is extremely important.
The LMGA Awards takes place this month. How important is the event to the industry?
The awards ceremony takes everything to the next level and acknowledges our contribution to the look of a film, so it’s incredibly important. It’s a way to recognise location managers not just here in LA but across the globe, as well as film commissions internationally. They aren’t about, “Hey I was able to close a freeway down for ten days so I’m a great location manager!” There’s a lot more to it and it takes skill and finesse to do our job.
The LMGA Awards will take place on 29 March at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills. For further details, click here. To find out more about Citrin and her work please visit her website.