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On Location at the Oakland Aviation Museum

Shooting a scene inside the cockpit of an experimental jet is a pretty tall order for a micro budget film. I had considered building a cockpit set from scratch, but being and airplane geek, it occurred to me to reach out to one of my favorite local aviation museums. Fortunately for us, Scott Buckingham and great people of the Oakland Aviation Museum graciously gave us permission to shot inside their jets. The museum is run by a great crowd of aviation buffs who really bent over backwards for us. Movie or no movie, it was a pleasure just spending the day with them. I can’t thank them enough for their help.

Lead actress Forsyth Harmon, totally in character, climbs into an A-7 Corsair.

Forsyth plays an X-35 test pilot named Elise. Without access to a real X-35, we used selected shots of different jets to imply the presence of the real thing. In this shot we use an F-14 Tomcat as a body-double. Sound Engineer Scott Wells and Assistant Camera Terry VerHaar prepare for the next take.

Once again the staff of the Oakland Aviation Museum lends a huge helping hand. Scott Buckingham operates a the man-lift, getting Director of Photography Samir Sinha in perfect camera position.

There's nothing like the real thing. Samir Sinha and Terry VerHaar discuss framing to get the F-14's massive strut in the shot. Since we couldn't show the aircraft in its entirety we figured details like the landing gear would really sell the shot. Notice Elise's totally authentic wardrobe. The flight suit and jacket are part of Assistant Director Brian Clarke's collection, augmented with a real g-suit, helmet and oxygen mask supplied by the museum.

Shooting inside the museum's A-6 simulator. Unaware that the museum had this amazing piece of equipment, I had planned to shoot all cockpit interiors with the A-7 outside. Again, this was a real simulator in service with the Navy during the Vietnam era. Although the cockpit is articulated on hydraulic jacks, only some instrument lights were functional. Still, the simulator was a huge windfall asset.

Assistant Camera Terry VerHaar used a hand-held spot to simulate the motion of the sun relative to the aircraft. The effect is dirt simple but the shadows cast along the instrument panel lend realism to the scene.

Yours truly talking through a scene with Forsyth.