Peter Lyons Collister, ASC, has spent the last four months shooting second unit for Point Break, a remake of the 1991 action movie directed by Kathryn Bigelow and shot by Don Peterman, ASC. The new film, directed and shot by Ericson Core, expands upon the original, which has become something of a cult favorite. In addition to surfing and skydiving action, the new Point Break will include wingsuit flying, snowboarding and extreme mountain climbing. The assignment will take Peter to Angel Falls in Venezuela, and to Switzerland and Mumbai. Several other units are working, including one that’s shooting big-wave surfing in Tahiti.
When I connected with Peter, he was in Walenstadt, Switzerland, where he was finishing wingsuit scenes and planning the trip to Angel Falls. There, he and his crew will camp out for six weeks and shoot while hanging from adjacent cliffs. There’s no Internet or telephone connectivity where he’s headed, so his preparations included buying a satellite phone and downloading the first season of the original Twilight Zone series for downtime entertainment.
Peter says the Point Break producers originally thought they could get extreme-sports experts to shoot footage of the film’s varied action. “But the fact is, those filmmakers make YouTube videos with GoPros — they’re not storytellers,” says Peter. “We have a mandate to try and make everything as real as possible so it doesn’t become some sort of video game. We don’t have any digital characters doing extreme sports. Our wingsuit flyers are actually flying through a crack in the cliff that’s 50 feet wide. We’re making a real film here. You could say it’s a documentary about extreme sports with a Zen feeling to it.”
Not long ago, Peter did somewhat similar second-unit stunt work, albeit closer to home, on The Amazing Spider-Man and The Green Hornet, both shot by John Schwartzman, ASC. Peter says the prospect of being in such a remote location for so long reminds him of the shoot for The Blue Lagoon (1980), for which he spent five months working on Nanuya Levu, a “deserted” island in Fiji. (The director of photography was Néstor Almendros, ASC.)
On Point Break, Peter and his team are shooting with Arri Alexas when possible. Carbon-fiber Red Dragons are being mounted on helmets, surfboards and Octocopters. This footage will sometimes be supplemented with occasional and very quick cuts of imagery from smaller Blackmagic Design “pocket” cameras capturing in raw format.
The wingsuit flyers have had to strengthen their neck muscles to accommodate the weight of the Red cameras, according to Peter. “When they pull their chutes at the end of the flight, the jerk on their necks is very strong — about double what you get with a [Canon] 5D,” he says. “So, they have had to adapt. But the footage looks great; it certainly doesn’t have that GoPro look, with the fisheye lens and limited dynamic range.”
Another person impressed by the footage was Jeb Corliss, a professional skydiver and BASE jumper who is a well-known wingsuit flyer. “Jeb watched a lot of our footage in the DIT trailer,” Peter says, “and he said, ‘You guys are showing me things I’ve never seen. I’ve never seen the route from this perspective.’ We’re not just trying to make it exciting; we’re also trying to tell the characters’ story and how they change emotionally during these extreme-sports events, because that’s how it’s written in the script. That’s what we do: storytelling.
“Jeb is my new best friend,” Peter adds. “We’re going bull-shark diving in Fiji in April.”
Point Break is scheduled for release in July 2015.