“Quiet on Set!”
What it’s like to be on an active movie set
Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit Pinewood Studios in Atlanta, GA, to see the set of Ant-Man and the Wasp. We got to watch the cast and crew film a scene from the movie (I can’t tell you which one because I’d have to kill you). No, but really, I signed a giant NDA and pretty much signed away the rights to my first-born child if disclosed any secrets of what I saw being filmed. And I actually like that kid. I can only talk basics.
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PYM LAB • All this week I’m partnering with @disneystudios to bring you new @antmanandthewasp content on the blog. This photo is from the set visit last fall where we visited the Pym Lab set. * * #antmanandthewasp #antmanandthewaspevent #travelwithme #disneylife #disneyig #disneygram #disneyfan #disneypic #disneyphoto #disneyaddict #travelislife #howdoyoutravel #geekgirltravel #marvel #pymlabs #marvelcomics #hankpym
Interestingly enough, it reminds me of stage theatre in that the backstage areas are all dimly lit and the stage is lit up like the 4th of July. Because there are a lot of special effects in Ant-Man and the Wasp, this set has a green screen. Sooooo many monitors, all displaying video from different angles. You get a cool headset and audio device so you can hear what the actors ate saying and what the crew/director are saying, we well, because even though you aren’t that far away from the action, you can’t hear a thing from where you are watching. You see then shoot, and re-shoot, and re-shoot the same scene over and over from various angles. The scene we watched being filmed took them probably 30 minutes to film what will end up being a 2-minute interaction in the movie. Close up of person talking, cut to next person talking, cut to other person talking, but back to group talking, pan out. But it requires a few takes to make sure the directors and producers have what they want for the scene.
Walking on the set of Hank Pym’s Lab
For me, there are two things that I find most exciting about being on a movie set. The first is being able to find that part of the set in the final version of the trailers and the movie. Sometimes it’s very easy. Other times, it’s not so obvious and it’s really hard to find. Even when I’ve been in an extra in a movie scene, the way things get cut you never know what the final piece looks like. And with angles? It can be so hard! It’s an entertaining game, though: find the chair I sat in. You get the gist. The other fun part is for being on a set like a Marvel movie, I love the challenge of finding a good Easter Egg. Because so many of the movies contain Easter Eggs, it’s fun to see if you spot any while on set.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Hank Pym’s Lab is constructed of found objects. At first glance, it looks like a lab made of mainly metal and glass. Upon closer inspection, you realize some of those items are more than simply “meta.” In Hank Pym’s Lab as we were walking around the set, we found a few Easter Eggs and nerdy things that were very cool to see up close. It was also so much fun to see aspects of the lab in the trailer since we had seen them in real life!
The guitar amplifier volume knob and Buss fuse are great examples! Also, in the lab we spotted LEGO, Erector set pieces, a Wonderbread clip, a clothespin, and a safety pin—some of which can be seen in the trailer. I can’t wait for the movie to see what other Easter Eggs are planted.
Part of our visit also included getting to chat with Production Designer Shepherd Frankel and Executive Producer Stephen Broussard and hearing first-hand how they create the world of Ant-Man and the Wasp
Chatting with Production Designer Shepherd Frankel
Production Designer Shepherd Frankel has had the privilege to work on numerous Marvel projects, from Marvel One-Shots to photography on other full-length feature films. He was really excited to be the Production Designer on Ant-Man and said it was a perfect fit for him. He wouldn’t have wanted to be offered any other Marvel property.
Frankel loves how real the people are in the story of Ant-Man.
“What I loved so much about the first film is that it takes place in real-world environments,” Frankel said. “With real kinds of people, problems, and challenges. Like a normal guy trying to get his life together to be the best dad he can be for his daughter. Hank Pym is just trying to find his wife, and he’s got to go to any lengths to kind of figure out where she is, and also Hank Pym kind of choosing to make sure the science he’s created is used for good and not for bad.”
Frankel uses these aspects as part of the alternate universe environments in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
“All those things taking place in real life and real-world environments and what I like to call the alternate universes of Ant-Man is the macro universe and going into that world, so that is the inter-planetary travel of the first Ant-Man. Going into the macro universe, into the quantum realm, but also into these small environments where we set up a whole kind of production timeline to shoot and film in-camera with a bunch of innovative camera techniques and lenses and approaches to shoot.”
Frankel shared a little bit about camera magic in the production realm.
“There was not one oversized prop in that film, and we shot all these environments in camera because the camera behaved in certain ways, and we wanted there to be a sense of real, where walls were and how a camera can move and tell a story in these small environments, so that was a really cool technical element of the first Ant-Man.”
Frankel talked about how the stakes are higher in Ant-Man and the Wasp than they were in Ant-Man and we talked a little bit about what some of the characters have been up to, since it’s been a couple of years since the last movie.
“The stakes are higher, meaning, last time we saw Scott, he was in a prison in Civil War. He had just kind of found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he was in a prison,” Frankel said.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott is on house arrest. He wants to figure his life out and straighten his life out for his daughter. He knows if he wants visitation rights, he needs to be on the straight and narrow. He wants to have a relationship with his daughter—this is his utmost priority. It’s about family for Scott.
We also know that Hank Pym has been on the run and not visible because of the events of Ant-Man, so Hank Pym is still underground—with Hope—continuing his efforts to find Janet, and the clock is ticking. The family theme is continued with Hank and Hope and finding Janet.
And the Ant-ourage?
Luis, Dave, and Kirk are their own family, too. They are living the American Dream, running a small business, doing well, trying to grow it. The Ant-ourage also gives you a real sense of family and working together.
Ant-Man and the Wasp has a bit of a chase movie feel to it. Hank is on the run. Much of the movie takes place in the periphery of San Francisco, the in between-spaces of the city. The photography of the movie reinforces this sense of the characters being in the in-between and being on the run—Underneath bridges, in alleyways, etc. “The places where you can hide out, but still see the city where you’re rubbing up against very tactile environments and textures,” Frankel said.
“That was all part of the DNA of the original Ant-Man movie, and in the macro photography, in Luis’ apartment, in all the textures of the small world, of the macro world, so we’re doubling down on textures and turning that into the environments our characters take place in…Then we are also playing with scale.”
“You can see that in the environments where, in the macro world where you and I would kind of walk through this table and see these huge bottles and glasses and phones and pens—which we saw in the first film. In this one, we wanted to create environments where we, as full-size people, would walk into and question our scale. ‘Did we shrink down? I’m suddenly seeing things in a way I’ve never seen them before.’ If anyone’s been to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, you go underneath the whale and suddenly, you’re kind of, it’s a spiritual moment. You’re kind of like, ‘Whoa. What, I’m so small! What’s going on?’ And this is what a whale is like in real life. We wanted to have the audience have that sense of vertigo and feeling when they walk into some of these environments. In addition to just these older kind of textured characters’ places, we’ve added a lot of environments that reinforce our characters and their storyline.”
“And they’re very distinguished in their own visual palette and we’re playing a lot with scale and having Hope, having it so the audience will question if they’re shrunken down or not or if our characters are in this environment and also, hiding in plain sight is a big theme on the film and that’s something that you’ll see, visually, a lot.”
Chatting with Executive Producer Stephen Broussard
Executive Producer Stephen Broussard sat down with us when we toured the set of Ant-Man and the Wasp at Pinewood Studios in Atlanta to talk all things Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Where does Ant-Man and the Wasp pick up in the MCU?
The last time we saw Scott Lang was the end of Captain America Civil War and he was in the Raft Prison for helping Captain America during the events of Civil War.
Ant-Man is very much a family-oriented movie. Scott is a family man, despite having made a few poor decisions. He wants to be a good father to and have a good relationship with his daughter, Cassie. He intends to put his criminal ways behind him.
Between Captain America Civil War and Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott turned himself into the authorities for his participation in Civil War as part of the Sokovia Accords. He wants it off his record so he has a clean slate to start his life over with Cassie. Essentially, the film starts with the remaining 72-hours of Scott on house arrest in his apartment with Luis after pleading down and serving some time for his Civil War involvement.
Scott is rocking an ankle monitor and can’t leave the apartment during his 2-year sentence. Once that sentence is complete, he’s free to carry on as a free man, but he can’t be Ant-Man because he had to give that up under his plea deal as part of the Accords and plea deal. If he doesn’t complete the 2 years successfully, his sentence gets extended to 10 years.
But we all know in 72-hours, a lot can happen. Hank and Hope come crashing into his life claiming they need Scott to help find Janet van Dyne, who is still lost in the quantum realm.
Broussard talked a little about the design of Ant-Man and the Wasp being an intentionally contained movie within the MCU.
“Infinity War is this massive universe crashing together, all these characters together in a huge movie, the biggest movie we've ever made,” Broussard said.
“By design, like the first Ant-Man, this is a turn-back into really small, really contained, temporally contained, movie. The fact that it's only 3-days, by design, that I think will feel like a good chaser.”
Unlike Falcon in Ant-Man, we won’t see any cameos of other Avengers. Like Broussard mentioned regarding the containment of the 3-day timeline, they wanted it to feel contained, stand-alone so there are no huge cameos.
“We've opened it up by inviting all these other new characters in like the Randall’s and the Walton’s, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, a lot of new faces,” Broussard said.
On the addition of Ghost
Broussard said villain Ghost, portrayed by relative British newcomer Hannah John-Kamen was his favorite new character addition. She was just in Spielberg’s Ready, Player One, a few Black mirror episodes. Broussard described her as incredibly talented, intense, surprising, emotional, and vulnerable. “I’m excited for people to get to know her, “ he said.
Marvel Studios' ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018
On the comedic elements of Ant-Man and the Wasp
Broussard said they really tried to ramp up the comedy in this one. “Michael Pena, who’s so amazingly funny.” Other new cast like Randall Park, he’s hilarious. “It’s a lot of riffing, a lot of improv. I've made a lot of movies at Marvel, I've been there for a while, and I wanted to do this because I wanted to make a movie that's as funny as can be.”
On the Ant-ourage’s criminal activities
They're starting a security company called X-Con, because who better to protect you from criminals than ex-criminals. They’re trying to become legit. Scott plans to join the business when he’s out of house arrest. He’s been helping out where he can from the house. They’re trying to be on the up and up. Uniforms, clients, pitches, the works.
One of the many reasons Scott is frustrated with Hank and Hope’s timing is that he is almost off house arrest, and he has a job waiting for him. Naturally, the Ant-ourage gets swept up in the rescue mission.
On what’s new?
Shrinking and growing is a new concept. There was a little bit in the first movie with the Ant-Man suit and the discs, but that’s expanded since the introduction of Giant Man in Captain America Civil War.
“You have two heroes, now obviously continuing to grow, you have Giant Man as established by Civil War, so you know that he can get huge, so we're playing with—we never call it this in the movie—the idea of Variable Man, if you can go this big and Giant Man, you can go anywhere in between. So he sees 20 feet, 18 feet, and what happens is the suit breaks and he gets stuck at 3 feet, so we've got a whole sequence where they basically have to break into his Cassie’s school because she took something she shouldn't have that they needed, and of course the suit starts going wrong, and he gets stuck at yay high about the size of all her classmates, you kind of see where I'm going. And having to sneak through with an oversized hoodie with and teachers spotting him and it's Paul with 5 o'clock shadow, it's like, ‘What’s going on?’”
Other new concepts include buildings, cars that both grow and shrink. Imagine a chase scene with growing and shrinking cars!
On Hank and Hope’s relationship
Hope and Hank’s relationship was a bit contentious at the end of Ant-Man. They had a bit of a contentious father-daughter relationship in the first film, and it was still a little rocky at the end.
In Ant-Man and the Wasp, as the film picks up, they've patched some of those issues, and they're united in the mission to find Janet. “So when we find them, they're kind of simpatico. And they're also on the same page about being annoyed at Scott. So it's kind of this like two against one kind of thing and he's wrapped up in it in this way that he has to be,” Broussard said.
Broussard touched on the fact that the movie isn’t called Ant-Man 2 but Ant-Man and the Wasp.
“Returning to the theme of family, so much of what this film is about, it's called Ant-Man and the Wasp, it's not called Ant-Man 2, is about these teams, them coming together as partners, and learning that a partnership—if you can find the right person—can make you both better, that you both can support each others’ shortcomings and maximize your best attributes and that that in itself can be an act of bravery.”
Surrendering yourself and having the courage to let someone into your life, as mirrored by Hank and Janet’s partnership when they were younger (when they were the original Ant-Man and Wasp) and what that did to Hank when he lost his wife, how that affected him, how he became not as nice of a person and wasn’t there for his daughter growing up, and it drove this wedge between them. And it's so much about the coming together, that kind of thing, and never surrendering yourself and your own identity, obviously, but learning where that line is, where that balance can work, I think to make a better partnership. “
On how the characters have evolved since Ant-Man
Scott’s been through this adventure where he decided whether or not he wanted to be Ant-Man. At the start of Ant-Man and the Wasp, he’s still unsure of how he feels about being Ant-Man. Once again, being Ant-Man crashes into his in a way that is counterproductive to him being present and a good dad for his daughter.
“So when we meet him, he's basically saying, ‘I can't do this anymore, I need to step away from this.’ And conversely, we're meeting Hope who’s finally allowed by her overprotective father, after these years, to step into the role of hero,” Broussard said.
“So she's sort of off the leash, off the chain, going crazy, kicking ass. We meet her in a really heightened amazing heroic place. And they're not the happiest with each other, or I should say, Hope’s not the happiest with him. Because in going off and getting himself arrested, he turned the same government agents that are trying to keep him under wraps on to them. They're like, ‘Oh, where did you get this equipment? What are these suits? Oh, is this Hank Pym’s technology?’ And they go knock on Hope and her father’s door, and they're like, ‘You need to sign this and there's a whole new thing, we're monitoring all this.’ And they're like, ‘Yeah, thanks, but no thanks.’ Because as well established in the first movie, they don’t take very well to authority, they never have,” Broussard explained to us.
“So they kind of go on the run, and they're on the run while they're trying to find mom. So they're doing this incredibly difficult, incredibly complicated task of locating where Janet is in the quantum realm, and how to get there while the government is on them. And they blame Scott for that. ‘If you hadn’t run off, if you hadn’t gone to help the Avengers without consulting us, maybe we wouldn't have to do this out the back of a van.’ But being that it's Hank Pym, and that he has access to shrinking and growing technology, he's got this big building. And it's sort of a nondescript building that they bring to Scott at early in the movie. “
And it looks kind of derelict, and he almost feels bad for them, like oh you've fallen on hard times. I'm so sorry that me bringing the heat down on you has caused you to have to live like this. But then they go inside and sort of the rest of this wall is this amazing lab that they've grown inside with these found parts. Like if you go in there and you look around, you'll see LEGOs grown huge, you'll see an erector set kind of makes the architecture of the place. Volume knobs from guitar amplifiers are huge, because Hank Pym is not a billionaire, so he's grown small things big to afford to do this.”
“And this is essentially the lab that they're finding Janet in, with this thing called the Tunnel, which is that crazy conical thing. And because they're on the run, they leave this building, they walk outside, they're going to get the van, and Scott’s like, ‘I can't be here, I'm under house arrest what am I doing here, you've got to take me home,’ and they're like, ‘We need you Scott and he goes, well can't I just wait inside?’ And Hank shrinks the portable lab to the size of a suitcase he can roll away with the touch of a button to the size of a suitcase with a handle.
“So the building is kind of this mobile thing that they move around the city to kind of stay on the move. And because it's also the lab that is going to find mom, it becomes the thing everyone is chasing in the movie to get, because the villains also for reasons that will become clear, need to get to the quantum realm, they need to find Janet as well. So everyone, the football at the center of this movie is a building, which is kind of fun, because it's growing in odd places and moving around the city and stuff like that. And people are taking it from one another and you forget that it's literally a building, which is cool. “
On the heart of the family element of Ant-Man and the Wasp
One of the aspects that Broussard really loves about the movie is that it’s a movie about family much more than a lot of the other Marvel movies.
It’s a movie about fathers and daughters and parents and children, and there are all these parallel relationships.
You've got Scott and his daughter Cassie.
You've got Hank and Hope, and Hope missing her own mother, Janet.
And Janet hasn’t been in Hope’s life for nearly 30 years. What does that mean? What does that do to someone when they grow up after having had a parent die/disappear? What does that reunion look like when they show back up? The reunion can almost be as traumatic, in a lot of ways, as the separation was.
“I think I love kind of delving into that because it feels like a unique corner of that universe. Because they're kind of regular people, they're not billionaires, they haven't been bombarded by gamma rays or bit by spiders, so they just kind of feel like Scott’s a regular guy. Up until very recently, Hope had a regular job. So it's cool to sort of explore those dual pathways,” Broussard said.
Broussard was so excited to share with us the scene we got to see filmed, kind of the surrogate family coming together with Scott and his partner Hope and their daughter Cassie having a sweet moment, near the end of the film.
Thanks to Walt Disney Studios for bringing me to Atlanta on an all-expense paid trip. As always, all opinions are my own.
Ant-Man and the Wasp flies into theatres July 6, 2018.