Master of mayhem director Michael Bay, last outing behind the camera was 2019’s ‘6 Underground’ for Netflix but his return to the big screen is with his new film Ambulance shot during the pandemic
In this breakneck thriller decorated veteran Will Sharp (Emmy winner YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II, Candyman, The Matrix Resurrections), desperate for money to cover his wife’s medical bills, asks for help from the one person he knows he shouldn’t—his adopted brother Danny (Oscar® nominee JAKE GYLLENHAAL). A charismatic career criminal, Danny instead offers him a score: the biggest bank heist in Los Angeles history: $32 million. But when their getaway goes spectacularly wrong, the desperate brothers hijack an ambulance with a wounded cop clinging to life and ace paramedic Cam Thompson (EIZA GONZÁLEZ, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Baby Driver) onboard. Over one day across the streets of L.A., three lives will change forever.
The ambition, from lighting to colour to locations, was to film Los Angeles and surrounding neighborhoods in a manner not recently seen on film before, if at all. The filmmakers wanted to capture the real L.A., not a Hollywood fantasy. the film featured two brand-new, top-of-the-line Falck “hero” ambulances, plus an additional three stunt ambulances, and a small fleet of miscellaneous ambulances.
A respected veteran of movies and television, ROB GIBSON (The Orville) served as the film’s supervising location manager. Armed with a long history working in Los Angeles and a close relationship with Film L.A., Gibson was able to obtain driving permits for a wide variety of city streets and freeway corridors, grids that few others have been able to secure. Mike Gunther selected stunt players DAN MAST, SLI LEWIS and HANNAH BETTS to double Jake Gyllenhaal (Danny Sharp), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Will Sharp) and Eiza González (Camille Thompson) respectively. Transportation/picture car coordinator Joey Freitas also doubles as a stuntman on set. That dual function helps the stunt and transportation departments to work seamlessly together.
The Type 3 ambulances used in the film are very top-heavy and measure at nine feet tall, 22 feet long and a little over 7 feet wide. At the end of the production, all the ambulances borrowed from Falck had to be returned in mint condition. Ambulances are not like driving a normal passenger car; they are much heavier, bulkier and taller which accounts for the precise training actual ambulance drivers (who are often also medical technicians) must go through
The production had a fleet of more than 30 police cars, black and whites and undercovers, plus multiple hero ambulances and stunt ambulances, as well as many other crash cars, catch cars and ND vehicles for stunts
The team put the three lead actors through their own rough-style stunt driving course. Gunther and his team set up cones in the parking lot and tested the actors’ driving abilities to see how comfortable they were driving under pressure. Once they understood the actors’ limits, Stunts would movie in and double the actor as needed.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II says: “My stunt driver, Sli Lewis, told me when to brake and how to turn, and he let me get aggressive. From the first day, they put us out in the open lot and let me drive fast and drive reckless. When the ambulance didn’t crash, and I felt I had the clear, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ Every day, we’d buckle up and I’d look at Jake, who had his head in his hands. And we’d hit the road. It was fun.” Jake Gyllenhaal says: “We were able to drive 80 miles an hour around closed-off streets, some of which were 15 blocks from where I grew up. That’s a kid’s dream. Growing up, my friends and I would play cops and robbers in our backyards. Now I’m doing it again in an actual movie.”
Special effects supervisor ERIC FRAZIER (The Lost City; Ghostbusters: Afterlife), his coordinator CRAIG ‘TEX’ BARNETT, lead pyrotech DAVID J. BARKER, and their effects technicians pulled off some of the largest explosions ever performed in downtown Los Angeles under the most extreme restrictions ever required due to strict COVID-19 protocols. Frazier and his team roll-caged 13 cars and SUVs in three weeks—normally it takes the crew five days to outfit one vehicle. Six of those 13 vehicles were equipped with cannons to facilitate rollovers. All were driven by Gunther’s 5150 Action stunt performers. The Special Effects department performed three to four heavy gags every day of production. Most motion pictures do one large effects piece per movie, not multiple action feats per day.
Instructed by Bay to find the newest and most exciting advances in technology, executive producer Michael Kase discovered drone specialists at LightCraft after seeing the impressive footage that DAVIS CLARK DILILLO and his team shot from the top of the Air Korea building—one of the tallest buildings in downtown L.A.—to the bottom in less than two seconds. Drone aerial coordinator DiLillo, co-founder and chief engineer of LightCraft, was charged with providing assistance and coordination for aerial drone shots using “FPV” (first-person vehicle) flown by DRL pilots JORDAN TEMKIN and DRL World Champion ALEX VANOVER.
The FPV drones can travel at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Vanover and Temkin operated the drones using HD VR headsets. These drones can dive from the top of a high-rise office building, down dozens of stories, and stop less than a foot from the ground, capturing shots that were previously thought impossible. Bay meticulously designed each of the drone sequences and would describe to DiLillo and the pilots what he imagined in his mind’s eye, then left the pilots to their own devices when it came to flying.
A chase scene in an underground parking garage was filmed at the L.A. Convention Center. A single drone was able to chase the ambulance for the entire sequence without stopping, weaving through dozens of cement caissons at high speed. Another intense scene was captured in L.A.’s Fashion District at The City Market, a vast 10-acre property with industrial-looking exteriors and stunning views of the downtown skyline, where Bay had Vanover and Temkin fly their drones, down a 150-foot loading dock, through free-standing porticos, under a vehicle in a mid-air flip, and up the front end of the fleeing ambulance.
In fall 2020, the producers learned that Michael Bay was looking for a project that would allow his crew a quick shoot in Los Angeles during the city’s pandemic lockdown and Ambulance is the result in typically explosive Michael Bay style
Read our review of Ambulance HERE
Watch the Ambulance trailer HERE