After Nearly four months of Shooting in and around the Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Hollywood, Florida area "Rock of Ages has wrapped!
Photo Credit: David James
As a young adult of the 80s I was thrilled to be a part of the massive stage set at the Hard Rock with Tom Cruise! Here is my full account:
Rock Of Ages Set Exclusive set report July 18th 2011 © 2011 Danny Shamon
The casting call said to be at Sunlife Stadium in Miami Gardens at 1pm wear all black and dress in 80s style hair and make-up for girls etc. This was an open call, which means anyone could attend. Only hard core fans would go to the stadium on a Monday afternoon in 95 degree weather! They wanted true metal and hard rock fans. I arrived about 12:40pm.
They had a pavilion set up I saw and several school buses lined up. I knew this was going to be a secret private shoot. I was instructed to leave all transmitting electronics in the car and I got to the booth and we were given a raffle ticket, for prizes, and a Black wristband on my right arm.
I was patted down, metal wand searched, and hand searched. Then it was on the bus off to the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Fl! I was ready to rock 80s style!
Buses arrived in order and the earlier you got to the arena the more of the filming you were able to either be a part of or observe. I arrived at the Hard Rock at 1pm.
We were instructed to sit in a certain section, as I entered the arena I was transported back to the 80s as the entire set was massive, huge, thousands of lights and all using 80s technology! It was time to Rock! It was the largest stage I have ever seen at the Hard Rock!
The first sequence was with Julianne Hough and Tom Cruise and they were shooting the singing for Don't Stop Believing by Journey. All aspects of the song were shot different angles.
I moved very close to the stage for this part of the filming. I got my on camera moment when they replaced my obscure 80s band t-shirt with a cool Arsenal, Rock of Ages T-Shirt! I wanted to observe all parts of the set including the second unit groupie shoot so this will be my only on cam moment. Cruise and Hough were smiling throughout all of the takes, I especially liked what Julianne had to say after shooting she said "you guys make me feel what it was like to be a live singer and alive in the 80s and experience it" She kept thanking the audience. This was more than a job it was fun for them. The musical director from Glee Adam Anders was instructing us in the sing along parts. He was very upbeat and honest guy. Liked his style, see why the show is a big hit. He also offered a role on Glee to the one who could scream the loudest at one point later in the shoot.
The Director Adam Shankman proclaimed "He was just a gay Jewish man from L.A. living his dream to ROCK!"
For this segment I decided to step out of the box. During a re-shoot of the main explosive sequence, I decided not to go back into the arena, and saw a small green screen backdrop set with a couple of different sized ladders with cameras attached to each one. Three Cameras in all, at a variety of angles. Also a guy with an ipod cam from a distance.
A group of four or five young groupie girls were screaming at the top of their lungs and moving in different angles. The costumes were perfect, and they hired women of all sizes. This shoot had to be rushed as they were shooting the main sequence inside the arena. The second unit folks were telling the girls to look into this cam that cam and scream and cheer.
It was quite funny, but I kept my distance and observed. The garbage workers at the Hard Rock have seen it all, but even a few of them stopped in their tracks with their little cart for a bit to watch. All of the ladies were smokin' hot, young and just screaming although they were screaming to playback of 80s tunes. Actually it did remind me of the 80s rock scene, being in my 40s I remember it all! A tall blond in thigh high red and white leggings and skin tight mini shorts was stumbling around after her portion of the shoot and damn near fell into me, not the worst thing that could happen, but already have a lady. I was like are you OK? She said she had lost part of her heel, and she quickly stumbled off. After that I had to go, my ears hurt from all the screaming and I was about ready to laugh.
I have to thank my buddies Kantz and Chyna for this tip on the second unit filming!
The massive stage had so many lights, all were original from the 80s. I spoke with lighting director Robert Piecuch and asked him how many. He was like "I have no idea but it took us 18 hours to set up!" His crew deserve credit for this difficult sequence, as this was an epic event. The stage was a bit like the stage from the David Lee Roth Eat Em and Smile tour with the lights rows upon rows. With four huge lighting pods that spelled out the letters Rock of Ages.
The back line of amps were of course a massive wall double stacked of Marshall Amplifiers and cabinets . Everything was original 80s. There was even old school fog machines simulating smoke in the arena.
The crew filmed huge explosions, loud booming noises, smoke, and raining fire from the top of the lighting rig. The explosive aspect slightly misfired first time around. While I was watching the second unit filming (outside the main arena) a I heard a thunderous boom and the doors opened and people poured out while a billowing cloud of smoke arose from the now I felt I was transported back to the 80s where I went to see concerts back at a place called the Hollywood Sportatorium. During the whole shoot smoke detectors in the arena were turned off, the fire engines were ready and we had to exit using the fire doors for safety during the explosive sequence!
Extras were given lighters for some scenes, beer cups with for others. This was 80s rock all the way! This enhanced the shoot, even fog machines in the stands to simulate smoke, as in the 80s you could smoke in all arenas. This was well planned out concert event and I cannot wait to see how it shows on film!
In addition to the camera shots, for added reality the audience was asked to sing parts of the songs for the movie. I thought this was a nice touch rather than can in some recording. Wanted dead or Alive was recorded near the end of the shoot and some of the close-ups of Tom Cruise were filmed, as they brought the dolly cam at an angle that knifed through the crowd, although there were no crowd shots.
I was standing outside the taped area (area of camera path), but they moved (the camera) in even closer and was polity asked to move in towards the center, unfortunately behind the one guy in the crowd taller than me, no matter this was about the audio! The upfront crowd sang the lyrics, and did some screaming. I enjoyed this aspect of the production! A live taping of vocals, now that was cool! Tom Cruise was smiling throughout. He was basking in the glow of being a rock star!
Nearing 50 Tom Cruise seems to be fitter than ever. He had to film a difficult sequence of jumping off the drum riser and landing on a particular spot for the camera to film. Seems easy but with a rather high riser, and the accuracy, needless to see he had to do it several times. Also saw that this was a safe shoot with medics at the ready in case the shirtless Cruise crash landed.
Once he fell really hard on his butt, but he popped right back up and said "I am going to do this again, hopefully I won't fall on my ass this time!" The crowd was cheering and he jumped off a couple of more times just for good measure.
My musician friend Javi had an interesting observation, that many movie stars desired the rock star life, or were musicians who were unsuccessful. I agree with him. The live performer gets the immediate gratification, groupies, tours etc... Tom Cruise fell hard but just kept smiling. At 49 he was living the music of his youth.
Up Next Tom Cruise special fan performance and final thoughts on the 11 hour Rock of Ages Set.
After nearly 10 hours at the Hard Rock live, the crowd had dwindled a bit, but were still enthusiastic. The director yelled that's a wrap but Tom Cruise was still standing on stage with a beer in his hand talking to some folks.
I was about ready to walk out the door and wait for the buses home when someone on the mike announced that MR. Cruise would like to thank you all for coming out, by turning off the cameras and singing a live performance of Def Leopard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" especially for the fans who stayed through the night.
To bad this was not for the camera, as he put out maximum effort and the band sounded great. He was moving on stage like a natural. Cannot believe he had this much energy after a long day of shooting. At the end of his performance he tossed his glass beer in the crowd old school style and the guy next to me caught it! A true memory of the 80s!
Throughout the day the production staff were giving away ipods, ipads, itouchs and Rock of Ages t-shirts, but at the end of the night after Tom's final performance, the big payoff an entire cast autographed guitar, actually two were given away! Tom was still onstage smiling when perhaps the oldest rocker guy in the room won it and came up the stage to claim his prize. Memorable night all the way around, thanks to the entire cast and crew.
For my final report on Rock of Ages I will point out some of the good and bad parts of being on the movie set for nearly 11 hours. This was a long shoot, and originally called for a 1pm to 8pm call, by 10pm the crowds were dwindling and not as enthusiastic as earlier in the day. For organizational purposes the day should have began earlier say 10 or 11 am, this would have allowed for over runs in time. I did later find out that the were shooting non audience segments earlier, so possibly this was the time they had. During the explosive segment that misfired, being that I was in the top area of the arena, my group and I were lead down the fire escape and out the back. I applauded their safety, however, there should have been some chairs or something makeshift set up outside in case this did happen. It was hot, humid very uncomfortable, and there was no where to site except on pallets, forklifts etc. Small stuff, but I had to point these things out.
Those minor negatives aside this was an amazing experience. An eye-popping jaw- dropping spectacle of 80s hard rock! The production used probably a dozen cameras and a massive street sized boom camera situated right in the center floor of the arena sweeping the crowd and stage. Since we all had wristbands we were free to move about the arena and the entire hard rock area, though it seems like few people took this initiative. The freedom allowed me to write about all aspects of the production and for that I am grateful. I have a new appreciation for the hard work and effort it takes to put on a huge movie like this. Finally the friendliness of the cast and crew was refreshing and fun and made the time go by much faster. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to watch a behind the scenes private shoot of a movie, and the memories and images will last in my mind forever.