Movie Stalking 101, or How I Found Matt Smith on a Derelict Lot in Downtown Detroit

Posted: May 16, 2013 in How to Catch a Monster
Tags: , , ,

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No apologies for more gratuitous shots of Matt Smith. Obviously these were taken a few days ago and many similar ones have already hit the net, but there’s always room for more. People keep asking me how I find the sets to get these shots. It isn’t too hard these days, though I’m not sure how people managed before Twitter.

Step One: OnLocationVacations is a great starting point. Every day Christine posts filming locations on her site and people comment on her posts during the day when they get updates, but obviously Twitter has a more real-time thing going on, and I confess to spending too much time with some good key words, trying to track down the day’s filming sites in the D. Think laterally. What would the average (non movie-stalker) person tweet if they saw filming trucks on their street? If they actually see Ryan Gosling, that’s easy. It’s sure to be “OMG RYAN GOSLING!!” Or something like that. Obviously celebrity names are a good search term (unless the celebrity is Ryan Gosling, because a thousand people tweet about him every minute of the freaking day). In addition to the twitterverse, I have some friends I’ve met on set over the years: stalkers like me, autograph hunters, and the occasional ‘real’ photographer. It’s not always easy. Movies being filmed on abandoned lots in downtown Detroit with a handful of extras are a lot harder to find than something on the U of M Campus in Ann Arbor with a few thousand students tweeting celebrity sightings like crazy. Extras cannot resist tweeting and instagramming. If you’re lucky the casting agents for extras will also have a website/facebook/twitter, that can provide useful info such as call times. Call times are gold.

Step Two: Find the movie basecamp. The place where all the trailers and trucks are, usually in a big parking lot. Once you’ve found this, you can stake it out if you’re patient and security are nice. This is one way to see the ‘stars’ come and go, and may be a good place to get autographs if that’s what you’re looking for, but obviously you have to be there at the right time of day or you’ll just be sitting staring at a vacant lot and a bunch of trailers all day. If you are having trouble finding the basecamp, or the filming location, you can watch out for the coming and going of ‘the vans.’ These are the black or white passenger vans that take actors and crew back and forth from basecamp to the set. Movement of the vans is a clue that something is about to happen!

Step Three: Drive around in circles for hours seeing nothing at all. This is usually my step 3 and 4 and 5. Unless you are a little bit addicted to movie stalking, you really don’t want to be doing this as it can be pretty dull and demoralizing, and you can’t help thinking about all the things you really should be doing, and most of those don’t involve cruising around areas of Detroit that you have spent the last x years of your live carefully avoiding. (Ignore this if you are stalking the U of M campus — walking is easier that driving, and generally you won’t get mugged there, though the huge waste of time clause still applies).

Step Four:  You’ve found the set. It’s obvious from the trucks, porta-potties, small canopy tents, and burly guys in black or red polo shirts who are yelling at you to go away. Smile as best you can. These guys have a job to do, and mostly I imagine, it sucks. My movie set security stories would fill another post. Best approach is to smile, be respectful, and keep a low profile, but if they are on public property, remember that you can absolutely stand and watch AND take pictures. They may tell you otherwise, but when they do, they are wrong. Scope around, work out what’s going on, and wait. There’s always a lot of waiting.

Step Five: Just when you are about to give up, someone yells. “It’s them!” In this case, I had pulled my car into a small parking area a hundred yards or so from the place the trucks were set up. It turned out that in the same small area were a couple of paparazzi from Splash! (hi guys), who were doing a much better job at being inconspicuous than I was, despite their enormous lenses. Hey, size isn’t everything, and my puny 200 mm lens did just fine, thank you. Dumb luck is key here. We had no idea that the scene currently being filmed would soon be about 20 feet from where we were standing. Never underestimate dumb luck. At this point you hope that the adrenaline kicks in just enough that you can get your camera out and start clicking, and not too much so that you can’t focus or actually drop your camera. In this case, dumb luck worked out pretty well. (cue more gratuitous shots of Matt Smith and Ryan Gosling)

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Comments
  1. You are so right! I took everyone of those exact steps and now I have a huge love affair not only with Ryan but Twitter. Thanks much for your insight, looking forward to a few more weeks of this craze!

    Like

  2. Hello! We’re going to Detroit (we’re movie location bloggers) and I’d love, I’d love to find out where this bit was filmed exactly. Could you please share your secrets – mainly, the address?🙂

    Like

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