Press > Exclusive Interviews > Martin Jedlicka
(Second Assistant Director: Escape From L.A.)
How did you end up being
a First Assistant Director and Second Assistant Director?
I started in locations as a
location assistant. My first job was on Viva Shaf Vegas, with Paul
Shaffer from the Letterman Show. I drove a fake New York City taxicab to Las
Vegas and scouted places like trailer parks and cafes. I found out about the
Director's Guild training program and decided that the ADs worked better hours
than the location managers. I got in the program in 1988, where my first
assignment was Star Trek TNG (The Next Generation). Two years
later, I was an AD, working as a 2nd 2nd on Coppola's (Francis Ford) Dracula.
How did you get
the assignment to be the Second AD for Escape From L.A.?
Chris Della Penna (First AD) and
Jason Roberts (Second Second AD) both called me. Chris wanted as his 2nd Jason
Roberts, but the studio and UPM felt that Escape was a complex show with
many locations and required a veteran. Jason knew me socially, so when Paramount
suggested me based on my experience doing Fire in the Sky for them and
also True Lies for Fox, he reached out to me at my home in Utah. David
Witz, the UPM (Unit Production Manager), was the husband of Patty Witcher, who
was the UPM on True Lies, so he was a supporter of mine. Jason became the
2nd 2nd and we put together a production team that included guys like Mauritz (Pavoni)
(Production Assistant), who worked with me in Miami, and Jey Wada, an AD that I
had done extras coordinating with, as well as guys that Chris and Jason had
worked with on their earlier collaborations.
What exactly did
you do as the Second AD on the movie and how did you, Christian P. Della Penna
and Jason Roberts collaborate?
The 2nd AD does a lot of the
organizing of what the crew is going to shoot, as opposed to the 1st AD, who
focuses on what is being shot. I ran the call sheet, which is the logistical
menu for the cast and crew that shows where and when and what we're going to do
the next day. I also organized and set the background extras with Jason. I'm
very particular about background action and Escape was the chance to do
some really fun and interesting work.
Which scenes or locations were the funniest,
hardest or most problematic to work on?
We shot a scene at the Universal backlot
where we had all these low-riders (tricked out and lowered Chevy Impalas) and a
couple hundred gang members firing guns for some rally of Cuervo's. Props handed
out over fifty AK-47s which were all full auto. Another forty handguns as well. We
broke some record that day for blank ammunition used by a non-war movie. Hot
brass was flying everywhere, it was crazy. An ejecting shell broke an extra's
tooth, but that guy was a real hardass gangbanger, he was like, it's just a
tooth, gimme more ammo. It was real party and those guys didn't have to do a lot
of acting. I'm probably a little deaf from that night. You can't monitor a
walkie-talkie with earplugs.
The location in Carson
turned out to be a former Monsanto plant and had been condemned by the EPA
(Environment Protection Agency). We would wrap before sunrise, and these guys in
hazmat suits would spray down our shoes and car wheels so we wouldn't track the
contaminated dirt out of the site. My wife was pregnant at the time and she was
pretty upset I was working there, but it was a spectacular location. You can't
shoot in places like that nowadays. The Queen Mary hull is now off limits to
shooting, due to asbestos, so it was a rare opportunity to have filmed in there.
Me showing a female extra playing a food vendor
how to cook fake rats on a propane fed grill. She also held a baby which was a
plastic doll that we put chopsticks into the arms so she could puppet it to look
like a real baby. The trick is not to melt the fake rats is what I'm probably
2: The crew at video village. I'm
in a black fleece standing behind the video assist/playback operator who's
sitting at his cart. We're at Universal backlot for the rally of Cuervos where
the bouncing low riders and gunfire was.
Me in action as an extra myself. I often would
get in Mescalito wardrobe to cue and direct background from within the shot. I
would regard where the camera was pointing and rally the gang members so they'd
stay in frame. In this scene we had propane mortars that would go off and could
light an errant extra on fire, so I'm keeping the other extras from getting too
close to the mortars. Once in the scene where I come out of a car with four
other Mescalitos to find the dead hombres after the circular firing squad, the
camera operator and script supervisor noticed my radio earpiece, which I tried
to hide under a cowboy hat, as I turned to say in Spanish, "Leave them alone,
they're dead." John didn't mind, and printed that take and moved on.
How was the experience working with the cast and crew and
what went on behind the scenes?
John is a great old-school director. He
knows exactly what he wants and shoots just that. There's no dithering or musing
with him, just these are the shots. He shoots fast, so you have to be up on your
game in terms of having the actors and sets for the next scene ready. Sometimes
actors sit around in trailers for hours waiting for all the coverage to be
completed for the prior scene. With John, the coverage was minimal, so the
scenes would shoot quickly and I was always speeding people through
makeup/hair/wardrobe. I wasn't used to that fast pace then but that's pretty
much how we shoot TV shows now. John's a huge basketball fan and I'll never
forget how the whole crew and 400 extras all watched the Laker game on the
Coliseum Jumbotron while shooting the shot-clock scene.
Kurt was very friendly. Another
job of mine is cueing actors and background extras so that we can replicate
action across takes. I wore a headset that received the recorded audio, so I
could hear the dialogue. There's a scene where Snake enters in the hull of the
Queen Mary, a decommissioned Ocean Liner in Long Beach. I talked to Kurt about
giving him a hand cue behind some set dressing when he told me couldn't see me
without his glasses. So I got into costume as a Saigon Shadow and stood on a
ship's ladder where I could wave my AK-47 to cue him. Except now I'm blind also
since I wear glasses and forgot my contacts that day. We had a laugh about that,
both being barely able to see each other, but the timing worked out every take.
your favorite memory or memories of working on the movie?
I remember shooting in downtown LA at an old
movie theater. We filmed an alley behind the
theater where there were all these extras playing prostitutes and drug dealers
and customers. After setting the background all night, at dawn I was wrapping
the extras. I collected all the fake money and piles of fake drugs. The prop
guys had gone home, so I took all this stuff home and just dumped it on my desk.
The next morning was Saturday and I flew home to Utah. When I came back to LA on
Sunday, my house was broken into. All that was missing was the fake cash and
drugs. Someone had spotted it through the window. The cops were fascinated. They
told me they'd know who stole it when that guy would turn up dead from trying to
Under a modern high-rise
in LA we shot in an abandoned red car station from LA's old subway system. Gary
Kibbe, the DP (Director of Photography) was born and raised in LA and we were
looking at this rail station half buried in dirt and he told me about how he
would as a kid board a train right here and ride all the way to Santa Monica to
go swimming. I certainly knew that LA had public transit in the 40s and 50s, but
that made history come alive. It was something to think about in traffic on the
Shooting so many nights
turns you into a bit of a vampire. My neighbors got used to seeing me on my
porch in LA at 9 in the morning drinking beer. I didn't sleep a whole lot on
that show, since people are always calling and I was dealing a lot with the
production office, which had daytime hours. Driving home in heavy morning
traffic after working 16 hours was tough; a camera operator told me this trick
of using one hand to reach over to hold your other shoulder blade while
driving. If you fall asleep, the hand falls and you'll wake up in time to grab
the wheel. It works!
What do you think of the movie personally?
The movie is very entertaining, but it's not exactly my taste. I'm more of an
English Patient or A Very Long Engagement kind of viewer. It had
decent performances, but not great ones. It is a fantastic tribute to LA, every
landmark is in there. And considering that I was moving to Utah while we filmed
it, I certainly related to the title.
What are you currently doing and
what do you enjoy
doing in your spare time?
I currently am the 1st AD
on ABC's comedy series Speechless. We shoot on the Fox lot in Century
City. I play rhythm guitar for a couple industry-related bands on the
weekends. I'm a skier and snowboarder. I used to mountain bike but have no
collarbones left to break.
Thank you for your time, Martin.
Photos By Robert Zuckerman/Provided By