The Technical Nightmare

It was the Director's vision to immerse the audience into the life and personality of the taxi cab 531.  The way he decided to accomplish this was to never have the camera leave the inside of the cab.  100% of the filming took place from inside the vehicle.  Most of the time, about 95%, the vehicle had to be moving.  Considering 531 is a low budget independent film, the Director's vision created a highly technical film for the cast and crew right from the very beginning.

In pre-production several different solutions were presented for the rolling set of 531.  The one depicted below would be the most cost effective and practical design.  

The rolling set would consist of two parts.  The first being a fifteen foot Cube Truck that would house all of the technical equipment.  Since the set had to be mobile, that meant that the power source had to be mobile as well.  Unique Producers Rental House supplied us with a 3000 watt inverter that converted power from 2 large marine batteries.  This allowed us to be able to plug in our monitors, sound equipment, lights, etc.  It sounds simple enough but it gave us our share of problems.  The marine batteries were only good for about 3 hours then they would have to be switched out.  Each one weighs over a hundred pounds, requiring two men.  The fuse on the Inverter would blow if became over used.  The exhaust fumes from the truck would become overwhelming. To combat this, a large fan was installed to flush the fumes from the working area.  Attached to the Cube Truck was the second part of the rolling set, a 1978 Checker Cab 531.

The Checker Cab 531 was attached to the Cube Truck by a tow bar.  Since 531 was being "flat towed", the backdrop out the windows of the cab would appear as they would from any other car of the same height.  Other options we had to tow it would have raised the cab off the ground and may have looked different.  Flowing from the rear of the Cube Truck were numerous cables and cords which provided power to the Cameraman (with 35 pound camera), Boom operator and Actors inside the checker cab.  Depending on the particular shot as many as six people have been inside the cab while a scene is being filmed.  For sound purposes, the windows had to be rolled up and 531 did not have air conditioning.  Since the filming took place over the course of one year, the summer months were unbearable. 

Because of scheduling and time constraints shooting intervals would be between 3 and 5 days at a time.  Each time the shooting would take place, the entire contraption discussed above would have to be set up, rigged and working or shooting could not begin.

Those were just the difficulties for the initial set-up and mobility of 531.  One of the most difficult tasks took place even before 531 had it's first shot.  The inside of the cab had to be decorated with hundreds of items that 531's driver, Jesus had collected over the years.  It took the Art Department over two months to find and decorate the cab's interior.  Not only did the items have to be placed and glued to the cab, but they had to be cataloged by location for the sake of continuity.  The activity of people in and out of the cab caused items to be dislodged. It was the difficult job of the Art Department to keep track of those several hundred items and make sure they would be in place when the camera would roll.