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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 16:57

Q&A with "Moneyball" Location Manager S. Todd Christensen

Written by  James Thompson
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cola_sidebar_toddchristensen_2Location Manager S. Todd Christensen was honored at the recent COLA ceremony where he won Location Professional of the Year and Location Team of the Year, Studio Feature Film awards for Moneyball.P3 Update’s James Thompson had an opportunity to chat with Christensen about winning these prestigious awards and working as a location professional.

P3: What was your overall reaction to COLA 2011?

Christensen: I had hoped the movie would turn out good and was happy to see that it was a success, and our work [and] locations also looked and worked well with the story. I was honored to be nominated and to be one of the finalists for Team and Professional of the Year felt really good. To win the two awards was a gift, and I was also honored to have had the team I sought to do and complete that creative and nuts-and-bolts work on Moneyball. It was also great to have been given the award by my peers in the film business.

P3: What does it mean to receive the Location Professional of the Year Award for a Studio Feature Film?

Christensen: In a way, it really doesn’t change anything. I will still go out and put everything into whatever the next gig will be. I have always worked on studio features, with a few independent movies thrown in, so that world is familiar. I received great support from the studio, producers, the production designer and the director on the show.  I was pleased to get all of the congrats from far and wide, inside and outside the movie world. 

P3: What was it like working on Moneyball?

Christensen: Moneyball was an amazing gift in that I love the game of baseball and thought the script was remarkable. I had grown up playing ball with my brother and with ball players that stayed at my grandma’s place (where we had) room and board and lots of laughs and plenty of playing catch. So the game is part of my being in a way, and then being in and out of ballparks and talking baseball for months was a dream realized. Then again, it was a movie so the usual demands interceded and difficulties showed up and solutions appeared.
[Director] Bennett Miller was a treat to know and work with; Brad Pitt was remarkable in his commitment and his way [and] a really nice guy; Jonah Hill was a character; and Philip [Seymour Hoffman] was amazing in his demeanor and ability to morph into character. The backdrop was baseball and stadiums and the people at Oakland Coliseum, especially [Stadium Operations VP] David Rinetti and [Head Groundskeeper] Clay Wood [who] were amazing and became friends.

The Dodgers organization was equally good to work with and all accommodating. I went to over 20 games — research, always doing research — and met some of the great players of the games. I also talked to the old-timers about Billy Beane’s way of putting a team together. They all said you need both the old way and the new way [regarding statistics in all areas of performance] but, [with] that said, all teams had made the change. The paradigm shift had taken place. The movie was not just a baseball movie but a movie about change and paradigm shifts that may be needed in other areas of life in the world.

moneyballP3: Please talk a little about your location team and the process for finding and securing locations.

Christensen: My team was dedicated and thorough in all of the work needed to move a big company around and doing what was needed to take care of all departments and the public as well. The scouting in L.A. was mainly done by Snappy Oliver and myself. In Oakland I did all of the scouting. Victoria [Leskin] coordinated but also scouted and prepped and sat locations. Mike Brewer prepped, wrapped and sat some sets. Different assistants handled different locations. In Oakland it was Matt Riutta and myself doing the work. We had to coordinate with the ‘As’ [about] how to be on the [field’s sacred ground] and to make sure production respected the way that people and equipment would move onto and off of the field. This was late July and early August. Their coordination, hard work, foresight and commitment were beyond admirable, and they are all really nice and good people. I have mostly worked out of California the last 10 years, and to be able to work with the level of assistants that are produced through Local 399 is a heightened experience, the best of the best.

P3: What else would you like our readers to know about location managing, the COLAs or working in the state of California?

Christensen: Working in California is like working in the greatest place on the planet to make a movie. Everything is there: the best location professionals, the best and most diverse locations, every vendor known to moviemaking, and choices and film commissions and film offices that bend over backwards to help you. I have to mention FilmL.A., which is the greatest film office anywhere. They give me insights in what works, how it works and what needs to done to make something work. They are the pinnacle of a streamlined permitting and filming information office. The California Film Office was also key to our work, and everyone [there] went above and beyond the call of duty to help our show. We finished the movie with all of production happy with what they had gotten from the locations department, and all of the places we filmed were pleased with how we arrived, filmed and successfully left.

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