Key Grip Sean Crowell (Game Change) is no stranger to The Hangover franchise, after having worked on the first two films with Cinematographer Lawrence “Larry” Sher. “Where it really starts for me is when I sit down with the DP and we go through the schedule and each scene,” says Crowell. “Those are the building blocks for how we do our job. My interpretation of what Larry does is he brings a lot of scope to these films. I think people are surprised with how great the first Hangover was and how it redefined how people look at comedy. I think Larry really put his fingerprint on that genre. He creates really beautiful films, and when I sat down with him I was excited because I knew we would be pushing the envelope and try to bring grandness to the project. Anytime someone pushes you to do your best, that’s always a great way to work. There is no compromise in what Larry does.”
In the openings for the first two films, the camera movements are fluid, and as things start to fall apart for the lead characters, the crew switched to handheld mode, which brought a ton of energy to the story. Crowell believes that the look of the third film is very important to the entire series, and that all three films should stand alone while still being visually stunning. “Larry defined his look in each [Hangover] film, and I believe his fellow DPs [now] look at comedies in a completely different way.”
For this sequel, Crowell again found himself working with a capable team. “We run with a daily production crew of about ten guys,” Crowell explains. “John Koth has been my best boy [grip] for about 15 years. We have two dolly grips; Chris Glasgow is the A [camera] dolly grip and Tim Christie has been the B [camera] dolly grip for us on the last two films. [We also have] two rigging crews on this with Josh Stancil at the helm as the rigging key grip. We’ve also been fortunate to have the same camera operators as well. Geoffrey Haley, who was the A camera and Steadicam operator this time out, did an awesome job. With this team it’s almost a secondhand language with Larry as far as how they want the camera moved. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we had 30 to 40 grips a day, if you counted all the rigging crews and all the production people. It becomes a pretty big machine.”
For the grip and electric departments to work efficiently, the other departments had to step up so everyone could do their jobs without any conflicts. The location team in particular did a stellar job that included ensuring access to facilities and holding back onlookers so no one would get injured. “The locations department really doesn’t get a lot of credit, but when you have a strict amount of time to get things set up, we really rely on the importance of having them around,” says Crowell. “The production team with the AD staff is another huge aspect. [Co-Producer] Jeffrey Wetzel and his crew did an amazing job of making sure all the parts were laid out in a manner that could be translated by the location team and all the other departments so everything worked seamlessly.”
When obtaining certain shots became a challenge, they were executed flawlessly with the help of great equipment. The film was shot digitally on an ARRI ALEXA and a few scenes were shot on film with a Panavision camera. This was quite a change after the first Hangover, which was shot almost entirely on film. For one scene in The Hangover Part III, where Galifianakis’s character is running frantically in the desert, Crowell and his team used a Doggicam Systems Bodymount rig to achieve a rugged look that worked perfectly for the film. “Larry and Todd Phillips are very particular about camera movements,” explains Crowell. “They’re a collaborative team and everything is thought out. Larry loves dolly track, so we laid out a bunch for this film, and we made good use out of the 30- and 50-foot Technocrane from Cranium. On Stage 16 at Warner Bros., we built a façade of Caesars Palace [that’s] five or six stories, and we had to be able to reach that from the stage floor. [To do that] we used a 73-foot Hydroscope from Chapman [Leonard], which was a great option. Chapman dollies and the Hydroscope are always reliable, and the technicians that come with them are fantastic.”
Crowell recalls a particular situation where his top-notch equipment came in handy. “We had a ridge we had to shoot on in the desert, and [Cranium] built a platform for us that was self-leveling [so] that we could drive wherever we needed to put it,” he explains. “Everything was superfast and very well thought out. It was a rare moment where something came up that hadn’t been thought of, and we like to have the people around who built the product to make it happen.” During this and other production challenges, Crowell was always impressed by the crew’s uncompromised commitment. “The kinds of people that are working on this movie are ones that don’t take the easy way out,” he says. “They know it’s going to be hard and they keep moving ahead. It’s really great to be around those kinds of people. It’s fun.
“When you are with a group that supports you, it’s really appreciated,” Crowell continues. “It’s hard and you sleep good at night, but being surrounded by people that are not going to take the easy way out makes it worth it. We don’t want to let the fans of the [Hangover] movies down and we want to make sure we get some new fans for the franchise. I’m just a technician on this movie, but that’s how I felt about it. I wasn’t going to compromise anything that I was doing. It was a commitment to make the best movie possible. [And] it was a great sense of relief when it was done, because I really felt like we did it.”