Location scout caught in real crossfire

In 1997, 'High Incident' came close to reality

Location manager John Grant found himself in some offscreen crossfire when he was working on DreamWorks’ first TV endeavor, “High Incident,” in 1997.

While scouting for the show, Grant was caught up in the North Hollywood Bank of America shootout — an event that prompted the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. (EIDC) to declare a moratorium on all gunfire for the film and TV industry in the San Fernando Valley.

Grant was en route to scout warehouses when he heard a radio report of a major police incident nearby. Too late, Grant found himself in stalled traffic and saw an armored car near him take off after being commandeered by a dozen armed police; the sound of gunfire cracked through the air in chorus with the thump…thump…thump of overhead helicopter wings.

“I knew I was in a place I shouldn’t be right now,” Grant recalled.

Minutes later, a police car housing a bleeding officer drove by on the sidewalk. Grant became location manager-turned-stuntman, and maneuvered his car onto the sidewalk, backing southward down Laurel Canyon and into the street using the handicapped ramp.

Thinking he was out of harm’s way, Grant saw a dozen police cars heading quickly toward him. He pulled over and witnessed them stop and arrest the real culprit at the intersection of Magnolia and Laurel.

“I called my office and told them that I was going to chill out in a donut shop,” Grant said. “They told me to take all the time I needed.”

Two months into the EIDC ban on gunfire, the “High Incident” writers approached the locations department with an idea. For the series’ finale, they wanted to re-create the shootout.

Grant’s team met with the local councilman’s chief of staff as well as a cautious EIDC, which set numerous guidelines and requirements that would be a challenge given a TV timeline.

The schedule called for 4½ days of full load, automatic gunfire at two locations — on a busy main thoroughfare and a residential backyard — all in Chatsworth, 10 miles from the original event.

The EIDC required notification for a one-mile radius around both locations as well as a map of every house and business notified, resulting in 12,000 letters. A 10-foot fence with a cover had to be built so the public couldn’t see into the bank location, and massive street shutdowns during takes required eight motor officers.

To ensure the shoot’s compliance, the EIDC mandated a monitor at the production’s expense but removed the monitor after the second day. An on-site visit by the EIDC permit coordinator confirmed shooting was going by the book and no complaints had been registered.

Daily contact with the local councilman’s office allowed for monitoring of any public concerns. Local radio stations were advised of delays around the bank location. Extra security was hired to manage spectators watching the filming, many of whom left after their first taste of gunfire or lost interest.

After four days at the bank location and a half day in the residential area, the crew retreated to their nearby stages to shoot interior scenes.

The production received only three complaints, all dealing with traffic delays on De Soto Avenue outside the bank. Moreover, the crew received merchants’ congratulatory calls regarding their professionalism in achieving the shoot.

“If you prep it right, it will run itself, which we did, and the shoot went off without a hitch. All parties involved were very happy with the outcome,” Grant concluded. “We jumped through more hoops than Flipper and were able to pull off an extremely difficult shoot with very few problems and concerns.”

Grant was a two-time nominee and 2005 California on Location Award winner for his work on MTV’s “The ’70s House.”

More TV

  • Michael Rooker

    Michael Rooker Joins Showtime Pilot 'The President Is Missing'

    Michael Rooker has been cast as a series regular in the Showtime drama pilot “The President Is Missing.” Rooker joins previously announced lead David Oyelowo and cast members Janet McTeer, Medina Senghore, Paul Adelstein, and Gina Gallego in the pilot, which is based on the novel of the same name by James Patterson and Bill [...]

  • Stella Baker The Republic of Sarah

    CW's 'Republic of Sarah' Pilot Casts Stella Baker in Lead Role

    Newcomer Stella Baker has been cast in the title role in The CW’s “The Republic of Sarah” pilot, Variety In the pilot, faced with the destruction of her town at the hands of a greedy mining company, rebellious high school teacher Sarah Cooper (Baker) utilizes an obscure cartographical loophole to declare independence. Now Sarah must [...]

  • Kelly Campbell - hulu

    Kelly Campbell Named Hulu President

    Hulu’s chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell has been promoted to president of Hulu, a move that comes in the wake of Randy Freer’s recent exit as CEO of the company. Changes have been afoot at Hulu internally, now that the streaming service is now fully under Disney’s operational control. Disney TV Studios’ Dana Walden now [...]

  • The Sleepers

    Berlinale Series Market Sets Spotlight on Central and Eastern Europe

    It boasts one of the fastest-growing TV industries on the planet, but that hasn’t cleared up misconceptions when it comes to Central and Eastern Europe. “I would like to kill some stereotypes about the region,” said Kamila Zlatušková, founder of the Serial Killer TV Festival in Brno, Czech Republic, during a showcase of regional series [...]

  • Pete Davidson

    Pete Davidson Thinks He 'Should Be Done' With 'SNL': 'They Think I'm F---ing Dumb'

    Pete Davidson’s time as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live” may be coming to an end, the comedian revealed as he discussed the future of his career in an interview with Charlamagne tha God on Monday. In a candid interview, Davidson was asked by “The Breakfast Club” host where he saw himself in five [...]

  • Miriam Haley and Tarale Wulff

    Women Who Testified in Harvey Weinstein Trial Slam His Lawyers for 'Victim Blaming' 

    Six women testified during the Harvey Weinstein rape trial, and now that the former movie mogul was found guilty of two felony charges, those women are speaking out with newfound freedom. Miriam Haley, who was assaulted by Weinstein in 2006, resulting in him being convicted of a criminal sex act (which carries a maximum sentence [...]

  • Mekai Curtis Curtis Jackson

    'Power' Prequel Series 'Raising Kanan' Casts Mekai Curtis in Lead Role

    “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” at Starz has found its lead actor. Mekai Curtis has been cast as a young Kanan Stark, the character played in the mothership series by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. He joins previously announced cast member Patina Miller, who will play Kanan’s mother. The young Kanan is described as smart, driven [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content