SPECIAL EFFECTS PRODUCTION ASSISTANT, USA
MATRIX: What does being a SPFX PA entail?
KEVIN: On this show, I have helped rigging up cars and have also been on set working with wind, fire and water. I have pretty much worked on each set, off and on. I was on the big blue screen set from day one until shooting ended there, doing wind effects and making Laurence [Fishburne, Morpheus] and the Agent look like they’re fighting at sixty miles per hour [on top of the truck]. I also worked on the cave from day one, helping do the lava pits and then helped run that part of the show while filming by lighting the torches and coordinating that pyrotechnical work.
MATRIX: Were you one of the technicians on set when they were shooting?
KEVIN: Yes; while I was on set I had to wear a costume to blend in with all the Zion people.
MATRIX: What was that like being in the middle of nine hundred dancing extras?
KEVIN: Hot and tiring. Other than that I tried to hide myself most of the time, since you really don’t want to see a crew guy in a costume and a big walkie-talkie thing hanging on his chest in the background of a shot.
MATRIX: Were there any particular challenges on the Zion Temple set?
KEVIN: No, everything was pretty simple. We just had one time where they sprang a shot on us that wasn’t supposed to be a shot, and we had to scramble trying to get all the equipment we needed together, but we didn’t hold up the company or anything, so that all worked out fine.
Probably the most exciting part of this film so far was rigging the cars to get wrecked, and then watching your work during the freeway wrecks. There was one big wreck we didn’t get a chance to see — because you really can’t stick your head out in the middle of the freeway when the stunt is going on — but we saw the dailies of it. Most of the time we were there to see everything get wrecked, especially the two big rigs doing the head-on collision.
MATRIX: What was your involvement was in setting up those cars?
KEVIN: Pretty much setting up our roll cages, arranging the pneumatic equipment like air mortars to blow out the windows, hydraulic cylinders to suck the hoods in and pop the fenders out, and air canons and powder canons, which flip the car over when it pops. That’s pretty much the basis of it. We also made pipe ramps that get towed behind cars; I don’t think anybody has done that before. What you do is have two stunt drivers, one towing the pipe ramp, the other one in the car that’s going to go on the ramp. They’re probably each doing maybe sixty miles per hour. As the driver in the front car pushes the brake, the guy in the rear car just flies right behind the pipe ramp; the rear car has a kicker on it so the front end kicks up. From there he can do whatever — he can do a flip over or he can go the other way. In this shot he was supposed to fly and then hit a van, land on top of a van. The first time he missed, he went over the van but the second time he got it and just smashed right into it.
MATRIX: You said that having both cars going, with the ramp on the lead car, is something that’s not usually done?
KEVIN: No, usually the ramp is in place with the car stopped. Usually you would rig up the rear car with an air canon and hopefully get some air with that but that doesn’t always work right. This whole ramp concept was pretty much my dad’s — Hans Metz’s — idea, he is the Special Effects Shop Supervisor.
MATRIX: Have you been around film sets for a while then?
KEVIN: All my life. Ever since I was three I’ve been on set with my dad, watching him. By the time I was in junior high school every summer I’d go to the sets with my dad and get some good experience by helping out. It’s been a couple of years now that I’ve actually been getting paid for doing all this, so it’s been a whole life experience.
MATRIX: What are some of the films you’ve worked on?
KEVIN: The last film I worked on was Rat Race, which is coming out this summer; hopefully it will be good. I did a little work on Godzilla in ’97, and that’s about it. Other times I’ve just been on and off in the summer time, like a month or so, working on some films — I never got paid for it, but I learned a lot.
MATRIX: How has it been on THE MATRIX RELOADED set?
KEVIN: It has been wonderful. We’ve done some outstanding work, stuff I’ve never seen before. A bunch of these guys have been in the business for thirty-something years, and this is all new technology we’ve been handed. All the sets have been mind-blowing. It’s been a blast. I think this will definitely outdo the first MATRIX film; with these two films coming out you’ll probably understand it a lot more, too. This film has more special effects than the first MATRIX.
MATRIX: You’ve probably been able to get some insights into the plots for the next two films through some of the special effects that you’ve helped rig on the different sets. What do you think of them?
KEVIN: The plot’s pretty good; the story fits in well with the fight scenes. I don’t really understand how the cave scene fits in, with all the dancing and all that stuff. Other than that it looks like it’s going to follow through from the first one so that way you’ll understand what’s really going on and what Zion is. THE MATRIX doesn’t really explain what Zion is, but with the second and third film you’ll understand.
MATRIX: Have you has an opportunity to read the scripts?
KEVIN: No. I’ve read some of it in the storyboards — we only get the boards for the special effects sequences, we don’t get any other plot storyboards, so I pretty much know the basis of the story.
MATRIX: Apparently there have been a few people sneaking on set to take photos and to “borrow” things.
KEVIN: Yes, yesterday a thief came in with an “ID badge” that he had cut out from a CD case and pinned on; when we saw him walking around we thought he was one of the grip guys. Supposedly he was running around the place, and when security caught him the police came and asked what he’d taken of ours. When they searched his car they found our aluminum sheave, which is a pulley for cable, and that was about it. I mean if you’re going to steal something from THE MATRIX, steal some movie props, not a sheave that’s pretty much nothing. Supposedly the car he was in was hotwired, so the guy really wasn’t thinking at the time. It was pretty funny. He was on parole, and now he’s going back to jail for doing this silly little thing.
MATRIX: The shoot here in Alameda is coming to an end, with the shooting continuing in Australia do you have to make preparations for that?
KEVIN: We’re probably going to be here until next Friday wrapping up, then that’s it for us. About half of the work we’ve done will go down to Australia to the other effects crew. We mostly sending the cars. We haven’t pre-rigged most of it, but we’ve made a lot of it, like flying tracks and descender rigs for the motorcycles that we’re packing up and shipping to Australia for them to use. We’re also packing up pretty much all of the equipment we’ve used, we have to get it back to Australia so they can follow in our footsteps.
It’s weird that we’ve only done like maybe twenty minutes of the movie [RELOADED]. Most of these guys have been on it since September  rigging cars, and it’s almost ten months already. I’ve been on this show since January down in Los Angeles, rigging cars, welding roll cages and things like that, so it’s a long journey.
MATRIX: Thanks Kevin.
Interview by REDPILL