THE BLOG
03/20/2014 11:00 am ET Updated May 20, 2014

All the Doors to Hollywood and How to Open Them -- Transportation

What does a Transportation Coordinator do on a movie?

"A lot of things. A lot", says JIM THORNSBERRY, who estimates he's done "at least fifty" movies and television series. "The first thing I do when I'm hired, is break the script down -- how long the projected schedule is, whether there are night shoots, whether there are one or more locations and where, whether there are animals, children. Endless details."

Children? What difference does having children make?

"Kids have to find schoolrooms on location, I have to provide chairs, desks --."

And then?

"I find out who the director is -- that can make a huge difference. Sam Peckinpah, for example, Robert Altman -- very expensive, spare no cost -- they want all the drivers available at all times. That kind of thing affects the budget. Then I find out where we're going to film, the terrain -- whether there are night shoots, whether there are dogs, other animals -- special provisions have to be made. I find out whether we're doing 'off road' or 'on road' locations. 'Off road' means things like desert areas, mountains. I'm in charge of the generators, the cranes, the trailers for the actors, for Props and Make-up and Costume -- all that. And I have to get the vehicles to wherever we're going the honeywagons, too -- the portable restrooms for everyone. There are always special considerations. Desert shoots require particular kinds of vehicles that can navigate the sand. And we'll need water trucks."

And after all that?

"With all that information, I'll do a preliminary budget and compare it with the film's projected budget -- the amount assigned my department. And make ¬adjustments. Then I get my standing crew together -- five people in addition to myself is a minimum. On location, we pick up local drivers, if necessary."

How did you get started?

"I began at 21 or 22. My father was in the business, in transportation, and my Aunt Irene was head of the Nurse's Union. I'd been in the Navy -- I joined with Johnny Weismuller, Jr., who was my dearest friend, and with Ryan O'Neill. I had about two years in the Navy, went to Santa Monica City College, had some odd jobs like Greensman at Fox Studios, and then got into the transportation department there. I started working as a driver on movies -- for a while I owned a limousine company and rented out honeywagons to the studios -- restrooms and dressing rooms. And from there I talked myself into being a Transportation Captain -- we call it Coordinator, now. And that's where I've been ever since."

What are some of the movies you've done and the actors you've worked with?

"More than I can probably remember. The Game with Michael Douglas, Virtuosity with Denzel Washington, Sliver with Sharon Stone, Patriot Games with Harrison Ford, Class Action with Gene Hackman, Marrying Man with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, Dead Again with Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Robin Williams, Winter People with Kurt Russell and Kelly McGillis. And then there are the older movies like Getaway with Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, and Shampoo with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. I did F.I.S.T. with Sylvester Stallone -- that was the Jimmy Hoffa story."

Do foreign locations present special problems?

"Special considerations, again. On Clear and Present Danger, shot in Mexico with Harrison Ford and Ann Archer, we had to negotiate Customs, figure out what we could take through and how to do it. If the movie's going to have a Second Unit, that means additional equipment."

Who've been some of your favorite people?

"I've met some of the best people in the world. There's the director, Robert Weiss -- they don't come any better than that. And Harrison Ford -- just a great guy. A humane, caring person. The producer Charlie McGuire was as good as they come. And Steve McQueen, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson."

What do you enjoy about the work?

"We have to deal with absolutely everybody in the entire movie, so it's always interesting, always new. We're not limited to any special area -- we're the basic support system for the entire production. And the challenges -- the problems to be solved, the people, the locations that are always changing. We see so much of the world. It couldn't be a better job."

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