When it comes to using cars in a movie, a director is usually very specific, down to the color of what he or she wants, and it’s up to a transportation coordinator like Steve Zerweck to deliver. A transportation coordinator is the person on a film or TV project that is responsible for everything transportation related. A veteran of feature films and TV, Steve’s duties include transporting the crew and actors to and from the set, providing the trailers for the actors and finding cars that are seen in the actual production.
A car that is used in filming is called a picture car and there are several picture car companies in the San Fernando Valley that most transportation coordinators will call after they read a script and see what kind of vehicles are required. The most frequently used companies are Hollywood Picture Cars, which specializes in classic car collections, Cinema Vehicle Services and Studio Picture Vehicles.
These companies house acres of various types of vehicles like police cars and cars from different periods, maintaining them for use in TV, commercials and feature films. Some of the vehicles don’t even run but are used for their look. When a car needs to also be driven, Steve has to find 2 identical cars; one to rig up for shooting and one used for “beauty shots,” meaning this is the car that has to look good on camera. The daily rental fee for a picture car can be anywhere from $250 to $1500 a day for a rare Ferrari. The fee also depends on the production’s budget and how badly that type of car is needed.
Sometimes Steve needs to get creative when it comes to finding the right vehicles and this is especially the case when picture car companies don’t have what he needs. One film required a scene with authentic lowrider cars but none were available through the rental places. So Steve went to East L.A. and sought out a group of real lowriders and their vehicles. They agreed to rent their cars to Steve and the car’s owners even drove and hopped their cars in the actual film.
For the Russell Brand movie, Get Him to the Greek, Steve needed a fleet of high-end vehicles. He found a car collector in Orange County who had a collection of assorted luxury cars who agreed to rent all twenty of his cars to Steve for $1000 a day per car for fourteen days. Steve put all the vehicles on 2 car carriers and had them transported to Las Vegas where the movie was shot.
Not every car collector is willing to loan out his babies to be stars because filming on location can be risky and film crews are notorious for being rough. In Steve’s experience, car guys (as he calls them) love their cars and are not interested in taking them out of their custom garages and putting them in movies just for money. If they want to show them, there are other venues more geared toward car enthusiasts.