“Barry” Episode 4 Sandbox: Yes, This Silo Shocked The Stunt Team Too

Director Bill Hader, stunt coordinator Wade Allen and production designer Eric Schoonover discuss perfecting one of the HBO series’ darkest moments to date.

(Editor’s note: Included in the following story spoilers for “Barry”.)

You’re not alone: ​​Stunt coordinator Wade Allen “Barry” also misses the days when the HBO series was about a screwed-up hitman who wanted to be an actor. The darkness of the show’s final season only grew with Bill Hader’s visual style; and in episode 4, “it takes a psycho,” Allen, production designer Eric Schoonover, special effects supervisor Ryan Riley, and visual effects supervisor Laura Hill had to create the show’s most complex—and easily one of the most gruesome—visual gags. date. Unlike the fate of Sian Heder’s “Mega Girls” series, which we have to imagine the studio is wrapping up tight, 4 episodes aplenty. spoilers below.

While Barry (Bill Hader) lurks in the shadows of Sally’s (Sarah Goldberg) apartment after escaping from prison, Hank (Anthony Carrigan) fends off would-be henchmen in a criminal utopia in the cold light of day—specifically, the cold light of a silo. full of sand. As with most of the cheesy work in the series, the camera captures Hank luring everyone into the center of the pit, then turning them into quicksand and burying them alive in excruciatingly slow, wide shot. We can only watch as the sand muffles the screams until nothing but dust floats over the square where a dozen guys were. Covering the entire motion of the stunt, from the 12 guys standing on the sand to Michael Irby’s Cristobal frantically clawing for air before swallowing, required as much thought as the shootout in “Barry.”

“In the sandbox, a lot of people with film experience were scratching their heads, ‘How exactly are we going to do this?’ Allen told IndieWire. “It was the brainchild of Eric Schoonover, Ryan Riley, Bill and (first AD) Gavin Kleintop and (producer) Aida Rodgers and myself, and we just got together and tried to figure out from a physics standpoint: How do we keep all these little objects, the sand , they’re in place, but they let the big objects through, all the people, and yet they don’t leave this gaping hole that the visual effects department would have a hard time closing?”

According to Hader, the final piece of equipment developed by the “Barry” team was the show’s most expensive. “It was two stories high, and then there’s the sand, and then there’s an artifact underneath like an hourglass that opens up and all the guys fall through it. And then there are the stuntmen at the bottom who pull those guys out,” Hader told IndieWire.

Wide shot of Cristobal (Michael Irby) and his friends falling into a giant sand mine in Season 4 Episode 4 "Barry"


Screenshot/HBO Max

“It was definitely the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” Schoonover told IndieWire. “It was definitely the only set where people had to come from the office to see what was going on. You know, the other sets looked great. And I’m very proud of all our sets. But it was such a spectacle, and there was so much in it, that people couldn’t help but pay attention to it.”

Aside from a ton of sand—actually less abrasive, ground corn husks)—the set needed a mechanism to allow people through safely. Allen and Riley experimented with a number of shapes before settling on a trapdoor design that dropped the actors down and then closed fairly quickly, leaving most of the sand in place.

Whether it’s something like that, whether we do a super-long shoot, or a car thing or a fight — which we did on “Barry” — it’s really just a matter of a few stuntmen. — and in this case special effects — go to a warehouse in Santa Clarita and say, ‘Well, let’s see what happens if we do this,'” Allen said. “I think the first time (we tried it together) with two or three people I was like, ‘Okay, this is good.’ Then we expanded to six people and it worked. Then when we finally moved to Sony and were off set for a week, we did it with all 12 people. And this was important because the diameter of the hole they passed through had to be large enough to fit (everyone).

According to Allen, the calibration that was most important to getting it right was determining the height of the camera. “If the camera was too high, you could see down into the hole where those guys went. But if it was too low, it didn’t really feel like we were doing what we were doing,” Allen said. But it was important to capture the camera as an implacable observer to stay true to the style of the show and to get the gag right. “Bill is to be commended for his coverage of the action. But when it comes to traditional action, Bill doesn’t do much at all. For example, it doesn’t have inserts where a foot would crush the gas pedal, or tire screeching or anything. You really let the camera do the work,” Allen said.

Wide shot of the (suddenly) empty sand silo in Season 4, Episode 4 "Barry"


Screenshot/HBO Max

The camera does the job in two takes, and due to the nature of the shifting sand, the ‘Barry’ team only got a limited number of attempts. “The set was like you could take a wall out of it and we have a camera or a technical crane, so the guys go in (under the sand) and it’s like, ‘Great. Now everyone stop. Don’t move, Hader said. “They literally screw up the camera. We set up cones so that it cannot go through (the sand) and disturb the sand. Then they brought in a giant crane and started pouring sand into the hole in a certain place. We put this giant box with a hole in it. You throw more sand on him, then you put Michael Irby in the box and he sticks his head out and they just put sand around him. So he’s kneeling in a box with a hole in it, and then we take him into that place and the camera doesn’t move.”

Preparations for the second (and last) shot of the sequence took an hour, and then the camera was released to slowly press in on Cristobal, who was struggling to escape. “The hardest part was picking up all the spilled material and getting it back to the pit. You know, it was just physical. It was just manual labor putting in pounds and kilos of sand and then they lifted it up with a forklift and dumped it back,” Allen said. “You can imagine that on set you don’t just want to stand and wait an hour and a half for people to come back. So it was a big challenge with this particular gag because I could only get so many cracks on it a day.”

Still, the sandbox sequence feels like an almost inevitable innovation in the final season for a show that spent three seasons with characters not finding their way out of metaphorical holes. Coming to the season’s halfway mark, the series may mark an unsettling capstone to Hank and Cristobal’s project, but it likely won’t be the last scene the “Barry” team plans in the show’s signature style of brutally observational humor. The sandbox was only used at the end some of the area of ​​the stage that Allen’s stunt team could play with.

“The ‘Mega Girls’ was on one part of the stage, then (some massive stunt equipment) was on one part of the stage, and then right behind that was the sand silo set,” Allen said. So, if you didn’t know it was ‘Barry’, you’d think we were filming a fucking Marvel movie. It was wild. And it’s a 30-minute comedy. I’ve looked around a few times and I’ve been in feature films where entire stages were dedicated to this stunt gear. He looked just like that, and I just thought he was hysterical.”

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